Just days after head coach Chris Mullin expressed his frustration with the lack of an answer regarding the status of two of his key additions, St. John’s learned that one of those freshmen won’t play in games this season.
Wednesday afternoon the school announced that point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. has been deemed to be a partial qualifier by the NCAA. That means while the Fort Wayne, Indiana product can practice with the team and receive an athletic scholarship, he’ll have to complete a year in residency before being eligible for game competition.
And in the statement it’s clear that the school is none too thrilled with the decision, as they’ve advised LoVett’s family to look into possible legal options to challenge the ruling.
“The University disagrees with the NCAA’s decision and the process it used in reviewing Marcus’ initial eligibility waiver request,” interim athletic director and general counsel Joseph Oliva, Esq. said in the release “We have engaged in several conversations with the NCAA to express our concerns that their process may have violated Marcus’ legal rights.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the NCAA elected to disregard these concerns. We have advised Marcus and his family to consult with appropriate legal counsel about the options that may be available to challenge the NCAA ruling and the standards it applied in this process.”
Not having LoVett in the fold is a big hit for Mullin in his first season as head coach at his alma mater, and to find out the news just two days before their season opener makes it an even tougher pill to swallow. That’s been one of the big issues with some NCAA eligibility rulings: timing. Schools such as St. John’s (who still hasn’t heard from the NCAA on Kassoum Yakwe), UCF (Tacko Fall), Kansas (Cheick Diallo) and Ohio State (Mickey Mitchell) have freshmen who are waiting for a final ruling with games scheduled for this weekend.
While there is a point in the preseason preparations where the coaching staff at each of those schools prepares with the idea that those players won’t be available, it would be nice to hear something in a timely fashion.
As for what the Red Storm will do without LoVett, beginning with their season opener against Wagner, they’re in a tough spot at the point. Freshman Federico Mussini saw a lot of time at the position during the team’s two exhibition games and Elijah Holifield is another option. In both of those games the Red Storm struggled with distributing the basketball, as they committed 27 turnovers in a stunning 32-point loss to St. Thomas Aquinas and followed that up with 18 more in a 64-46 win over Sonoma State.
This was expected to be a rebuilding year for St. John’s based upon the empty cupboard Mullin found when he took over, with he and his staff doing what they could to fill the roster. Not having LoVett in the fold makes year one that much more difficult for the Red Storm.