The exhibition season is here! Initially, this was to be the sole public exhibition for the St. John’s Red Storm, but the NCAA allowed a waiver for teams to play exhibitions for charity - and the Johnnies linked up with Rutgers for an exhibition on Sunday.
While that game will be a real test and for a good cause, this one is too. Chris Mullin’s team gets their first look at real game action with fans this week with a match against American International College, a Division II team that plays in the Northeast-10 conference with such luminaries as the College of St. Rose (the hockey team plays in Division I).
Let us take no opponent lightly, since St. John’s was beaten down by St. Thomas Aquinas two years ago in Chris Mullin’s debut.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. American International Yellowjackets
Where: Carnesecca Arena
When: 7:00 PM
Last Meeting: First-ever meeting
Scouting American International
The AIC Yellow Jackets - a program where Jim Calhoun played, and where Jim Larranaga coached for two seasons - start the year at St. John’s with a bit of TV exposure.
They are hoping for an upswing with an untested roster; the Yellow Jackets have played two 11-win seasons after a sparkling 2014-15. In that season - Andy Brukholder’s first year after spending years as an assistant with the program - AIC won 24 games and played in the Division II Sweet Sixteen.
This season, the team tries to regroup after losing two seniors and two other players from the group of five that started most games and played the most minutes last season.
Andy Burkholder’s side does return one starter, Tahlib Swan, a 6’5” swingman from Montclair, NJ. Swan was the leading rebounder, grabbing 6.7 per game, while scoring 14.4 points per game as well. The team adds three Junior College players, including 6’5” forward Andrew Anderson.
Three Things to Watch
You’re here to watch St. John’s, we assume. So the three things to watch will be on the on-court questions for Chris Mullin’s side heading into their third year with him as the head coach.
Can this team defend?
We may not know the answer to this one after tonight’s game; the talent difference should be apparent, and even defending the interior should not be a problem. But we can look for a few points of interest: will the guards (Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, whom Coach Mullin has asked for more from) stifle their opponents? Or will they gamble for steals? Or both? Will they keep opponents from getting free runs at the rim? Can they slow opponents down in transition?
Can this team rebound?
St. John’s badly needs better work on the glass this season to keep opponents off of the boards. That issue didn't truly sink the Johnnies, but when an opponent was dedicated to attacking the glass, like the Battle 4 Atlantis opponents, the Red Storm had struggles - and gave up many more shots.
If we see Bashir Ahmed leading the team in rebounds, we might have some questions.
What do the newcomers look like?
From the sounds of the scrimmage against Hofstra, Justin Simon and Marvin Clark certainly made their impact.
St Johns beat Hofstra in scrimmage by 15. Justin Simon with 18 and 9. Marvin Clark 16. Shamorie Ponds Marcus LoVett double figures #sjubb— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) October 28, 2017
This is our first chance to see them and Bryan Trimble on the floor - and to start imagining what their impact will be.
Should be a smooth ride, we think, and a chance to work out some issues on the floor, like how Justin Simon works as a point guard to get open shots from Ponds/ LoVett, how the guards work with Kassoum Yakwe and Marvin Clark and how explosive Bashir Ahmed is after a reportedly strong offseason.
What will you be looking for?