With their top six scorers from last season’s team back for another season in Queens, the St. John’s Red Storm have the talent needed to hit the ground running in the Big East this coming season. Steve Lavin’s program will hit the road later this month, leaving on August 19 to play games and take in the sights in France, Italy and Spain before returning on September 1.
Unfortunately for the Red Storm, three of the players expected to have spots in the rotation are unlikely to play in Europe for health reasons. Veterans Phil Greene IV (torn left hip labrum) and Felix Balamou (sprained left ankle) are both recovering from injuries suffered late last season, and freshman Rysheed Jordan has been dealing with back spasms. Those injuries certainly won’t help coach Lavin, especially when it comes to Jordan.
The Philadelphia native is seen by many as the missing piece for the Red Storm, who struggled last season (17-16, 8-10 Big East) due in large part to instability at the point. Adding the talented Jordan to the mix makes the Johnnies a better team at the point from a talent standpoint, but not having him available for the trip is less than ideal. Luckily for the Red Storm, they don’t lack for depth as they approach the start of their summer trip.
“It’s definitely less than ideal to not have Rysheed Jordan, Phil Greene and Felix Balamou’s services. On the flip-side, unlike previous seasons, we now have the depth to absorb some injuries or foul trouble in a game,” Lavin said during the team’s media availability Thursday.
“In the past, the combination of a thin bench and our inexperience made it difficult to overcome injuries. Now we’re at a point where we finally have a more seasoned roster and deeper bench. Naturally, it’s less than ideal to have injuries yet we feel optimistic about the quality and depth of our personnel.”
One of the returnees is junior guard D’Angelo Harrison, whose disciplinary issues didn’t help matters for the Red Storm last season. With a new lease on his basketball career, the high-scoring shooting guard returns with an improved attitude. The task now is to continue to build on the strides made during the offseason, which included spending time with John Lucas in Houston.
“Obviously I didn’t want to be suspended, but I made it the best situation I could,” said Harrison. “I was around the guys constantly. I went home and worked out with John Lucas. I was a part of this wellness program, I attended anger management sessions and pretty much came back a different person. I can honestly say that.”
Also returning for the Red Storm are forwards Sir’Dominic Pointer and JaKarr Sampson and center Chris Obekpa, and they’ll also gain the services of big man Orlando Sanchez and Harvard transfer Max Hooper. After a one-year absence from the NCAA tournament can St. John’s return to the field of 68? They’ll take the next step towards a return when they board the plane Monday.