Steve Lavin may need to reevaluate his St. John’s approach


Thirteen months ago, Philadelphia native Nurideen Lindsey committed to play for St. John’s.

At that time, he was part of an enormous ten-man recruiting class that was ranked among the best in the nation.

Then the pieces began to fall off, one by one.

Dwight Meikle was granted a release from his letter of intent and signed with Hampton. The NCAA ruled JaKarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle, and Amir Garrett ineligible for the first semester. Sampson and Pelle decommitted.

From the Class of 2012, point guard Jevon Thomas decommitted and signed with Dayton. Top 30 recruit, Louisiana forward Ricardo Gathers decommitted. Blue chipper Kyle Anderson turned down the Red Storm and signed with UCLA.

And the most striking blow was levied Thursday afternoon, when news broke that Lindsey, the leading scorer for the Red Storm in the team’s first four games, was transferring at the end of the semester.

“This was a mutually agreed-upon decision that Nuri’s pursuit of other opportunities is in the best interest of all parties,” said head coach Steve Lavin in a statement.

The news comes as the Red Storm have lost three straight and five of six, including 78-64 loss at home to Northeastern on November 26th.

Through all of this, Lavin continues to battle back from surgery to treat prostate cancer.

So, for reasons both within and outside of their control, there is turmoil in Queens. A program that, just one year ago, seemed to be on the fast track back to national prominence, is now experiencing some excruciating growing pains.

At the moment, St. John’s is left with seven scholarship players, only six of whom were recruited. Former walk-on Jamal White, who was awarded a scholarship at the beginning of the season, might begin to see minutes in the regular rotation.

The good news?

Forward Amir Garrett, currently at Bridgton Academy in Maine, is expected to join the team this month, pending clearance from the NCAA.

But even with Garrett back, that makes seven–count them, seven– Big East-level players, and a head coach who is working back to full health.

The bigger question will be how these setbacks affect future recruiting classes and the fan base that had seemed to be re-energized when Lavin took over last May.

Following the news of Lindsey’s transfer, the sophomore guard took to Twitter to apologize to fans and explain his situation.

“I am sincerely sorry if you guys feel like I let you down,” he said, in part. “I’ll always love and support St. Johns.”

His apology, which appeared to be carried out with the utmost level of class and professionalism, was met with a number of tweets that dripped with vitriol and outrage, many using words not fit for print.

Steve Lavin brought a St. John’s fan base back to life, after it had lain dormant for nearly a decade.

Confidence was boosted, ticket sales exploded, and the hashtag #InLavinWeTrust began circulating on Twitter. The Red Storm began occupying the back pages of New York City papers and morale was high.

Now there is a lingering feeling that things are not all right and a few bright signs need to show themselves before many are convinced otherwise.

If that negativity spreads and becomes the majority, the road back to the top of the Big East will be made that much more difficult.

But the fact remains: it’s only December.

Sampson, Pelle, and Gathers are uncommitted and St. John’s is still actively recruiting all three. Top 100 Class of 2012 forward Chris Obekpa is considering the Red Storm. Former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson will transfer and the Red Storm could jump into the mix for his services.

Enormous expectations make for a bigger letdown.

Instead of factors on the basketball court, perhaps the Red Storm need a new foundation on which to build their reemerging program:

Bloodwork shows that Steve Lavin is cancer-free. Now go from there.

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

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.