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Derrick Walker, a 2017 forward recruit, chooses Tennessee

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The Red Storm hotly pursued Walker; are still in search of a big man.

SJUvDelState Wendell Cruz

Derrick Walker, the Kansas City-area forward who visited St. John’s last weekend, has chosen Tennessee - much to the Red Storm’s chagrin.

With the departure of Yankuba Sima and the arrest of center Zach Brown (who was released from his Letter of Intent) St. John’s had a deeper need for the big man. Predictions had leaned St. John’s way earlier this week after his visit, but the defender and rebounder chose to join Rick Barnes’ rebuild in Knoxville, Tennessee (which is a pretty nice town).

Walker, a 6’8”, 220 pound power forward, is from the same Kansas City AAU team that transfer Marvin Clark Jr. played on, Mokan Elite; Clark is sitting out this season after transferring from Michigan State.

There likely won’t be other 2017 recruits that the team will look at, though that could change. But generally, late-season recruits who aren’t committed are either 1) elite players weighing high-end options 2) players who won’t be immediate impact players who are waiting for a high-end option of a program to get desperate and bring them in or 3) players who, for one reason or another, could be eligibility risks (multiple or unaccredited high schools, academic problems, non-US transcripts).

From here, St. John’s will likely look to explore the graduate transfer market, players who have graduated from their institution but have one more year of eligibility. The talent in grad transfers - and the fit - can be tough to navigate, but the lead recruiter, Matt Abdelmassih, has extensive experience in bringing in transfers from his time at Iowa State.

St. John’s returns Tariq Owens, Amar Alibegovic and Kassoum Yakwe next year; Darien Williams should be eligible for at least a fifth year of eligibility after missing all but the first three games of last season. Richard Freudenberg and Marvin Clark could also fill in some minutes up front.

But who will join them and fill in the Red Storm’s biggest problem - paint strength and defense?