The college basketball season is over, after Villanova's thrilling victory over North Carolina to win the NCAA Championship. St. John's a team that rutted in the college basketball gutter, lost 21 of their last 22 games. Fans know brighter days are ahead, and brighter days come from recruiting, where the Red Storm have laid the groud work for strong relationships in the 2017 and 2018 classes.
While checking on Twitter for some more information on recruiting, Zach Braziller dropped this nugget.
Lately was told adding grad transfer up in air. #sjubb— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) April 7, 2016
Now that the NCAA no longer gives waivers for players who transfer and apply for some kind of hardship - such as "my grandaunt is sick and I want to be close to home, which happens to be 200 miles away" - teams have to allow the NCAA-mandated year off of competition from transferring players. But there is one situation where a player can be immediately eligible - if he or she has finished the undergraduate degree and wants to take classes towards a graduate degree. AKA - the grad transfer.
For a player who redhsirts for injury, academic or improvement reasons, this allows a change of scenery and a chance to play a different role for a different coach. Those players - even ones from low levels of Division I - are coveted, because they've had years of college competition and training.
Here's where St. John's comes in. It's interesting that the staff has been going after three transfers who would need to sit out a season. Talent is great (we will get back to that), and Matt Abdelmassih, in particular, proved himself adept at that second-time recruiting and landed some excellent transfers for Iowa State.
Still, the Johnnies are currently ten-deep, with Darien Williams hoping to come back from another procedure on a shoulder to contribute next season. If he is delayed in his recovery, he team could use an immediately-available player, whether freshman or a transfer.
St. John's is looking at Kostas Antetokounmpo, a 6'10" high school senior, and was in contact with immediately available forward Anthony Livingston from Little Rock. But more conversation has been about transfers Justin Simon, Marvin Clark, Jr. and Dwayne Morgan from UNLV.
Which doesn't mean there's not some under-the-radar work going on.
But still, with a team with only a trio of big men (Yankuba Sima, Kassoum Yakwe and Tariq Owens), all who could use some protein shakes, the expectation would be that the team would find a bridge big man who can defend in the paint for stretches.
The competition for the best one-year transfers is heavy, and many have great spots to choose from - schools like Michigan State and Louisville, with realistic title chances. And those players are often solid rotational fillers, but not the players that will lead a team to a higher level of competition - necessarily.
Kudos for the team if they choose not to make the desperation mistake many coaches do - reaching for a player who is far from contributing or doesn't fit in a race to fill the roster. St. John's recruiting in 2014-15 is a prime example of this phenomoenon. Player reaches lead to discontent from both the player and the program, and those players transfer.
Incidentally, Christian Jones and Amar Alibegovic were added very late in the process, committing in July and August, respectively. Neither could find extended playing time or consistent on-court success at St. John's, and that's not an accident.
In fairness, late pickups can find a role on a team. But roster spots are precious in building a team towards a long term, "stable program" goal, a goal that doesn't have four year cycles where 90% of the team is gone.
For St. John's and their plans, what's the goal? The goal is always to win, but realism has to be considered in the goals. Is it to realistically compete next season, and at what level? Is it to realistically aim for a championship in 2017-18?
Maybe bringing in a rotation player for 2017-18 is the best long-term plan.
Maybe the staff feels that the options in 2017 on the recruiting trail aren't as good as the ones available in the transfer market.
Maybe the transfer market is a nudge to 2017 recruits to let them know St. John's won't wait for their mercurial choices. I don't know.
Maybe the transfer options are so good, these players are worth waiting for - and worth some imbalance in the recruiting classes.
We'll continue to keep an eye on what the Johnnies do to shore up the team for next season.