There's no way around it - St. John's was a less-than-stellar shooting team last season.
In a season that saw the Red Storm finish six games under .500, the program's worst overall record since 2004-05, depth issues were just one problem. Along with the defense and rebounding, the players who were on the floor didn't shoot well. Coach Lavin hopes that a year of maturity, better passing, fresher legs, and the addition of Marc-Antoine Bourgault turn that negative into a positive.
But star D`Angelo Harrison has spent time in Steve Lavin's doghouse. Meanwhile, Marco Bourgault awaits a confusing-seeming ruling on his NCAA classification.
How deep was last year's shooting problem for St. John's?
St. John's shot an even 42% from the field in 2011-12, playing much of the Big East season with six players. The Johnnies' ratio of made baskets to shots attempted ranked 249th out of 347 Division I basketball programs, better than only 28% of all of America.
From beyond the arc, the story was even more gruesome. St. John's attempted 487 three-point shots last year, making only 138 of them (28.3% overall). The Red Storm's make-to-attempt ratio from behind the three-point line was a full 16 points behind the nation's leader, Northern Colorado.
The team's only true threat from long range was freshman D`Angelo Harrison, who shot 36.2% from three in 2011-12. Even so, Harrison was widely inconsistent and converted in distinctive hot (and cold) streaks. No other Johnnie shot 30% behind the arc.
Three-point shooting is an essential part of the game, especially at the collegiate level where the line is considerably closer to the basket than in the pros. Specialist bombers are found on almost every roster, often in starting lineups and a key element of the game plan.
St. John's doesn't necessarily have the greatest history of perimeter shooters. The school's best offensive player and pure shooter in its history is Chris Mullin, who played at St. John's prior to the implementation of the three-point line. He would have topped the three-point record books, which include names such as Avery Patterson, Paris Horne, Jason Buchanan, Larry Wright, and Elijah Ingram.
Stretching the floor: the candidates
The precedent isn't there, but St. John's needs to find that shooter to rewrite the record books.
To win at this level, a team needs at least one reliable shooter to stretch defenses and spark scoring runs. D`Angelo Harrison hopes he can become that guy at a more consistent basis, but insists that his teammates have been working on their stroke during the offseason.
"Everyone is going to need to watch out. Amir [Garrett] has really been working on his three-point shot," D'Angelo Harrison said on Friday. "Amir can shoot now, Dom [Pointer] can shoot now, so we have a lot of threats."
Garrett and Pointer both shot 21% from beyond the arc during their freshman seasons. Steve Lavin will need them to improve immensely for them to become reliable in that aspect.
Amir Garrett shot 7/9 in a fairly close exhibition game against Sonoma State, looking smooth while hitting both of his three-point attempts.
"I've been working on all aspects of my game trying to become a better wing," Garrett told the Rumble. "One of the things I've really focused on is my jumper."
Sir`Dominic Pointer didn't attempt a three in either exhibition, but hit a few mid-range two-pointers for the Red Storm.
Of course, the task of finding a shooter to complement Harrison isn't limited to the four other returners. St. John's brings in seven newcomers this season, including heralded - and currently sidelined - shooter Marco Bourgault who transferred to the Red Storm from Monroe Community College.
"Marco can really shoot," Harrison said. "But if we had Marco and Max [Hooper] this year, I would probably have to change my predictions."
Hooper, who will not be available to play for the Johnnies until next season (2013-14) due to NCAA restrictions on Division I transfers, is said to be a fantastic perimeter shooter. It's likely that Lavin's decision to bring him aboard is to deal with the increasingly problematic issue of a lack of perimeter threats.
Who will it be when the games count? Will Garrett or Pointer prove that hard work can lead to tremendous improvement, or will St. John's have to look to one of the newcomers?
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