The media and fans have been relatively patient, knowing this was a slow build at St. John’s after Mullin took over a roster that had graduated almost everyone who had played major minutes the season before.
For the die-hards, it is time to make some noise in the Big East.
Yes, expectations inch higher for St. John’s men’s hoops fans as the season gets closer. A number of talented additions plus experience and a burst of winning late in the season is the formula for “comeback” boasts and big talk.
No player was particularly boastful. Incoming junior guard Mustapha Heron, a transfer from Auburn, summed up his take on expectations: “play together, play hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Early togetherness was a theme in the player and coach interviews, as the squad looks to put a 16-17 season in the rear view and leap into postseason play. The players were businesslike, eager to practice, train, and improve.
“We all come in, get in extra workouts together, it’s a great family feeling,” LJ Figueroa added.
This is preseason, and the best laid plans of teams to work hard and play together can be dashed early (or late, when the competition ramps up into league play).
For his part, Mullin maintained his steady focus on progression and preparation, on the natural build of experience and talent. That said, he is openly excited about the options on the floor for his team this season.
Mullin told Tarik Turner and Ralph Benardczyk that “we have depth, we have bodies. Add talent to that, you’re talking about having a very competitive atmosphere with healthy competition. You learn from each other that way. It’s the first year we’ve had that kind of culture.”
Junior guard Justin Simon agreed. “This is a different atmosphere for sure,” he said. “It’s been a buildup of everybody trying to develop a culture. It’s come a long way, still building. I just love the environment we have so far.”
The newly-eligible Heron also accelerates the building of a successful culture.
“The biggest thing [Heron] brings is experience,” Mullin said. “He played big minutes, played on a good team. His presence every day and how he approaches the game is the biggest thing.”
For his part, Heron wants to pass on his experience from the last two years at Auburn, to be “as vocal as possible, knowing what it’s like to go to the Tournament, what it takes to do certain things.”
That experience and process matches Chris Mullin’s mindset on how to build a team — and how to play winning basketball.
“Becoming a winner, there’s a process to it,” Mullin said. “We have a mindset of our will to prepare to win.”
“We feel really good with our experience and talent, but we gotta go out and do it.”