Yesterday, St. John’s added transfer Andre Curbelo who had spent the last two years in the Big 10 with Illinois.
The 6’1” guard, who was a big piece of the Illini attack, brings several quality traits to the Red Storm ballclub, including his crafty offensive game, his passing ability, and his success doubling and trapping on defense.
Curbelo returns home, and will play with familiar faces from high school in Rafael Pinzon and Drissa Traore, who all attended Long Island Lutheran; Curbelo has played for the Puerto Rican national team in youth tournaments, as Pinzon has.
Offensively, Curbelo herks, jerks, zigs, and zags with the ball in his hand. He does not exactly get downhill, but the results of his herky-jerky style have a similar effect to a a guard that gets downhill. Curbelo’s crafty approach led him to attempt 2.7 free throws per game last year, which would have been the third highest rate on last year’s St. John’s team.
Curbelo repeatedly is able to change directions several times on his way the basket and is a capable finisher at the rim.
Similar to new teammate Posh Alexander, Curbelo also has excellent vision. However, Curbelo is able to pair that vision with fun passing angles for some replay-necessary assists.
St. John’s struggled with the mechanics of feeding the ball into post for guys like Joel Soriano. Curbelo will have the ability to feed the big man for some easier looks rather than most everything having to come off his post moves. Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn feasted on several of Curbelo dimes last season, so hopefully Soriano will incur a similar benefit from the new transfer.
The transfer student also has a knack for effectively double-teaming and trapping the guy with the ball. Even while playing for a slow team in Illinois, which ranked 187th last season in pace, Curbelo found a way to average .8 steals per game for the Illini. With a philosophy focused on forcing turnovers, Curbelo may get more recognition as a defensive menace.
If Posh, Montez Mathis, or Dylan Addae-Wusu is spearheading St. John’s press, Curbelo will thrive in the trapper/robber role.
Shortcoming - Shooting
The former four-star recruit clearly has plenty going for him and plenty to offer the Red Storm backcourt. However, he does little to improve one of the Johnnies’ biggest weaknesses from last year, three-point shooting. The Red Storm shot just over 34% from deep last season in conference, good for 8th in the Big East.
With the loss of Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler, who combined attempted nearly 10 threes a game at a clip of just over 35%, Curbelo’s nearly 18% conversion rate from beyond the arc last year will do little to replace the best of St. John’s underwhelming shooters it has already lost.
St. John’s added another potentially high end piece that will fit right into its up-tempo style. However, the coaching has much more work to do to add shooters around passing wizards like Posh and Curbelo to prevent opponents from packing the paint on defense more than they did last year.