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Red Storm has ingredients for greatness

TimesLedger Newspapers

The St. John’s University men’s basketball team is a more complete squad than it was last season, but they weren’t whole on media day. Freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan, the biggest missing piece, was missing from the school’s media day last week.

Jordan, the No. 17-ranked prospect in his class according to ESPN, probably won’t be available to speak to the media until December as St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin looks to bring the team’s lone freshman along slowly.

He wants to give him a chance to better adjust to college life, its academics and be able to be there for his mother, Amina Robinson, who is ill, according to Lavin. A quote sheet from Jordan was distributed to reporters instead.

“It’s being mindful of what we can do to best position Rysheed to have the kind of fantastic career he’s capable of having at St. John’s,” Lavin said. “He’s going to be central to what we do this year.”

He isn’t the only addition expected to have a big impact on a team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence. The Red Storm filled its need for a consistent outside shooter in Harvard transfer Max Hooper, fortified its undersized front court with senior Orlando Sanchez, of Monroe Community College, and red-shirt senior God’sgift Achiuwa. Jordan gives star guard D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson, last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year, plenty of scoring and ball handling help.

Don’t expect the same sometimes stagnate, one-dimensional offense we saw last season.

“You can’t load up on me and JaKarr,” Harrison said. “We have other guys. It’s going to be hard to guard us.”

“It’s basically like one-on-one coverage,” guard Phil Greene said of St. John’s ability to spread out opponents’ defense. “One-on-one coverage and it is buckets all day.”

Hooper’s shooter should force teams to come out of the zones consistently used against the poor outside shooting Johnnies last season. Hooper, a sophomore, hit 10 treys in one game during St. John’s’ European tour this summer.

“I see a lot of opportunities for open shots,” he said. “Teams were zoning us because we couldn’t make shots. I feel like when I see a zone my eyes light up.”

The 6-foot-9 Sanchez and the 6-foot-8 Achiuwa fortify a front line that was basically held down by shot blocker extraordinaire Chris Obekpa, who is 6-foot-9. Harrison described Sanchez as a big man with the skills of a high-level guard.

“It’s actually freaky,” Harrison said.

What isn’t crazy is what St. John’s could accomplish with this group. The additions and the returning experience leave the Johnnies with few excuses. The phrase around media day was “do something special in March.” That should mean finishing in the top third of the new Big East conference, making the NCAA Tournament and wining a game or two.

For the first time in a long time that’s a reasonable expectation. Jordan may have been absent from media day, but St. John’s is no longer missing pieces for an elite club.

“This year we should do what New York City wants us to do ... win,” Jordan said. “Win big.”

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