Heading into the start of the regular season, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin doesn’t have as much depth as he would like in the front court. Chris Obekpa is the team’s most experienced interior option, and the loss of junior college transfer Keith Thomas as a result of the ongoing academic fraud scandal at Westchester (New York) CC last month didn’t help matters at all.
Redshirt sophomore Christian Jones and freshmen Adonis De La Rosa and Amar Alibegovic will be expected to contribute, and the lack of depth means that the Red Storm will need to find alternate ways in which to attack the opposition. With Obekpa sitting out with an ankle injury that isn’t expected to keep him out of the team’s regular season opener against NJIT on November 14, Lavin made the decision to play a five-guard lineup at times in the team’s 97-71 exhibition victory over St. Thomas Aquinas on Saturday.
D’Angelo Harrison led five players in double figures with 19 points while also grabbing ten rebounds, and in total five St. John’s players scored in double figures. But the biggest takeaway from the exhibition is St. John’s going to a smaller lineup, one that gives them the ability to attack teams on both ends of the floor. St. John’s forced 20 turnovers Saturday, and offensively they made ten of their 20 three-point attempts and shot 23-for-28 from the foul line.
Following the game, Lavin discussed the impact that their smaller lineup can have on games.
“We have the ability to go small and cause some problems at a fast tempo,” Lavin said at the postgame press conference. “We like to play small, but we also want to bring the depth of our front line along at a pace that will allow us to be competitive later in the season.”
With Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Jamal Branch and Rysheed Jordan, the Red Storm don’t lack for depth on the perimeter, and combo forward Sir’Dominic Pointer gives the Red Storm the ability to set up some mismatches at the four. Having Obekpa will obviously change some things from a rotation standpoint, but given their depth on the perimeter there will be times when St. John’s looks to go small in order to set up (and ultimately exploit) mismatches.