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Amir Garrett's departure from St. John's is a reminder of continuing roster churn

Garrett says he will play professional baseball and seek to join another basketball program.



It's something that St. John's fans have become somewhat familiar with, especially in recent years as the new regime has attempted to overhaul the program. Since Steve Lavin was hired on March 31, 2010, a collection of players have left the program for other opportunities.

So news that Amir Garrett is leaving St. John's is a surprise to some, but simply a continuation of a trend to others.

Garrett announced on Tuesday night that he has played his last game for the Red Storm, as he plans to redirect his focus to playing professional baseball in the Cincinnati Reds organization and join another college basketball program in the fall.

Lavin has faced a challenging task of rebuilding a roster that entirely turned over after the university's graduation two years ago - all while he has been attempting to rebuild the moribund program itself.

Garrett's decision to leave the program comes just fifteen months after spending an entire semester working at Bridgton Academy in Maine to become academically eligible. He, JaKarr Sampson, and Norvel Pelle were three essential pieces in Lavin's accelerated overhaul, yet were deemed unable to join the team in September of 2011 for not meeting academic qualifications.

But three months later, Garrett appeared in his first game with the Johnnies against Texas Pan-American in front of a Carnesecca Arena crowd that showed appreciation for his loyalty and hard work.

That is who Amir Garrett was in his season and a half with the Red Storm. No one questioned his genuine personality, his work ethic, or his dedication to St. John's. Nor should anyone do so today, or any day moving forward.

There are a number of speculative conclusions that can be drawn from Garrett's decision, ranging from his desire to progress his professional pitching career or his seemingly diminishing role with the developing Johnnies.

Yet Garrett joins a growing list of St. John's players who have played for or committed to Steve Lavin before ultimately deciding that the program was not the best fit.

Before Lavin even coached a game at St. John's, an existing player was on the way out. Omari Lawrence, a Bronx guard who played one year with the Red Storm and had been considered Norm Roberts' prized recruit before the 2009-10 season, announced his plans to leave the program in May of 2010. He has since played limited time in two seasons at Kansas State.

A month into Lavin's first season, guard Quincy Roberts left the team after four games. After showing some promise in his freshman season in 2009-10, Roberts went on to score 22.7 points per game in one season at Grambling State.

Lavin's 2010-11 squad was comprised of mostly seniors, except for one freshman who happened to be his first recruit at St. John's. The athletic and high-flying Dwayne Polee II came to the Johnnies from Los Angeles, and received a good amount of playing time before he decided to transfer after his first season. Polee averaged 9.4 minutes per game for San Diego State in 2012-13.

Two more players chose to leave the program while Lavin was out recovering from prostate cancer in 2011-12. Nurideen Lindsey and Malik Stith each departed from the school in the middle of the season, leaving stand-in head coach Mike Dunlap with six first-year players and a resulting 13-19 record.

Lindsey played at Rider University in 2012-13, averaging eight points per game while nursing professional basketball hopes. Stith was in his third season at St. John's when he decided to transfer to little-known Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia.

Four other commitments never even played for Lavin at St. John's. Pelle, Remi Barry, Rico Gathers, and Darrick Wood each decommitted from the program. Pelle never played college ball and recently announced his plans to enter the NBA Draft. Barry has played at New Mexico State and Gathers will participate in the NIT final for Baylor on Thursday.

If it sounds like a lot of transfers and decommitments - a lot of churn - in three years, that is because it is. The list is long, and with Garrett's transfer, continues to grow.

Lavin's challenge of gaining program-wide stability has hit roadblocks in his three years in Queens. After reaching the school's first NCAA Tournament in nine years in 2011, prostate cancer and the youngest team in program history have not made the journey easy. It is even more difficult to advance a program with two steps forward and one backward.

Yet, even without Amir Garrett and the others aforementioned, Lavin's plan to bring St. John's back to the national spotlight is still in place. There is plenty of talent on the Johnnies' roster for 2013-14, as long as things don't change in the coming months.

But with D`Angelo Harrison a "maybe" to return and an environment where players often seek different programs for different reasons, how certain can we be?