It is obvious to recognize the mess St. John's legend Chris Mullin inherited. Over the summer only three Johnnies stayed within the program. These three averaged about 4 points for the 2014-2015 season.
During a short four month span, Mullin and trusted assistants Matt Abdelmassih and Barry Rohrssen landed a group of nine that would need to build the infrastructure of St. John's. Early on this season, we can already see glimpses and signs that this group is prepared to salvage the historic St. John's basketball program. Young players like Federico Mussini, Yankuba Sima, and Kassoum Yakwe may be looked upon years from now as heroes.
Now it is time for St. John's to take the next step as a program and compete for championships. Competing at a high-level every season hinges on a programs recruiting success.
Chris Mullin has stated that he does not sell St. John's to recruits. Instead he explains the school and what he has done in his career. The players that want St. John's are the players that the Johnnies staff have an attraction for. How has this logic helped the future recruiting classes?
Class of 2016
Shamorie Ponds: Lone class of 2016 signee Shamorie Ponds has St. John's supporters eager and anxious. Ponds is one of the most explosive players in the country and has a beautiful shot. Ponds seems to be an advocate of St. John's basketball and is currently persuading some of the nation's best to Queens, according to SNY.
"I'm going to work on Rawle (Alkins), Thon (Maker), and Jordan Tucker."
Rawle Alkins: Alkins seems to be the one that fans around the program want the most. Alkins is a top 20 recruit and his power and athleticism allow him to attack the basket with ease. No school seems to jump out as the obvious destination spot.
ESPN expert Jeff Borzello predicts that Alkins will choose St. John's, but other ESPN scouts believe he will choose NC State. It is interesting to hear that he did not attend a game that Johnnies staff were supposed to attend. He recently wrote on the USA Today High School Sports blog,
"St. John’s was gonna come to the game last week, but I told them I was injured and wasn’t playing. They said they’d still come just to talk to me after the game even without me playing. That’s crazy, but I was actually at the hospital getting my ankle checked out so I didn’t make the game at all."
This does not mean that St. John's is not heavily a considered destination for Alkins, but it is not the best thing that could have happened for St. John's.
Thon Maker: Maker is a talented player from Canada, but it seems unlikely that he will wear a St. John's jersey. Most experts believe he will choose Arizona State.
Bashir Ahmed: According to SNY, the JUCO wing from Kansas will visit St. John's December 18-20. He is expected to be at the Incarnate Word and NJIT contests coming off his visit to Texas this week. Ahmed also visited St. John's on September 26th, 2015. Most experts predict Ahmed will select the Johnnies but predictions mean little in the recruiting process, as players change their minds or are opened up to new opportunities. Read more about Ahmed here.
Richard Freudenberg: According to the 247 Sports Crystal Ball this four-star forward could end up in Queens. It seems as if the Johnnies staff has made Freudenberg a priority, and rumors seem confident that the Red Storm are real contenders for his talent.
St. John's staff is traveling to Munich to visit Richard Freudenberg ('98), one of top available prospects for 2016 pic.twitter.com/5uw4JUag3n— Eurohopes (@Eurohopes) December 14, 2015
Class of 2017
Jordan Tucker: Tucker sat courtside as the Johnnies juiced the Syracuse Orange. Tucker is from New York and he has mentioned he would "put on" for his city. Tucker told Adam Zagoria that St. John's is coming at him the hardest right now. Here are his comments about attending the Syracuse game on Sunday.
""I thought [St. John's] played really well today adjusting to the Syracuse zone," Tucker said. "I have to watch them and see what they run against the man-to-man but it was a good time. I enjoyed myself."
Andre Rafus: Rafus was another visitor at the St. John's versus Syracuse contest. He also visited during Midnight Madness earlier this season. He recently told SNY.tv,
"I like St. John's because St. John's, they [are] saying if I was to commit now that [with] my style of play I would come right in and play,..."
Billy Preston: The Johnnies survived the cut for this top ten recruit from Dallas, TX. The highly talented power-forward recently cut his list from 29 to 13. Below is his top 13, and for more information on Preston's game you can click here.
Out of 29 schools, I have decided to cut it down to 13! Thank you to all the schools recruiting me thus far #13 pic.twitter.com/HpbSqkEXDq— ♕Billy Preston☃⛽️ (@nolimitbill) December 16, 2015
Hamidou Diallo: Diallo is highly touted as one of the best shooting guards in the entire 2017 class. Recent reports say that Diallo is working on scheduling visits with Syracuse, Kentucky, St. John's, UConn, Maryland, NC State, Kansas and Indiana, respectively. Diallo was born in Queens, NY and this would be a massive win if the Johnnies could land him.
Austin Grandstaff: Ohio State freshman is packing his bags only ten games in to his college career. Out of high school, Grandstaff was a top 50 recruit and is considered one of the best shooters in the nation. He is only averaging about 4 points in 10 games this year but Grandstaff is certainly capable of performing at a higher level.
According to ESPN Basketball Recruiting Insider Jeff Borzello, St. John's is amongst a handful of teams that have contacted Grandstaff.
Ohio State transfer Austin Grandstaff told ESPN that Butler, St. John's, Oregon, Tennessee, Nebraska, SMU, others have already reached out.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) December 17, 2015
It seems that St. John's is keeping busy on the recruiting trail. St. John's is heavily involved with many of the top athletes in their region and throughout the world. Now it is time for Chris Mullin and staff to finish off what they started.