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Report: St. John’s, associate head coach Rohrssen to part ways

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When St. John’s hired one its’ all-time greats in Chris Mullin to run the program last spring, one of the first hires to the staff was Barry “Slice” Rohrssen as associate head coach. With his past experiences as both an assistant and head coach, Rohrssen’s abilities as a recruiter and his connections in the New York metropolitan area made him a key hire for Mullin.

Tuesday night it was reported by SNY.tv that the two parties have decided to part ways, leaving Mullin with a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff. Rohrssen’s departure leaves Greg St. Jean and Matt Abdelmassih as the current assistants on Mullin’s staff, with the latter also being regarded as a good recruiter.

But how valuable was the Brooklyn native considered to be upon his hiring at St. John’s? His deal ran for six years, with Mullin’s deal being a five-year contract. Also to be considered in this: the move comes one day before the start of the program’s elite camp.

Rohrssen played a key role on Ben Howland’s and Jamie Dixon’s staffs at Pittsburgh, as his connections in the New York metropolitan area helped the program bring in recruits such as Brandin Knight (from nearby New Jersey), Carl Krauser, Chris Taft and Levance Fields. That success led to the Panthers becoming a power in the Big East during the early to mid-2000’s.

Rohrssen had two stints at Pittsburgh, with the second being followed by a season with John Calipari at Kentucky (2014-15).

A key for St. John’s on the recruiting trail has been establishing themselves as a player in New York City after not enjoying much success recruiting area prospects during Steve Lavin’s tenure as head coach. In the 2016 class the Red Storm managed to reel in two local players expected to have a major impact next season in junior college transfer Bashir Ahmed and freshman guard Shamorie Ponds.

Former St. John’s star Rysheed Jordan charged in shooting

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) A former NBA D-League player who starred at St. John’s University is charged in Philadelphia with attempted murder, robbery and other counts after police say he shot another man during a robbery attempt.

Police say 22-year-old Rysheed Jordan and two other suspects met three other men on May 27 in the city for a deal involving a cellphone. They say Jordan shot one man in the arm after he and the other suspects tried to rob them.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Jordan was arrested early Wednesday after police say he ran from a traffic stop and tried to throw a loaded gun with a desecrated serial number over a fence.

Jordan played two years at St. John’s and was released by the 76ers’ D-League team in January after 11 games.

Information from: WPVI-TV, http://www.6abc.com

No. 6 Villanova has big 2nd half, tops St. John’s 68-53

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NEW YORK (AP) Josh Hart had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Kris Jenkins added 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 6 Villanova to 68-53 victory over St. John’s on Sunday, the Red Storm’s 12th straight loss.

The Wildcats (18-3, 8-1) held onto first place in the Big East by bouncing back from a horrible first half to pull away in the final minutes. The Wildcats shot 50 percent (14 of 28) from the field in the second half and held at least a 10-point lead over the final 13 minutes. The biggest lead was 20 points.

Mikal Bridges added 13 points for Villanova, which finished with a slight rebound advantage. The Wildcats had a nine-game winning streak snapped by No. 10 Providence in their last game.

Durand Johnson had 13 points to lead St. John’s (7-15, 0-9), which struggled with turnovers throughout the game at Madison Square Garden, committing 21, well above its season average of 14.6. Villanova had 20 turnovers.

The first half was a terrible exhibition of shooting and ball-handling.

Villanova, which came in third in the conference at 46.4 percent from the field, shot 7 for 30 (23.3 percent), including 2 for 10 from 3-point range. It was the Wildcats’ worst first half shooting this season. They shot 26.7 percent (8 of 30) in a 78-55 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma in Hawaii.

St. John’s shot 32.3 percent (10 for 31), 5 for 11 on 3-point attempts, and the Red Storm had 10 turnovers, one less than Villanova, which came into the game averaging 10.9 for 40 minutes.

OUT: Villanova center Daniel Ochefu didn’t play. The 6-foot-11 senior suffered a concussion during practice on Friday. Ochefu is averaging 9.7 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds. He is shooting 59.6 percent from the field, fifth in the Big East.

FAMOUS FANS: It wasn’t as impressive as the celebrities the New York Knicks draw but in attendance Sunday was tennis great John McEnroe, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Hall of Fame St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca.

TIP-INS:

Villanova: The Wildcats have a six-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden that includes last season’s Big East Tournament. … This was the 112th meeting between the schools with the first game in 1909. St. John’s leads the series 60-52. … Villanova hit its first 3-pointer of the second half exactly 12 minutes earlier (15:45) than the Wildcats did in the first half.

St. John’s: Before the current streak, the longest losing streak in school history was seven games. … This was the sixth game the Red Storm played without freshman center Yankuba Sima, who broke his hand. In the previous five games St. John’s did not outrebound an opponent. The last game – a loss to Seton Hall – saw the Red Storm outrebounded 56-40. … St. John’s entered the game first in the Big East and seventh nationally with 6.2 blocks per game.

