Steve Lavin

Steve Lavin makes return to St. John’s sideline for good after prostate cancer surgery

Leave a comment

JAMAICA, N.Y.–As St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin jogged out of the tunnel during his introduction at the Red Storm’s Midnight Madness festivities Friday night, McFadden & Whitehead’s hit song “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” boomed in the background, fittingly marking Lavin’s first big, public moment with the team in nearly a year.

Lavin underwent prostate cancer last October and returned to coach sparingly during the first part of last season before taking time to recover and focus on the recruiting trail. He missed last season’s event, which took place shortly after he underwent surgery.

“Feeding off the players’ energy is an uplifting experience,” he said. “It reminds you of the joy that team sports can bring. Seeing those kids as they watch their team members go out…it was a palpable energy.”

Friday night’s appearance was met with an uproarious applause from the nearly 3,200 in attendance at St. John’s on-campus Carnesecca Arena and, after the event, Lavin was back in rare form with the media, speaking in his patented off-the-cuff metaphors and similes.

“It’s like Christmas Eve, shaking the presents and trying to figure out what they are,” he joked. “Easter egg hunts or Halloween, putting the gear on for the first time. All those things that bring joy to young people.”

The event at Carnesecca Friday night gave the public its first glance at Lavin’s latest top-10 recruiting class, which is led by athletic post-graduate JaKarr Sampson and late signee Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking presence that St. John’s lacked last season.

A young and inexperienced Red Storm team finished 13-19 in 2011-12 and, though they lost centerpiece Moe Harkless to the NBA, return leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison.

Harrison becomes the clear team leader after averaging 16.8 points per game last season. Expect Harrison to see time at the point guard spot, though he is more of a natural shooting guard.

During St. John’s run to the NCAA tournament in 2009-10, Lavin put a similar player and scorer, Dwight Hardy, at the point guard spot with good results. Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch is also eligible to play in December, which could solve some of the depth chart issues in the backcourt.

The Red Storm also lost assistant coach Mike Dunlap to the NBA, as he took a job to become that franchise’s next head coach. Darrick Martin, a former NBA point guard who has ties to Lavin’s time at UCLA, takes Dunlap’s spot on the bench.

St. John’s was picked to finish 10th in the preseason media poll, released Tuesday, just ahead of Rutgers and slightly behind Connecticut.

Much of the Red Storm’s success this season will depend on the development of its youth, namely Harrison, elite defender Sir’Dominic Pointer, guard Phil Greene, and swingman Amir Garrett, all of whom are now sophomores.

“With every optimistic remark that I make about an individual or collectively, I temper that with the harsh reality that it’s the youngest team…in the country,” Lavin said. “We’ll have to go through all the trials and tribulations that young teams do.”

But, as much of the focus was Friday, much can be said about the impact Lavin has now that he is back on the sidelines.

“We have our leader back,” said Garrett. “When he was out last year, it was sad. But now he’s back and ready to go.”

The Red Storm open their season on Nov. 13 at home against Detroit.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

South Dakota State gets two commits

South_Dakota_State_Jackrabbits01
1 Comment

Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.

Incoming Gator freshman ineligible for upcoming season

Mike White
Leave a comment

Florida will need to wait a year before seeing 6-foot-11 recruit Gorjok Gak playing games for the Gators.

The NCAA ruled that the incoming freshman will be able to enroll at Florida this year and practice with the team, but will be ineligible for games this season, the school announced Tuesday.

Should he meet all his progress marks during his freshman year, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.

Gak’s eligibility issue centered on his playing games during his postgraduate year at Victory Rock Prep, according to his coach there.

“Following his graduate year from Australia, he was supposed to play from December to December,” Loren Jackson told the Gainesville Sun, “but instead played from December until the following May.”

Gak originally signed with Oklahoma State, but de-committed following Travis Ford’s firing in Stillwater this past spring. Gak averaged 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last season at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Fla.

Florida went 21-15 last season under first-year coach Mike White.

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

Leave a comment

Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”

Rose’s transfer to BYU becomes official

Ge'Lawn Guyn, L.J. Rose
Leave a comment

His commitment came more than a month ago, but L.J. Rose’s transfer to BYU became official Tuesday.

The former Houston guard was officially announced as an immediately-eligible graduate transfer by BYU on Tuesday. He’ll bring much needed help to a Cougars backcourt that lost Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer to graduation and Jordan Chatman and Jack Toolson to transfers.

“L.J. will add great experience and talent to our guard line,” BYU coach Dave Rose said in a statement released by BYU. “We’re excited about the leadership he will bring on the court and in the locker room. He will make us a deeper and more versatile team.”

As a junior, L.J. Rose averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 assists, but a foot injury limited him to just two games last season and allowed him to receive a medical redshirt and the opportunity to be a graduate transfer for his final collegiate season. He’ll be a big part of BYU’s attempt to build on last year’s 26-11 season as a former top-100 recruit, who began his career at Baylor, on a team in need of an infusion of talent after absorbing the losses from last year’s roster.

His father, Lynden, Sr., was a teammate of BYU coach Dave Rose at Houston during the program’s Phi Slama Jama era.

UCLA loses key forward to professional ranks

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Jonah Bolden #43 of the UCLA Bruins during a 76-68 Ducks win at Pauley Pavilion on March 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

UCLA announced on Tuesday afternoon that Jonah Bolden will be forgoing his college eligibility to turn professional.

“Jonah Bolden has informed the coaching staff that he has opted to play professionally this season,” the release said.

Bolden is a versatile, 6-foot-10 forward with some NBA potential. In his only season playing with the Bruins, he averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards while starting 11 games. His ability on the defensive end of the floor was something the UCLA staff was counting on this season.

A sophomore this past season, Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA as a freshman, meaning that he was allowed to be on scholarship and in class but could not play during the 2014-15 season.

He had two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without Bolden, T.J Leaf will likely be counted on to play more minutes at the four.