It was all smiles at Carnesecca Arena yesterday for the annual St. John's Basketball Media Day.
Much of the attention from today’s event focused on men’s head basketball coach Chris Mullin and his roster for the 2016-2017 season. The men’s basketball squad returns seven players from last year’s team, including two starters, Federico Mussini and Kassoum Yakwe.
However, much of the buzz regarding this year’s men’s basketball team has been concentrated on the five newcomers on this roster, expected to elevate the team’s play from the eight-win squad of last season to something much more competitive.
The Johnnies will look to improve this year after finishing the 2015-16 season with an abysmal 8-24 record. Mullin stressed the importance of having a team full of confident players with an optimistic approach preparing for each game this season.
Sophomore guard Federico Mussini and junior forward Amar Alibegovic both agreed, and further stressed how important it is for this team to be on the same page on the court at all times.
Amar Alibegovic made the point that the team’s chemistry is much better than it was last year, when the team was an all-new cast trying to figure out their roles and how to play with each other. Alibegovic felt that it could make a big difference when it comes to winning games this year, especially during Big East conference play.
Mullin expressed that one of the biggest differences with this year’s roster is that he can create multiple different lineups throughout the year with his players in order to create different looks. This year, he says he looks forward to utilizing many his players, calling them, “interchangeable parts”.
Sophomore guard Malik Ellison summed up this year’s approach, saying, “our team has plenty of talent to turn some heads and surprise people this year…it’s all about putting 100% every game in order to give our team the best chance of winning”.
And the talent looks to have improved.
The five newcomers on this year’s St. John’s roster are Marcus LoVett, Shamorie Ponds, Bashir Ahmed, Tariq Owens, and Richard Freudenberg. But to Mullin, every player is essentially a newcomer, with Mullin adding, “this is truly our debut season”.
Of the five newcomers, freshmen guards Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds are expected to see extensive minutes on the floor for the Johnnies from the beginning. Guard/forward Bashir Ahmed, a junior college transfer from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, will also see a good amount of playing time this year for the Johnnies. At 6 foot 7 inches, Ahmed is expected to be a dependable wing scorer for the Johnnies this year.
Ahmed expressed that it’s an “honor” and “privilege” to learn and play for one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. He is also more than happy to return to New York City with the chance of playing in front of his friends and family in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.
But can those five integrate with the returnees, and turn the newfound improved chemistry into wins?