St. John’s set for head start on chemistry for 2012-13 season


Normally, a recruiting class that incorporates six newcomers and two transfers would spell disaster for team chemistry, with various talents jockeying for playing time and establishing a role on the new team. While it will still be a chore for St. John’s to merge its incoming signees to the handful of experienced players from the 2011-2012 season, the Red Storm does have a head start on building chemistry for next season, thanks to some crafty recruiting.

The 2012 recruiting class at St. John’s, which came together late, relatively speaking, in the recruiting cycle, has a number of prospects with varying degrees of familiarity with each other. First, forwards Orlando Sanchez and Marco Bourgault have already toiled as teammates at Monroe College, before signing with St. John’s. Another pair of teammates, touted center Chris Obekpa and wing Felix Balamou, teamed at Our Savior New American, a talented high school program that has a significant travel schedule. Those pre-existing relationships could pay dividends right off the bat.

The connections don’t stop there, though, as the blue chip player in the class, wing forward JaKarr Sampson, will be joined by Harvard transfer Max Hooper in the class. Both were at a powerhouse prep school program, Brewster Academy, as Sampson signed to play at St. John’s in 2011, but didn’t qualify, and Hooper set off for Harvard before leaving the program to come to St. John’s. Sampson is the alpha dog of this group, but a familiar face in Hooper won’t hurt.

The other two newcomers, Texas A&M point guard Jamal Branch and prep school guard Darrick Wood, won’t be joining former teammates like the other six members of the class. Branch will at least have a fellow Texas on the roster in incumbent guard D’Angelo Harrison. Meanwhile, Wood is close to home at St. John’s, and figures to have plenty of support in the stands.

To be sure, it will be quite the task to acclimate eight new players to the roster. Any bit helps in such a project, and the pre-existing relationships that most of the newcomers have should help speed up the process for St. John’s. At a minimum, the depth issues that were difficult to deal with last season, should be addressed with this group.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.