UP NEXT

Villanova hosts Creighton on Tuesday.

St. John’s at No. 7 Xavier on Tuesday.

No. 12 Providence beats St. John’s 83-65

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Kris Dunn had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead No. 12 Providence to an 83-65 victory over St. John’s 83-65 on Saturday, the Friars’ eighth straight win.

Dunn scored 12 straight points for the Friars in the second half after the Red Storm closed within 56-50 with 9:30 remaining. Providence led 43-31 at halftime and went up by as many as 17 points early in the second half before St. John’s went on its run.

A preseason All-America, Dunn cooled off the Red Storm with consecutive 3-pointers that helped the Friars (14-1, 2-0 Big East) re-establish control.

Providence’s Ben Bentil overcame a slow start to finish with 20 points and nine rebounds while Rodney Bullock had 13 points and eight rebounds. Kyron Cartwright added 11 points, all in the first half.

Yankuba Sima had 14 points for St. John’s (7-8, 0-2), which lost its fifth straight.

TIP-INS

St. John’s: The Red Storm entered play Saturday tied for fifth in Division I with 6.5 blocks per game.

Providence: With the win at Butler on Thursday, the Friars finished December with a 7-0 record. It marks the first time the team went undefeated in December since posting a 7-0 mark in 1988-89.

UP NEXT

St. John’s hosts No. 6 Xavier on Wednesday.

Providence hosts Marquette on Tuesday.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE RESET: Can anyone dethrone Villanova?

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College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Big East.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kris Dunn, Providence

This decision was made somewhat difficult by the combination of Dunn missing some games due to illness and other players excelling in non-conference play. But it’s hard to overlook his influence on a team that enters Big East play ranked 12th in the AP poll after being projected as a bubble team in the preseason. Dunn’s averaging 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Friars, and his turnovers (2.9) are down more than one per game from last season’s average (4.2).

ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM

  • Kris Dunn, Providence
  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
  • Josh Hart, Villanova
  • Ben Bentil, Providence
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

  1. The Big East is one of the nation’s best leagues: The preseason conversations regarding the best conference in college basketball centered on the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten, but through non-conference play the Big East has stepped forward into that discussion. Xavier’s been one of the most impressive teams in the country to this point, two-time defending champion Villanova’s lone defeats came against two Top 10 teams in Oklahoma and Virginia, and Butler is 10-1. Joining those contenders has been 12-1 Providence, and both Marquette and Seton Hall are off to good starts as well.
  2. Xavier’s depth and talent make it Villanova’s biggest threat: The biggest question for the Musketeers entering the season was how they’d fill the hole left by the graduation of Dee Davis at the point. Would Edmond Sumner be ready to take the reins after redshirting last season? To this point Sumner has indeed been the answer Chris Mack needed at the point, giving the Musketeers an athletic finisher who continues to improve as a floor general. And he’s surrounded with a host of experienced options, including Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds, who can put points on the board. That makes Xavier the team best equipped to challenge reigning Big East champ Villanova.
  3. To look at Providence as “Kris Dunn and some other dudes” would be a big mistake: While Dunn was a preseason favorite for National Player of the Year honors, many didn’t know what to make of the rest of Ed Cooley’s team. Heading into their conference opener against Butler the Friars are ranked in the top ten, and this has been no one-man operation. Sophomore Ben Bentil has been one of the nation’s most improved players, Rodney Bullock’s given them another quality front court option, and role players such as Junior Lomomba have been productive as well. Will the Friars be a top ten team throughout league play? That remains to be seen, but this has been an impressive group worthy of Big East contender status.

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American]

KEY STORY LINES IN LEAGUE PLAY

  1. Villanova’s perimeter shooting: For a team loaded with quality guards, the Wildcats’ shooting in non-conference play was a surprise. Jay Wright’s team is shooting just 31.1 percent from three on the season, with nearly 52 percent of their field goal attempts being three-pointers. Josh Hart (39 percent) and Ryan Arcidiacono (37 percent) have been the best of the bunch, and they’ll need players such as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Kris Jenkins to raise their perimeter accuracy moving forward.
  2. Does Georgetown have what it takes to rebound: With two of their first three losses coming against very good Maryland and Duke teams, not too many worried about the Hoyas’ 1-3 start after a five-game win streak made John Thompson III’s team appear to be okay. But after dropping games to Monmouth and UNC Asheville and escaping with a win at Charlotte, there are some significant issues to be addressed. Paul White’s struggled with health, and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera hasn’t been the player many envisioned him being when he changed course and decided to return for his senior year. Can they turn things around and be the contender many expected them to be?
  3. Marquette, Seton Hall looking to make NCAA tournament push: Both the Golden Eagles and Pirates put together quality records in non-conference play, which sets them up for run at NCAA tournament bids as conference play begins. And the strength of the Big East can help both in the quality wins department, with Seton Hall’s best win coming against Wichita State and Marquette’s being at the expense of Arizona State. Marquette’s Henry Ellenson has been one of the nation’s best freshmen, but their tournament hopes may hinge on the development of their perimeter rotation. As for the Pirates, this sophomore-laden group will lean on Isaiah Whitehead and Desi Rodriguez as they look for their first tournament bid since 2006.
Xavier's Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Xavier’s Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

