Rysheed Jordan’s second half among positives to be taken from Sunday’s defeat

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While Sunday’s matchup with No. 2 Syracuse was billed as a big game for St. John’s, the Red Storm didn’t show up at Madison Square Garden ready to play in a game of that magnitude. Poor shot selection and play that at times seemed somnambulant resulted in a double-digit deficit, with a Rysheed Jordan basket as time expired cutting the Syracuse lead to 39-27.

Turns out that Jordan’s basket was the boost Steve Lavin’s team needed, and on an afternoon that saw the Red Storm shoot 1-for-17 from beyond the arc in their 68-63 loss to Syracuse there are positives to be taken from the result. The biggest positive may be the performance of Jordan in the second half, as his play on both ends of the floor allowed the Red Storm to not only close the margin but take a lead down the stretch.

Offensively the freshman from Philadelphia, who was one of the nation’s most talented point guard prospects coming out of Vaux High School, may not have shot particularly well from the field (2-for-8 FG) but his ability to attack the Syracuse zone off the dribble opened things up for the Red Storm. He also got the foul line, where he connected on all nine attempts. And defensively Jordan was a key factor in the Red Storm’s ability to keep Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis out of the lane for much of the second half.

A player who had some growing up to do and was even suspended for a game earlier this season, Jordan took a step in the right direction on Sunday afternoon. And if the Red Storm are to make a run at an NCAA tournament berth they need the freshman to build on his 13-point outing. D’Angelo Harrison scored 21 points to lead the way, and St. John’s put together much of its second half run with Jakarr Sampson on the bench with four fouls. Also, the rebounding (12 offensive rebounds) and foul shooting (20-for-26) kept the Red Storm alive despite their poor perimeter shooting. So there are clearly positives to be taken out of the defeat.

But they must become a more consistent team when it comes to perimeter shooting, regardless of their ability to make plays off the dribble. Entering Sunday’s game the Red Storm scored just 20.5% of its points on three-point shots, a percentage that ranked ninth in the Big East and will drop given their performance against Syracuse. And with it being likely that this group that has multiple slashers will see more zone as the season wears on, as opponents will aim keep them out of the lane, St. John’s needs to make strides in this area.

If Harrison, Jordan and the rest of the Red Storm can improve their perimeter shooting and late-game execution, they have the talent needed to be a factor in the Big East.

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.