Thanks to Jon Rothstein for tweeting his impressions of St. John’s Red Storm practice. He’s a public service - telling us the positives about teams across the country and earning more access to negative-comment-averse programs. And along the way, we can parse the nuggets about Chris Mullin’s Red Storm team and noodle on what we think this next season should look like, what the ceiling for this team actually is.
So let’s take a little time and unpack some of the helpful tweets, since we’re all trying to figure out just what we’re going to see out of St. John’s.
Bashir Ahmed is built like a fullback. Could be lethal as an undersized PF in the Big East. Will live at the free throw line. #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
Well, that’s promising. From here, the bigger concern is if he can help out rebounding for the Johnnies... and if he can hit open jump shots.
Kassoum Yakwe has added 15 pounds since April. Going to be virtually impossible to keep off the floor. Has his offense matured? #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
That, too, is promising. From 210 pounds, the undersized Yakwe plays with a lot of heart (which we will touch on in a couple of weeks).
Yakwe is supposed to be loaded with potential; what does the realized version of that potential look like? More range? Unstoppable post moves? Charles Oakley-level rebounding? Just bigger? He’s the most promising returnee, and he only made 45% of his twos, was inconsistent in the percentage of the team’s shots that he took.
The surprise here at St. John's? German import Richard Freudenberg. Think a young Gordon Heyward. Really skilled offensive player. #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
Not that much of a surprise. Richard Freudenberg is on NBA radars for his versatile shooting/ skill set. On video, he looks more Chandler Parsons than Heyward, who played like a tall guard.
Would not be surprised if Shamorie Ponds averaged in double-figures for the next four years. Cuttino Mobley type combo guard. #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
That would be exciting... especially if he didn’t need 12 shots per game to average 10 points in his first year. And let’s talk about Mobley. At Rhode island, he shot over 31% from outside the arc in a full year in one out of three seasons (his sophomore year was cut short). He shot 43% inside the arc as a freshman as well.
Marcus Hatten was similarly iffy from outside the arc for St. John’s (28% and 33% in two years from the three; 44% and 47% inside the arc).
That’s not always such a bad thing, necessarily, but the ideal outcome would be having players take threes that can make threes at a clip that earns a point per attempt. (Getting to the free throw line helps offset that, obviously, as Mobley and Hatten did.) And a quick search of high level winning teams shows few major rotation players who shoot 44% and 31% and earn major time.
The tweeted question marks
Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens just told me that he's 6-11 and just 195 pounds. Someone needs to take this kid to Campagnola. #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
This team needs someone to hold position down low. There aren’t a LOT of true bigs in the league who post up and grind down low, but there are space eaters who will feast on Owens and Sima in the paint unless they bulk up. Blocked shots look nice, but rebounds end possessions.
The big question for St. John's is end of game execution. Can this team play high quality basketball when things are on the line? #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
St. John’s lost quite a few games early or in the middle of the first half/ beginning of the second half, where they just lost the plot to their plan. A few bad possessions would actually steamroll, Mussini or Mvouika would take a bad, early shot, the defense would miss their transition assignments, rinse, repeat, and four possessions later, the team would be working to drive out of a muddy metaphorical ditch.
That wasn’t an end-game issue. It was a middle game issue. It was a composure issue. It was not having a decent defense to fall back on when the shots didn’t fall issue.
I have no idea how St. John's will do in tight games or if it will be consistent, but this gym is loaded with high-major players. #SJUBB— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 8, 2016
The offseason plan was to improve the talent level and that was done.
But along with improving the talent, the team needs an identity and leadership that sets the tone. These next two years are about setting that tone. And these seasons are also about executing at a high, team-oriented level during the whole game.