The St. John’s Situation

Chris Mullin; Credit – St. John’s

By: Ryan Touhey

Since the inauguration of the new Big East conference in 2013, the St. John’s Red Storm have endured some ups and downs. In the first two seasons of the new conference, the Red Storm posted identical overall records of 20-13 in the 2013-14 season, and 21-12 in the 2014-15 season. In those seasons, they finished in fifth place in the Big East, and they also posted the same respectable record against the rest of the conference at 10-8. However, it all unraveled for the Red Storm last season. The team plummeted to the cellar with an overall record of 8-24, and were the punching bag of the Big East, as they went 1-17 against their conference adversaries.

A fresh new start for the Red Storm this season didn’t start out smoothly. The Johnnies finished a game under .500 in non-conference play at 6-7, which included a five-game losing streak during that stretch. Among those games, were losses to Delaware State and LIU-Brooklyn. St. John’s also recently lost center Yankuba Sima, who transferred to Oklahoma State, and their junior forward, Amar Alibegovic, experienced an injury in December.

According to Norman Rose, who regularly covers St. John’s, the Red Storm’s greatest weakness is their inconsistent defense. He specifically pointed out that the Johnnies, especially sophomores Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe, have had a hard time guarding larger opponents while in the paint. He also pointed out that St. John’s has struggled with rebounding throughout much of the season.

Despite the rocky start, the Red Storm haven’t completely collapsed. They tied their overall win total from last year at 8 games, and they’ve managed to go 2-1 during conference play so far. They pulled off a stunning upset against then-thirteenth ranked Butler on December 29. Ironically, despite that loss, Butler was able to knock off the number one team in the nation, the Villanova Wildcats, last night to hand them their first loss of the season. St. John’s meanwhile, also defeated the DePaul Blue Demons. However, the Red Storm lost to tenth-ranked Creighton last night, 85-72, as the defense struggled once again in the paint.

In spite of the loss, St. John’s did come together and fought hard in the second half. After trailing Creighton by 18 points in the first half, the Red Storm came back in the second half and scored 46 points, outscoring Creighton by five points. The season has seen the blossoming of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, who are the team’s leaders in points per game as of December 28.

Other positive statistics according to ESPN, are that St. John’s averages nearly 80 points a game, and they lead the Big East in 3-point field goals made per game, at 9.8. As a matter of fact, Rose stated that five players on St. John’s have shot over 40%, behind the three-point line this season.

Hoping to reshape their roster and pave the way for the future, the Red Storm have frantically searched to recruit young players from across the country with skill and height. Ultimately, Zach Brown, a senior at Calusa Prep High School, has signed a letter of intent to join the Johnnies next season.

According to Rose, the Red Storm have also expressed interest in bringing in other talents such as Derrick Walker Jr., from the Kansas City AAU team, as well as Jahmal McMurray, who had recently transferred out of South Florida, but was also suspended six games earlier this season in October. St. John’s has also looked at wing/guard C.J. Kelly, who is 6’5”, and is from Queens High School for Teaching.

While the bar may not be set super high for the Johnnies this season, they still have that competitive spirit inside of them and they have certain objectives in mind, that they hope will culminate into a championship team in the very near future.


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