This season, the Johnnies hope for better on-court outcomes, starting with the sole exhibition game this week (and secret scrimmage before the official season opener against Bethune-Cookman on November 11th) looking put what they’ve worked on into practice against a local opponent that will be itching to compete.
St. John’s will take on Baruch College at Carnesecca Arena in an exhibition game this upcoming Monday, October 31. Lining up across the sidelines will be a familiar face in New York City circles - and in Chris Mullin’s basketball history - head coach John Alesi.
The Bearcats, a Division III team, play in the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC). As an exhibition game, the outcome should not be in doubt - though last year’s St. Thomas Aquinas squad could say differently, after blowing out the Red Storm, 90-58, at Carnesecca in an exhibition.
A former standout guard at Baruch from 2000-2003, head coach John Alesi will be entering his fourth season as head coach. He shared some of his thoughts on the upcoming matchup, with Baruch getting a chance to play on TV (ESPN3) and against a local historical power.
“Being able to take on St. John’s is a great opportunity for our student-athletes and program,” John Alesi told the Rumble. “The opportunity to line up against one of the all-time winningest college basketball programs is a great thing for our school, alumni and community. It will be a great early test for our team to see where we are at.”
Alesi continued, “obviously when you take a step up in competition like this, it is a different type of size and speed that we don’t see often at our level. We think it will help prepare us well.”
Alesi is no stranger to Division I basketball, however. He coached with Barry “Slice” Rohrssen, the former St. John’s assistant, at Pittsburgh and under Rohrssen when “Slice” was head coach at Manhattan College.
In regards to which of his players the St. John’s fans should pay attention to, Alesi stated, “Chima Ekekeugbor is certainly someone we feel is capable of playing at a higher level but has created a great career for himself here at Baruch. He has arguably had the best first two seasons in our program’s history so we are excited to see him transition to an upperclassman and leader.
“Also,” Alesi continued, “Doyin Isaac is coming off of a terrific rookie season so we expect big things from him. Finally, we return Bryler Paige from a season-ending knee injury last year and he will be counted on for leadership and toughness.”
Lastly, Coach Alesi gave his opinion on Chris Mullin, whom Alesi’s father knew from Mullin’s days at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. “Chris is doing a great job so far,” Alesi said. “Obviously these things take time especially when you start out the way he did as far the roster is concerned. He has really upped the talent level in just one season and I anticipate they will continue to move in the right direction.
“St. John’s being strong is always a great thing for New York. It creates a buzz around the city that then trickles down to all of the other college and high school programs in the area.”
St. John’s hopes that this game will help Chris Mullin’s second squad get ready for a far better season than last year - to continue in the right direction.
Though the game might turn into a blowout in the Johnnies’ favor, the effort from the players - and the chance to measure up against high-major athletes - will matter more than the result of the game to Baruch’s head coach John Alesi.