From the outside, it might look like St. John’s is falling apart.
The Red Storm had a great year last season, going 21-12 and getting a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. Since then, they have lost two members of their vaunted class of 2011; had both commits from the class of 2012 rescind their pledges; and also had two players transfer. Moreover, head coach Steve Lavin has barely been able to coach as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery.
As a result, St. John’s has struggled so far this season. The Red Storm are 7-7, including losses to Northeastern and Detroit.
With all this said, the basketball program is not the house of cards that it looks like from the outside.
After talking with people inside and outside the basketball program on Thursday, there’s still excitement about St. John’s basketball. There’s optimism, there’s enthusiasm. While the Red Storm will certainly have a terrible record this year, it will be chalked up to a lack of experience and a lack of bodies. Most people think Lavin will turn it around next season.
Sources say the coaching staff is optimistic they will still get 2012 decommit Ricardo Gathers and 2011 decommit JaKarr Sampson. Both reopened their recruitments, but are still considering the Red Storm. They’re very strong with Our Savior New American (N.Y.) guard Felix Balamou and junior college forward Orlando Sanchez. St. John’s is also in the mix for top-100 big man Chris Obekpa.
2012 prospect Darrick Wood decommitted on Thursday, but sources say he might have had NCAA Clearinghouse problems down the road. Nuri Lindsey transferred last month, but sources say he too was having academic difficulties at St. John’s.
Former Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch, who left the Aggies last week, will take a visit to St. John’s this weekend. He’s a former four-star recruit who would be a major pick up at the point guard position for the Red Storm.
The biggest factor in all of this is Lavin. While people have been saying for weeks he might not return to coach this season, he is still on the recruiting trail and even attended the Red Storm’s game against Louisville earlier this week. St. John’s has maintained from the outset that he will wait until he’s healthy to return to coaching full-time; they still believe that. There have been rumors tying him to other head coaching jobs or going back to television, but St. John’s is not concerned about him leaving the program.
As long as Lavin is the head coach, there is excitement for St. John’s basketball. The fan support is still better than it was in the days of Norm Roberts, and the Red Storm are getting far more national coverage than they were a few years ago. If he leaves, of course, then the program will be set back several years.
Lavin is the key card. As long as he’s around, St. John’s will not fall apart.
Photo: US Presswire
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