[NEW PODCAST | NEW TOP 25]

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: On Monday’s podcast, my colleague Rob Dauster said that he believed that Villanova was the fourth-best team in the conference, that their issues shooting the ball combined with their question marks in the front court left them susceptible to being picked off. Jay Wright’s club has their issues, but they also have a total of four losses in Big East play the last two years.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: On paper, Marquette looks like the real deal. They have a slew of highly-regarded guards surrounding a pair of NBA-caliber big men in Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer. And as good as they’ve looked in bursts this season, their best wins are over a depleted LSU, Arizona State and a Wisconsin team that has already lost five games. They were also embarrassed on their home floor by Iowa and lost to Belmont in Milwaukee. I want to believe in Marquette, but they need to beat one of the top four teams in the league for me to get there fully.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Georgetown has been by far the most disappointing team in the Big East and one of the most disappointing teams in the country. They have top 20 talent on the roster, but they’ve lost at home to Radford, UNC Asheville and Monmouth, the latter of which was a blowout. Given who his father is, it’s going to be very hard for the program to jettison John Thompson III, but if he can’t turn this thing around, he’s going to be a name that pops up on hot seat lists.

POWER RANKINGS, POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

Tourney teams

  • 1. Xavier: Chris Mack’s team, which reached the Sweet 16 a season ago, has everything a team needs to not only reach that point but go further. And if Edmond Sumner continues to develop at the point, Houston is possible.
  • 2. Villanova: The Wildcats do have to shoot better from the perimeter than they have, and with players such as Arcidiacono, Brunson and Hart they’re capable of turning things around on that front. But do they have enough in the post to play deep into March?
  • 3. Butler: The Bulldogs don’t defend as well as they did in years past, but they’re better offensively thanks to the presence of two playmakers in Tyler Lewis and Roosevelt Jones.
  • 4. Providence: Dunn and Bentil have been excellent, but Ed Cooley’s had many other contributors step forward as well. And their play with Dunn out of the lineup can only help the confidence of those supplementary players moving forward.
  • 5. Marquette: The Golden Eagles’ best wins have come over teams likely to land on the bubble (Arizona State, LSU, Wisconsin). They’ve got an extremely talented front court tandem in Ellenson and Fischer, but the key moving forward: the guards keeping the turnovers (19.6 percent turnover rate) to a minimum.

NIT teams

  • 6. Seton Hall: The progress made by Desi Rodriguez has been huge for the Pirates, who have wins over Ole Miss and Wichita State on their résumé. Kevin Willard’s team will go as far as their sophomore class, led by Rodriguez, Isaiah Whitehead and Angel Delgado, can lead them.
  • 7. Georgetown: The Hoyas have NCAA tournament talent, but they haven’t played to that level on a consistent basis thus far. The biggest issues have been on the offensive end, but they need to be better on the glass as well (7th in defensive rebounding percentage).
  • 8. Creighton: With Maurice Watson Jr. on the leading a balanced offensive attack, the Bluejays could surprise some people in league play. But in order to do so, they’ll need to improve defensively (last in field goal percentage defense, ninth in three-point percentage defense).

Autobid or bust

  • 9. DePaul: The Blue Demons did manage to knock off a ranked George Washington squad, but they’re unlikely to make a major move up the Big East pecking order.
  • 10. St. John’s: This is a rebuilding year for the Red Storm, who still hope to add Marcus LoVett Jr. at some point in the near future. That being said, they compete and are capable of pulling off some upsets in league play.

St. John’s lands highly regarded JUCO forward Ahmed

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On the day after Christmas the St. John’s basketball program received some very good news on the recruiting front, as one of the top junior college prospects in the nation made his pledge to Chris Mullin’s program.

6-foot-7 small forward Bashir Ahmed, a native of the Bronx who’s currently a sophomore at Hutchinson CC in Kansas, verbally committed to St. John’s Saturday morning. News of his commitment was first reported by the New York Post, and for quite some time the Red Storm were viewed as the favorites to land Ahmed. In addition to St. John’s, Ahmed also took official visits to Cincinnati and Texas.

One of the keys to his recruitment was the presence of assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, who began recruiting Ahmed while on Fred Hoiberg’s staff at Iowa State. That relationship carried over after Abdelmassih made the move to Queens, and in the end the St. John’s program has a second highly regarded commitment with guard Shamorie Ponds being the first.

Ahmed’s currently averaging 19.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Hutchinson, and he fills a position of need for St. John’s. Both Durand Johnson and Ron Mvuoika are graduate students playing their final season of eligibility, opening the door for Ahmed to play a lot of minutes in 2016-17. The Red Storm are also still in the running for prospects such as five-star guard Rawle Alkins and 6-foot-8 small forward Richard Freudenberg.