St. John’s has landed an addition for next year in Vermont’s star guard Stef Smith.
Thank you to all the schools that recruited me during this process. I am truly blessed to announce that I will be finishing my college basketball career at St.John’s University. Can’t wait to get to work and play for Coach Anderson and the rest of the staff! pic.twitter.com/AiAIuFWKQF— Stef Smith (@Smithball_skill) March 26, 2021
Smith, a 6’2” guard from the Toronto area who has played four years for the Catamounts, will take advantage of an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA and play in New York for Mike Anderson.
He is a scorer and a very good three-point shooter; he takes more than half of his shots from deep, shooting 36% of better all four of his years.
Smith was a three-year starter who started 80 games at Vermont. At Vermont, championships in the America East are more of a ritual than for for Villanova in the Big East; the four Catamount teams Smith was on were regular season champions, and he has played in one NIT and one NCAA Tournament. Smith is 7-1 in America East conference tournament games.
(Trivia moment: the Vermont loss to UMBC in 2018’s America East title game came with Stef Smith out due to an apparent injury. That gave the UMBC Retrievers the chance to a last-second win at Vermont. The Retrievers went on to become the first 16-seed in the men’s bracket to defeat a #1 seed, the Virginia Cavaliers.)
Stef Smith is a consistent high-usage player who has deferred to a versatile star inside-out forward — Ryan Davis this year, and Anthony Lamb previously.
The experience of playing on a team that requires high-level execution should be helpful for the maturing St. John’s squad. The Red Storm lose two seniors in Rasheem Dunn and Arnaldo Toro, and two rising seniors in Isaih Moore and Vince Cole, both who have transferred out of the program. (Josh Roberts is rumored to be transferring out, or “entering his name in the portal” as people like to say.
In Cole’s departure, the Red Storm lost a shooter; in Dunn’s departure, the team lost a secondary ballhandler with quickness. In Smith, the team gets some of that skill back. In 18 games against top-100 opponents, as defined by KenPom.com data, Smith scored just under 11 points per game, shooting 43% on threes and 43% on two-pointers (data from Sports-Reference.com) against those opponents.
St. John’s returns Posh Alexander, Greg Williams Jr., Marcellus Earlington and Dylan Addae-Wusu; Julian Champagnie is exploring NBA Draft possibilities but will be eligible to return. The team will add three freshmen, Rafael Pinzon, O’Mar Stanley and Drissa Traore to the squad, plus JUCO center Esahia Nyiwe; a more experience big will likely be another transfer target.