On the off-chance that you haven't yet heard, Red Storm Tip-Off is set for this Friday night.
Like a number of other high-profile programs, the Tip-Off - known in other places at "Midnight Madness" (even though it begins at 7:00 PM) - marks the official start of the 2012-13 season. The event is technically the first official "practice" for the men's and women's programs... but in practice, it's the first chance to see the new and old Johnnies along with a chance to impress recruits with the fans' fervor for the program.
The free event is arguably St. John's men's and women's basketball's premier "non-game" event of the season, designed to hype the crowd with player introductions, loud music, dunk contests, and giveaways. ESPN's John Anderson is scheduled to be in attendance, emceeing the on-court happenings to the crowd for the second time in three years.
Until Steve Lavin was hired as head coach, Red Storm Tip-Off took place at the Johnnies' squeaky-clean practice facility, Taffner Fieldhouse. A limited number of fans were permitted and were subject to cheering on the Red Storm without stadium seating or the true feel of a college basketball atmosphere.
Tip-Off has since been moved next door to the larger, historic Carnesecca Arena. And it's still free.
St. John's newcomers JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, Orlando Sanchez, Marco Bourgault, Felix Balamou, Max Hooper will make their first appearances in black and red on Friday., and
Popular rap duo Chiddy Bang, originally from Philadelphia, will perform live for the Carnesecca Arena crowd. It is certainly the best-known name to play or sing at Red Storm Tip-Off in recent years. The ever-familiar and St. John's regular DJ Zeke will also provide musical background.
The recruiting angle
Along with the informal atmosphere, the event is a chance to bring prospective recruits in for official or unofficial visits, providing for them a sneak peak into what life could be like at the particular school.
Much of the Red Storm's roster which will be introduced on Friday night at one point attended Tip-Off as an observer or guest. Two years ago, St. John's welcomed prospective student-athletes by the names of Moe Harkless, D`Angelo Harrison, and JaKarr Sampson to the season opening celebration.
Last season, Amir Garrett and one-time commits Darrick Wood and Ricardo Gathers were in attendance at Carnesecca Arena.
An aspiring recruit's decision to or not to attend Tip-Off doesn't mean everything. But there is something to be said about his (or her) interest in Steve Lavin, the existing players, and the program itself. And the track record is positive.
2012's edition of "Red Storm Tip-Off Recruit Watch" should bring us 6'8" forward and Queens native Jermaine Lawrence, who is expected to be at the event on Friday. The high-flying, athletic forward, who now plays at Pope John XXIII High School in New Jersey, is considered to be one of the New York area's top talents of the 2013 class, and is a coveted post presence for a number of high-profile programs.
2014 forward Evan Hubbard is also slated to attend the festivities.
The (free) tickets will be made available at the Carnesecca Arena ticket office at 2 pm on the day of the event. If you can, come early because space is limited. St. John's official radio station WSJU Radio will be broadcasting live outside from 5-7 pm.