St. John’s 2014-15 Record: 21-12, 10-8 in the Big East
Key Players Lost: D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’Dominic Pointer, Jamal Branch, Phil Greene IV, Adonis De La Rosa and Myles Stewart
Key Players Coming Back: Ryseheed Jordan, Chris Obekpa, Felix Balamou, Christian Jones, and Amar Alibegovic
New Recruits/Transfers: Ron Mvouika(Missouri State transfer), Durand Johnson (Pittsburgh transfer), Darien Williams (JUCO), Yankuba Sima and Malik Ellison.
With a talented senior corps— spearheaded by D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer— to work with, St. John’s had one last hurrah in them before head coach Steve Lavin was let go at the end of the season, as they returned to the Big Dance for the first time in four years.
The Red Storm got out of the gate quickly in the non-conference portion of their schedule, racing out to a 11-1 record and beating Syracuse, Minnesota and St. Mary’s along the way. St. John’s was grooving and at one time was ranked 15th in the country. They were the toast of the town.
However, the Red Storm struggled as they hit Big East play. The Johnnies lost their first three conference games and five of their first seven. St. John’s would then flip the switch and finish with a flurry, winning eight out of their last 11 conference games. They would go on to lose to Providence (who they swept in regular season play) in the Big East quarterfinals.
St. John’s would then receive a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament and end their season with a loss to San Diego State in the Round of 64. Not doing his team any favors was Chris Obekpa getting suspended for the NCAA Tournament for smoking marijuana. Obekpa was in and out of Lavin’s doghouse all season, and he once got ejected for throwing an purposeful elbow in a game at Butler.
Individually, Harrison and Pointer had excellent seasons to end their careers.
Harrison was named first-team all-Big East after averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting .415 percent from the field, .799 percent from the free-throw line and .369 percent from three-point range
Pointer was your classic jack of all trades, as he contributed greatly across the board on both offense and defense. In fact, he was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East as well as Most Improved Player of the Year while also making all-Big East second team. He averaged 13.7 points, a team-high 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. Pointer was like a fantasy basketball goldmine.
Rysheed Jordan and Phil Greene also had good seasons, as they both averaged in double-figures in scoring to give the Johnnies four players who averaged double-digits in points. Jordan averaged 14.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. Greene IV chipped in 13 points per game while shooting .391 from three-point range.
Alas, all the good that St. John’s did this year was not enough to save Lavin’s job. Many alumni wanted him out and the two sides could not reach a deal for a contract extension. The two parties mutually agreed to go their separate ways; thus ending Lavin’s tenure with the Johnnies.
2015-16 Look Ahead:
Goodbye Lavin, Hello Chris Mullin!
Taking a page from their past, the Red Storm are bringing back a true New York legend and are hoping Mullin’s brand name and basketball acumen resonates with recruits and gets St. John’s closer to being the program they were in their heydays in the mid-to late 80’s.
With Harrison, Pointer, Greene IV and Jamal Branch gone, Mullin doesn’t have it easy to start. The Red Storm do bring back Jordan and Obekpa. However, outside of those two, the rest of the team is rather suspect.
Besides Jordan and Obekpa, no current player on St. John’s roster has averaged more than 10 minutes per game. The other returnees include Amar Alibegovic (1.5 points per game), Felix Balamou (1.3 points per game) and Christian Jones (1.2 points per game).
The reinforcements at this moment are nothing to get too excited for.
Expect Pittsburgh transfer Durand Johnson to get plenty of run. Johnson, a 6’6” small forward, sat out all of last season with a torn ACL. He is a graduate transfer, though, so he can play right away. Johnson is coming off a 2013-14 season in which he averaged 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in 16 games with the Panthers.
Ron Mvouika (grad transfer from Missouri State) and Darien Williams (JUCO transfer) will help, too, as they at least give Mullin some experience along with Johnson. The freshmen class includes a couple of solid—but not stellar—recruits in Yankuba Sina and Malik Ellison.
Simply put, the Johnnies will go as far as Jordan and Obekpa can take them. Mullin’s first squad will likely struggle in the Big East next year as they get acclimated to each other. But the future could be bright if Mullin and his staff can strike it rich on the recruiting trail. This is a year of transition and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament may be too difficult to accomplish.