Given the number of players lost from last season’s NCAA tournament team, new St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin and his staff have a lot of work to do in preparations for the 2015-16 season. Wednesday afternoon the Red Storm received a commitment from a player with Division I experience who will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate student.
As first reported by CBSSports.com, former Pittsburgh small forward Durand Johnson has decided to join the St. John’s program. As a result of a season-long suspension Johnson did not play for the Panthers last season, with the disciplinary action removing a player who was expected to be an important contributor for Jamie Dixon’s team.
Johnson will have some game rust to shake off when he takes the floor for the Red Storm next season, as he played in just 16 games as a junior in 2013-14 before suffering a torn ACL in the second half of a win over Wake Forest in January 2014. Johnson finished that season averaging 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest, shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Johnson’s decision also means that he rejoins St. John’s associate head coach Barry Rohrssen, who was an assistant at Pittsburgh during the 2012-13 season.
Johnson is one of two transfers joining the program this offseason, with former Tennessee forward Tariq Owens (he’ll have to sit a year) being the other. In total St. John’s has added five players to the program thus far, with the staff still working to land Malik Ellison who was visiting campus at the same time as Johnson earlier this week.
Pitt took a huge hit to its roster next season as Durand Johnson will transfer from the program, according to head coach Jaime Dixon. A redshirt junior forward, Johnson was suspended for the entire season right before the 2014-15 season started after missing 20 games the previous season due to an ACL injury.
A native of Baltimore, the 6-foot-6 Johnson averaged 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game during the last season he played and is expected to graduate and be immediately eligible. He should be a valuable commodity on the graduate transfer circuit since Johnson has proven he can produce in the ACC.
“It is time to move on,” Dixon said. “It is time to look for another guy to look for the opportunity to step up. We were aware of this [Johnson not being reinstated and moving on would be the likely outcome] recently.
“We are now going to help Durand in any way that we can find a good situation to finish his college career. I can’t obviously speak to the specifics of the situation but it should be said that we have had no other issues with Durand.”
The loss of Johnson is going to be tough for the Panthers, but can you really blame him for wanting to move on after missing the last season and a half due to injury and suspension? A fresh start could be just the thing Johnson needs in his final season of college basketball and it’ll be interesting to see which schools are after him in the coming weeks.
Pitt suspends junior forward for the entire 2014-15 season
Johnson missed the final 20 games of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He was averaging 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game through the first 16 games. Jamie Dixon graduated his two leading scorers — Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. In September, Cameron Wright, who averaged 10.5 points per game, broke a bone in his foot which will keep him out until December.
The 6-foot-6 Johnson had scored 19 points off the bench in Pitt’s final exhibition game on Friday against Division II Philadelphia University.
Pitt opens the season against Niagara on Friday night.