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Recruiting update: no Isaac Kante, what’s next?

No Kante, no cry?

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

You may have heard that the forward prospect St. John's was in pursuit of, Isaac Kante, chose to continue his hoops career at the University of Georgia instead of staying home to play with St. John's, a team that could use a big man.

The Red Storm, you may remember, struggled mightily at defensive rebounding (ending chances for opponents to score) and were vulnerable inside the paint.

Obviously, this is a bit of a blow. The Red Storm had a potential-laden big man in Zach Brown signed. Despite constant contact, Brown landed in legal trouble once more. With Brown released from his scholarship, St. John's lost the potential for a big man who could defend in the paint against the Big East's size, an issue that will loom larger as even Marquette and DePaul will have better big man play next season.

Late in the recruiting season, St. John's looked at forward Derrick Walker, only to have him choose Tennessee.

St. john’s looked at a pair of forwards from the Putnam Science Academy, only to have both sign elsewhere.

Competent graduate transfer big men are actually hard to find, and the decent ones have gone to places like Kansas. St. John's is still in the mix for seven-footer Kameron Rooks - a player who fits a decent profile for the Johnnies' needs - but at this point, it's important to think of the team's top players as set for the next year, barring a magical European import.

Certainly, that is a surprise, given the talent on the team and the obvious need. But it's important to remember the great pitfall of spring recruiting: the really good players, the players with obvious upside, they have all made their choices. Spring signings are a roulette wheel. Some players are really good fits, while others are desperation reaches for the Big East level - the kind of player who cannot break through to get playing time.

But there isn't necessarily a player who would be sidelined for a player like Isaac Kante, and not signing him saves a roster spot for a late transfer, perhaps, or for next year's recruiting.

For Chris Mullin and his rebuild, there is still ample opportunity for next year's team to be far better. The main contributors have all returned, with two star freshmen Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett a year older - with some room to improve their games. Bashir Ahmed returns. Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe have some reasonable room to still improve (each takes mid-range jump shots that looks soft but don't have the right accuracy). Federico Mussini can contribute a little more, and Amar Alibegovic brings some size.

And there are newcomers. Marvin Clark Jr. will be eligible, and should be an undersized inside-outside force with rebounding ability. He alone can improve the front court. Justin Simon is a guard with elite athleticism; at 6'5", he can bring a different dimension defensively, and he could be a decent passer and transition player.

But the need for a physical post remains - and may remain for another year.

A look at the open scholarships per year, with "OP" denoting "Open" shows three open scholarships to use this season, at least two more available after next season, and four more in the 2020 season.

St. John’s scholarship chart through season ending 2020

Count Player 2018 2019 2020 2021
Count Player 2018 2019 2020 2021
1 Shamorie Ponds x x x OP
2 Marcus LoVett x x x OP
3 Justin Simon x x x OP
4 Federico Mussini x x OP OP
5 Marvin Clark, Jr. x x OP OP
6 Tariq Owens x x OP OP
7 Kassoum Yakwe x x OP OP
8 Amar Alibegovic x OP OP OP
9 Bashir Ahmed x OP OP OP
10 Mikey Dixon x x x
13 Boubacar Diakite OP x x x
Schol. Avail. 3 4 8 11
Open scholarships; “OP”; claimed scholarships: “x” Norman Rose