We've written about St. John's effervescent and athletic forward/ wing JaKarr Sampson, about the sleeper of the class Christian Jones, about the path to a Division-I college for Marco Bourgault (who on these pages will be known by his media guide name, Marc-Antoine Bourgault), and about the "new" coach Joe Tartamella on the women's side.
Cleaning out our St. John's media day folder, here are some more compiled notes and quotes form media day, from the video and from the news articles as a muted, almost cautious Steve Lavin addressed the media. Yes, we're publishing this late. But the season hasn't started, and these are important comments to keep in mind.
We'll save a couple of conversations with players for the dead period next week while we're awaiting the Detroit opener.
Coach Steve Lavin on St. John's youth
"[I'm] pleased with the progress we've made so far. We're a very young team... we have players who are not familiar with this level of basketball.
"But our staff feel strongly that as a group we can move forward quickly enough to be competitive by the time Big East conference play rolls around. We're trying to accelerate their learning curve with game situations."
Pico note: Game experience is an issue for Steve Lavin's team; an early guess would be that in the preseason and non-conference games, fans will see a number of different lineup combinations for St. John's. Lavin has played with lineups and rewarded players for practice effort. And he's willing to lose a game to see how players react.
Lavin-isms on forward Slim, aka Sam Sealy
"He's got a bright future here for us. He's putting on a little bit of weight, we're trying to get three square meals in him. Right now he's built like a chop stick, or bamboo, or a string bean... but he's someone I think over his career who can help us."
Pico note: Intriguing. We've thought of him as a walk-on for St. John's, not a future Phil Missere/ backup forward in real game situations. Also, #LavinLines!
On St. John's having frontline depth/ depth in general
"Last year, you get one or two fouls on a front-line player, we really were in jeopardy the rest of the game. And now we can play that aggressive, full-court pressing, trapping style of basketball, and not have the fear of foul trouble and the consequences it brings.
"Like sparring partners in boxing, when you have high level players going at each other on a daily basis, there's gonna be more growth."
Pico note: A return to that more aggressive style the Red Storm played two years ago seems to be coming. The team has a lot of athletes; but the trapping and pressing style requires players to understand where their help is coming from, or it looks like a sieve that was carved up by the likes of St. Mary's and Fordham.
NY Newsday // St. John's has sizable expectations this season
[Chris] Obekpa took a special interest in following the Red Storm because he met 6-8 forward God`sgift Achiuwa two years ago when they traveled with a group of Nigerian players to South Africa for an NBA "Basketball Without Borders" camp.
"I was coming up behind him," said Obekpa, who is two years younger. "Even here, it's the same thing. I'm following his footsteps. We boost each other."
The Johnnies have several players — notably sophomore guard D`Angelo Harrison and freshman forward JaKarr Sampson — who already project as NBA draft choices.
The rest are good enough says Harrison, the top scorer a year ago with a 17-point average, that "there is going to be a lot of winning before this season is over."
ESPN NY // Lavin talks up new team at St. John's
"The strength of this team is the balance," Lavin said. "It may be the deepest, most balanced team I’ve coached in my career."
"Coach Lav, he’s enthusiastic," said fellow freshman forward Christian Jones. "Everything we do, he’s energetic. He gets down on the floor, he does everything we do. It motivates all of us."
"It’s totally different," said sophomore guard Phil Greene, comparing this year to last year. "He brings a different energy to it. It’s more exciting. Basically more fun. You want to play. It’s not like a job.
Pico note: Was enthusiasm and motivation lacking last year? Possibly, if you take another look at Phil Greene's comment about playing being "like a job."
Dunlap possesses a brilliant basketball mind, so sharp that Michael Jordan hired him to coach his Charlotte Bobcats. But his voice was lost on some of the Johnnies.
"Coach Dunlap, I wouldn’t say we bumped heads, but he was a different voice, he was more of an enforcer-type role,’’ forward Sir`Dominic Pointer told The Post. "Some players like that and some players don’t.
"Coach Lav is great with players. He knows how to talk with players in a different way. And Coach Dunlap was very good off the court, just on the court he was strict.’’
Pico note: see above. One wonders how different some players will look with Dunlap gone; as a bunch of freshmen, strictness may have been necessary.
[Christian Jones has] brute strength, nimble feet, great hands, good touch, sees the floor, makes excellent decisions. He is probably our most consistent player in terms of assists-to-turnover ratio and shooting percentage."
Lavin admitted when they received Jones' commitment, they weren't sure how much he could help right away. But the Arlington, Texas product, who chose the Red Storm over Oklahoma State, Auburn, Marquette and Baylor, has impressed the coaching staff from the get-go with his workmanlike habits, hustle, rebounding ability and understanding of his strengths and weaknesses.
Pico note: Jones may even make an early starting line-up for Lavin. On Saturday, well start to see what he brings to the court - a great mystery, soon solved.