As the members of a new-look St. John's Red Storm team prepare to kick off another college basketball season in just a few weeks, two former Johnnies got some good news in the professional ranks this weekend.
Both Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch were selected by teams in the NBA D-League Draft on Saturday, with Jordan going fifth overall to the Delaware 87ers and Branch going in the third round to the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Jordan will have somewhat of a homecoming this season for Delaware. If you couldn't guess it, the 87ers are the D-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers. Born in Philadelphia, PA and nicknamed "The Prince of North Philly," the 21-year-old will not be eligible to be signed to an NBA roster this season since he never went through an NBA Draft process.
How that whole situation played out is probably still fresh in the minds of many Red Storm fans. Jordan mulled over the decision to either turn pro or return to St. John's for his junior season after Steve Lavin left the program last spring, however when he finally did decide to return to Queens, he was ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester after not taking any of his finals.
Jordan could have returned to the team by December to play out the season, however by June he had decided to leave the program and turn pro. Now the mystifying guard will get that professional shot with Delaware for this upcoming D-League season.
As the fifth overall selection Saturday's draft, it's clear that teams see the potential that Jordan has to become a solid professional player.
His raw athleticism is unmatched, as many St. John's fans saw in the form of electrifying dunks and scoring plays throughout his two years in Queens, (just ask Villanova's Dylan Ennis about some of those dunks, he probably remembers one or two of them).
But obviously Jordan will have to develop both on and off the court to be considered a viable NBA option for teams next season. In terms of on the court play, he'll need to learn to rely a little less on that athleticism to further develop as a professional point guard.
The selection of Branch in the third round by Los Angeles may be a bit of a surprising one for many. Branch averaged just 4.8 points and 2.4 assists in just over 22 minutes per game last season for the Red Storm, and he announced in August that he would begin his professional career in Slovakia this year.
Now with a D-League shot Branch will have a chance to play in Los Angeles and show off some of his skill set against possible NBA competition.
From his time in Queens, St. John's fans are well aware of Branch's exceptional passing abilities and court vision. He is a talented passer that can execute both in the half court offense and on the fast break, and he ranked in the top four on the Red Storm in assists in each of the last three seasons.
As a scoring threat Branch has shown that he can shoot, he knocked down 46 percent of his shots from the field last season and 32 percent from downtown. Standing at only 6'3" he isn't the biggest threat to attack the rim, however he has shown that he has the athleticism to finish in transition.
The one criticism of Branch's game is that he appears to be too tentative or passive sometimes in passing up open shots. This is hopefully something he can work on this season.
Obviously both Jordan and Branch will have some areas to improve upon if they want to break into the NBA in the near future, however they will each have a chance to do just that in the D-League this year.