College basketball is just around the corner. Before St. John’s commences the regular season against New Orleans, the Red Storm will visit Rutgers for an exhibition.
In the Johnnies first official preseason game, Chris Mullin’s bunch breezed by American International College. St. John’s will aim to build off previous successes on Sunday afternoon.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
What: Hurricane relief exhibition contest
Where: The RAC, Piscataway, NJ
When: Sunday, November 5th, 1:00 PM ET
TV: Big Ten Network Plus; BTN2GO
The Scarlet Knights return high-scoring guard Corey Sanders and forward Deshawn Freeman from last year’s squad, but were a team that was one of the worst shooting teams inside and outside the arc (30% from outside the arc, 336th in the nation; 45% from inside the arc, 330th in the country).
Steve Pikiell, in his first year, may have overseen a struggling offense, but the slowed-down Knights played solid defense inside and outside of the arc.
This season, the Knights add center Mamadou Doucoure, who is from Our Savior New American HS and the country of Mali like St. John’s Kassoum Yakwe and Boubacar Diakite. Rutgers also adds guard Geo Baker to the point guard spot; both are expected to contend for starting spots from the first tip, so St. John’s should expect to see a lot of them.
Both bring size to their position. Baker is tough 6’4” point guard who may not have had high-major offers but impressed the staff. Doucoure is an early enrollee who could have been senior this season. He is 6’9” and over 250 pounds and is strong on the glass.
St. John’s will need to guard against Brooklyn guard Mike Williams, a solid shooter from beyond the arc. And at least defensively, the Knights have size to throw into the game in the form of wing Issa Thiam, forward Shaquille Doorson, big man Candido Sa, and freshman Myles Johnson.
Three Things to Watch
How will the big men fare? The Scarlet Knights have legitimate Division I forwards in returnee Deshawn Freeman, incoming freshman Mamdou Doucore, and some other tall players; St. John’s bigs will be tested. Can they defend without fouling? How well will they rebound?
How will the defense fare against a higher-level opponent? St. John’s handled AIC easily, but the Scarlet Knights play in a far better conference. While Pikiell’s team may not be a top Big Ten team, they have competitive talent that can score inside and out, will play tough and can shoot.
Will the depth be tested? St. John’s will have, hopefully, nine available players, assuming Kassoum Yakwe returns to the floor. The Johnnies need to watch their exuberance and foul trouble in every game, and having a high major opponent to work out their issues with will be beneficial.
St. John’s will need to flash a higher level of cohesion. But the team looked driven on the floor at home. If they can attack with that level of focus? The Red Storm should take away a win on the road.