As Steve Lavin entered an electric Carnesecca Arena, he took a microphone to address the crowd.
His first words: "This joint is jumping!"
The St. John's men's and women's teams kicked off their seasons on Friday night at the program's annual Red Storm Tip-Off event. The bash has been held in the University's on-campus arena ever since Lavin was hired in 2010, yet the 2013 version came with a different feel.
After students accumulated as early as 7 A.M. to get tickets, over 5,000 St. John's fans were on hand to welcome the Johnnies to the stage. Grammy-nominated artist Lupe Fiasco was on the bill, but the anticipation seemed to be equally (if not more so) aimed toward the official beginning of the basketball season.
"We've been working for three plus years to get to this point," Lavin mentioned in his opening remarks. "We now have the artillery and the firepower to do something special."
And, for some reason, you just feel that something special could actually be brewing for the first time since Lavin's first year in Queens, which resulted in the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002. The two previous years were defined by what Lavin would call "tempered enthusiasm." This time around, the enthusiasm is real and unbounded.
St. John's, on the same night it unveiled its brand new Under Armour throwback uniforms, showed off some its newly-welcomed talent. The Red Storm's three newcomers - Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez and Max Hooper - each dazzled the crowd during the evening's events, solidifying the excitement of many.
After Sanchez and Hooper each converted three-pointers in the team's red-white scrimmage, highly-touted freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan got the night's largest roar when he dunked over God'sgift Achiuwa in the team's dunk contest ultimately won by Christian Jones.
Broadcast nationally as part of FOX Sports 1's "Big East Tip-Off Party," Red Storm Tip-Off was by far and away the most successful of the Lavin era.
"There were a lot more fans than usual," said Phil Greene IV. "The energy was crazy. [The fans] believe in us tremendously. This a key year for us, and we're going to deliver."
The Johnnies will have their first chance to deliver in a week, when they play San Francisco State in the Storm's first of two exhibitions. St. John's will officially open the season on November 8th against Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, S.D.
More from Rumble In The Garden:
- Chris Obekpa to miss Tip-Off and two exhibitions for violating University policy
- St. John's expecting recruits, alumni, and Lupe Fiasco for Red Storm Tip-Off
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- Recruiting update: NJ's Isaiah Briscoe scheduled to attend Red Storm Tip-Off
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