On Thursday, 275 season ticket holders attended an hour and a half long practice of the 2022-23 Red Storm men’s basketball team at Carnesecca Arena.
Coordinator of Basketball Operations Zendon Hamilton and Special Assistant to the Head Coach Paul Pressey mingled with fans during the pre-practice reception.
Hamilton shared his opinion that Coach Anderson is “doing something right” and that he has to “continue to develop relationships with the local high school basketball network”. When asked who of the new players truly impressed him, Hamilton responded, “Kolby King — he can really shoot and play defense.” He also singled out 7’1” Mohammed Keita. Per Hamilton, a former standout at center for St. John’s in the 1990s, Keita can “run the floor like a deer and protect the rim.”
Hamilton added, “wait until you see Raphael Pinzon, who has built himself up. He is going to be a reliable contributor to the team.”
Expressing optimism, Pressey noted the team’s focus on defense. He had recently sate down with A.J. Storr, who “truly has an athletic body for a freshman”, and with O’Mar Stanley. In his meeting with the two, he stressed that they “must play tough defense and take down rebounds if they want to play minutes as Coach Anderson expects his players to do just that.”
Pressey also touted freshman Kolby King to be a contributor “right now” and felt transfer Andre Curbelo was “making great strides with the team.”
Coach Anderson spoke briefly at the beginning of practice and introduced the team who he described as “special,” adding that they “will improve throughout the season.”
After having the team members introduce themselves by first name only, associate Head Coaches T. J. Cleveland and Van Macon each took half the squad to different halves of the court. They ran through a series of drills that featured quick passes around the horn with players coming forward to the foul line to take a pass and then hand off to a cutting teammate. Sometimes the cutter would pass off to a Johnnie in the corner off his drive. The key to this drill was quick passes, minimizing dribbling.
Give and go drills followed, with 7’ 1” freshman Keita impressing with a behind the back dribble as he drove to the basket and completed with a dunk.
The team also practiced running plays with a double-high post. Coaches Cleveland and Macon would stop the drills when a player was not positioned correctly. Precision was clearly a priority.
For the scrimmage, the team was separated into two squads:
Posh Alexander, Andre Curbelo, David Jones, Esahia Nyiwe, A.J Storr, and O’Mar Stanley
Rafael Pinzon, Joel Soriano, Kolby King, Dylan Addae-Wasu, Mohammed Keita, and Drissa Traore
The game was played using a 24 second shot clock and Coach Anderson could be heard calling out, “Go! Go!” after many defensive rebounds.
A 30 minute scrimmage took place with the Alexander-led team edging out the opponents by three points.
Some impressions from the scrimmage:
- The Johnnies, as a team, practiced with tight man-to-man defense. It was physical, and several Johnnies found themselves knocked around by aggressive defenders. (No one was injured.)
- The trio from Long Island Lutheran High School impressed. Curbelo’s ability to penetrate a tough defense was evident. During one sequence he dribbled behind his back to elude one defender then, two steps later, made a nifty behind-the-back pass to a teammate cutting to the basket for a layup.
- Pinzon demonstrated a confidence in his game as he joined King in bringing the ball upcourt. He was aggressive, made some nice feeds under the basket and hit a couple of 15-18 foot jumpers off of his dribble.
- Drissa Traore hit the offensive and defensive boards regularly and hit a 18-foot jumper from the right wing when a teammate found him wide open.
- Posh Alexander went three for three from the right wing. Has he found a sweet spot on the court?
- Nyiwe was quite aggressive on the offensive end driving hard into the paint ending in layups or dunks.
- The team may have found a long range shooter in David Jones who hit several three-pointers mostly from 18 to 20 feet. The team was cognizant of his skill often kicking out passes to Jones mostly at the top of the arch. The team hopes the consistency can continue; he shot under 30% from beyond the arc last season.
- Addae-Wasu played an error-free game and hit one three-pointer from the top of the arch.
- Joel Soriano took down rebounds, blocked shots and scored on a few putbacks and on a short jumper.
There was one thing more for the fans.
St. John’s plans to replace the seating in sections 2, 3 and 4 on one side and sections 8, 9 and 10 across the court. Replacing the current benches (which had 21 seats per section) will be 20 padded seats with backs. By reducing the number of seats by one there will be a little more room for each seat.
Not Madison Square Garden, but a nice improvement.