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Eli Wright transfers to St. John’s

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The sophomore guard transfers from Mississippi State, and will have two seasons of eligibility after sitting out a season.

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic-Mississippi State vs Boise State Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s received a commitment from 6’4” slashing wing Eli Wright, a transfer from the Mississippi State program. He came to visit today for an official visit, and obviously liked what he saw from Chris Mullin’s program.

The sophomore guard transfers from Mississippi State, and will have two seasons of eligibility after sitting out a season.

Wright came to college as one of the more touted members of Ben Howland’s first recruiting class at Mississippi State. The 203-pound guard was originally from Owensboro, KY but finished his senior year at the now-defunct 22ft Academy, where he played with St. John’s Sedee Keita, who transferred from South Carolina last offseason.

A slasher who was once a top-100 recruit (ranked 65th by ESPN, 80th by 247 Sports and 92 by Rivals), Wright struggled to make an impact alongside guards who became stars (Nick and Quindary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters). After a freshman season where he saw 13 minutes per game and considered transferring, he returned, only to face the same logjam of minutes.

Next season, Mississippi State has even more competition for time and shots, and Wright chose to move on to another home. He does not leave Starkville with bad feelings, by all accounts. Ben Howland (and others) found him to be a hard-working and respectful player, but despite using him as an off-the-bench spark on both ends, the minutes would not be there to fulfill his potential.

Can the minutes be there with St. John’s? The Johnnies are banking on the former four-star player, who only averaged three points per game, recapturing his pre-college form in a faster-paced, attacking offense. MIssissippi State was 219th in pace last season, utilizing heavy doses of post-up action to reach the NIT semifinals this season.

Despite Wright’s shooting woes overall this season, he was good as a freshman, solid in conference play as a sophomore, and had some struggles in non-conference play for the MSU Bulldogs.

An aggressive attacker off the dribble in transition, his high school potential marks him as a player who might blossom with a change of scenery and some freedom, as Justin Simon did with the Red Storm. Wright should have defensive potential, and certainly has the athleticism to be a foul-drawing slasher.

But can he put it together and elevate the Red Storm? Can he be an impact defender? Can he score efficiently in the half court? We will find out in Queens.

Roster update

Senior/ 2019 Grad: Marvin Clark II

Junior/ 2020 Grad: Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon

Sophomore/ 2021 Grad: Sedee Keita, Mikey Dixon, Bryan Trimble, Jr.

Freshman/ 2022 Grad: Boubacar Diakite, Greg Williams, Jr., Josh Roberts, Marcellus Earlington

Sitting out: David Caraher (sophomore in 2019-20, 2022 grad), Eli Wright (junior in 2019-20, 2021 grad)

Open scholarships: 1

Those are quite a few new faces to integrate for next season and the season afterwards. Six of the 10 players available this season are new to the court. If you are keeping track of such things, six of the 12 players are transfers from other programs. Four of the players on the roster will be top-100 players (Wright, Keita, Ponds and Simon).

The newcomers this season will see heavy minutes, while Caraher and Wright will watch from the bench as the team builds a stronger identity on the floor.

The Red Storm have one more scholarship to use, and have shown interest in transfer wing Dachon Burke, possible interest in JUCO LJ Figueroa, interest in high school senior Maurice Calloo and a few other names.