Recruiting basketball players is a bit of a science and a bit of luck, especially for a program that has to demonstrate the ability to win before it lands top players.
before last night, Chris Mullin's program, working on Naz Reid as the rare player who looked favorably on staying close to home, had hopes of landing a Reid as a top 20 player. but Reid has chosen other schools to focus on.
A month or so ago, there was an ESPN article on the top recruiting storylines in 2018. One of the storylines was about St. John's 2018 recruiting efforts [$]:
But in 2018, there are several talented prospects in the area that St. John's is very much pursuing. The top two are Moses Brown (No. 6) and Nazreon Reid (No. 11), both five-star frontcourt prospects. Brown is a Queens big man who has improved exponentially in the last couple years, while Reid has been touted since his early high school days.
Yesterday, Naz Reid revealed his top ten schools... which included Kentucky, U Conn, Seton Hall, Rutgers... and not St. John's, a program that has recruited him heavily since Chris Mullin set foot on campus.
At least on 247 Sports, and to others, Reid was considered a St. John's lean.
But to 16-18 year old kids, leans can change in a week's time.
Obviously, being left off of Reid's list feels like a hit. St. John's will have at least three open scholarships at the end of this coming season; a fourth could be added in Marcus LoVett, and transfers can always be a possibility.
As it stands for the Red Storm, with a longstanding need for a big man who can hold position, rebound and run with the talented guards on the roster, a big man is a priority.
But as it stands, St. John’s is coming off of a year filled with improvements, but one that included only 14 wins.
There are other big men, of course; the team doesn't need to get a top-20 big and the idea that it was a strong possibility was surprising to some. But the ability to get over a rtecruiting "hump" and land a top-20 player would have been significant, along with being a boost to the talent level the season after next.
All is not lost. It's recruiting, and as long as the staff haven't pinned their hopes on one player, while recruiting no one else, the team should be ok. (That said, the staff has been pursuing high-level big men - including five-star forward Jordan Brown from California and Bol Bol, Manute Bol's son, who has strong Kentucky interest. both of those players could spurn St. John’s as well.)
That ESPN blurb also talks about Luther Muhammad, another main target for the Johnnies, and the team is looking at other guards as well.
Perhaps it's a good thing to know Reid won't be stringing Matt Abdelmassih and the staff along well into next spring, freeing up time to gain a commit from a rising player this summer.
And perhaps St. John's simply finds some solidly serviceable big men while remaining guard-oriented.
But given the amount of attention Reid got, this is a blow to what looked like a strong long-term recruiting effort by Chris Mullin and his staff.