D'Angelo Harrison

D’Angelo Harrison leads the way, Chris Obekpa breaks St. John’s single-game blocks record in win over Detroit

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JAMAICA, N.Y.–D’Angelo Harrison began Tuesday’s game against Detroit on the bench, kept out of the starting lineup by coach Steve Lavin for disciplinary reasons.

He ended the game as the team’s hero, tallying 22 points and outdueling former McDonald’s All-American Ray McCallum in a 77-74 St. John’s victory at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

“From the time we booted him out of practice and sat [Harrison]..took his starting spot away, he’s been outstanding,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “Sometimes you have to be like an Irish judge, make the tough choices. But the kids really responded to the tough love.”

The fiery and feisty Harrison overcome a slow first half to score 15 second-half points, including a jumper with 5:48 remaining that pulled the game even at 62. With the departure of Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless to the NBA, Harrison is the Red Storm’s focal point in 2012-13.

Fellow sophomore guard Phil Greene scored a career high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Defensively, the biggest performance of the night came freshman freshman Chris Obekpa, who broke the St. John’s single-game school record with eight blocks.

“In my experience as a coach and a broadcaster, he’s unique to anyone I’ve seen,” said Lavin. “It’s the length and the timing. He doesn’t pick up fouls. It’s rare to have someone get 10, 15, 20 blocks as I’ve seen in high school and pick up one foul.”

The Red Storm tried five different defenders on McCallum, who still managed 21 points, though he shot 8-of-23 from the floor. Detroit had a chance to final off a turnover in the final seconds, but a three-pointer by Juwan Howard, Jr., was off the mark.

St. John’s now heads to the Charleston Classic to take on College of Charleston on Thursday.

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

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”