After a coaching change, sometimes the most important recruits are the ones on the roster.
After looking around a bit for possible transfer destinations after former head coach Chris Mullin stepped down, LJ Figueroa is apparently staying with St. John’s for Mike Anderson’s first year at the helm.
Figueroa, a 6’6” swingman will be a junior next season, was the most offensively-efficient rotation player in conference play last season (and second-most over the course of the season). He played a strong complementary role to Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron, grabbing rebounds on the defensive end, forcing steals, and improving the defense while on the floor for the Johnnies.
The Red Storm still need some ballhandling guard play; the only “true” point guard is the unheralded but tough-by-reputation incoming point guard Johnathan McGriff. That is not enough. Even the plan under the old regime of bringing in JUCO guard Cam Mack to play point had a touch of hubris; successful teams need multiple ballhandlers and contingency options unless they have an all-league candidate.
It is entirely possible that Greg Williams can be a capable point guard, as well.
But Figueroa is a difference-maker on defense, one who has deeper potential. His ability to run and score in transition will be helped by Anderson’s style, and he has potential to create more shots than he did playing with Ponds and Marvin Clark II.
With Figueroa and Heron, St. John’s returns two players who logged more than 66% of available minutes. The turnover may be heavy, but the new Red Storm will have a pair of veteran anchors.
With Figueroa’s return, the Red Storm have three scholarship spots available.
At guard, the Johnnies will have Greg Williams Jr., McGriff, Figueroa, Eli Wright and Mustapha Heron.
On the wings there will be some combination of those players plus Marcellus Earlington and David Caraher.
Up front, Josh Roberts looks to get as many minutes as his foul trouble will allow, backed by incoming JUCO Damien Sears, Caraher and, after the Fall semester, incoming transfer Ian Steere.
With a late start in recruiting, the Red Storm do not have a wide array of high-end talent options, but grad transfers, JUCO players and some low-level freshmen who need polish are still available. A point guard is key, but big man and wing depth is also needed.