Moe Harkless

D’Angelo Harrison leads the way, Chris Obekpa breaks St. John’s single-game blocks record in win over Detroit

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JAMAICA, N.Y.–D’Angelo Harrison began Tuesday’s game against Detroit on the bench, kept out of the starting lineup by coach Steve Lavin for disciplinary reasons.

He ended the game as the team’s hero, tallying 22 points and outdueling former McDonald’s All-American Ray McCallum in a 77-74 St. John’s victory at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

“From the time we booted him out of practice and sat [Harrison]..took his starting spot away, he’s been outstanding,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “Sometimes you have to be like an Irish judge, make the tough choices. But the kids really responded to the tough love.”

The fiery and feisty Harrison overcome a slow first half to score 15 second-half points, including a jumper with 5:48 remaining that pulled the game even at 62. With the departure of Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless to the NBA, Harrison is the Red Storm’s focal point in 2012-13.

Fellow sophomore guard Phil Greene scored a career high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Defensively, the biggest performance of the night came freshman freshman Chris Obekpa, who broke the St. John’s single-game school record with eight blocks.

“In my experience as a coach and a broadcaster, he’s unique to anyone I’ve seen,” said Lavin. “It’s the length and the timing. He doesn’t pick up fouls. It’s rare to have someone get 10, 15, 20 blocks as I’ve seen in high school and pick up one foul.”

The Red Storm tried five different defenders on McCallum, who still managed 21 points, though he shot 8-of-23 from the floor. Detroit had a chance to final off a turnover in the final seconds, but a three-pointer by Juwan Howard, Jr., was off the mark.

St. John’s now heads to the Charleston Classic to take on College of Charleston on Thursday.

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

The Morning Mix

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We’re only just 72 hours away from the beginning of college basketball season. The anticipation is palpable.

 

#ReadoftheDay: ESPN’s Jason King on the landscape of college hoops in 2012 and how it looks similar to the landscape in the 1980s. Read it. (ESPN)

 

Top Stories:

What top-25 team will miss the NCAA Tournament?: Our tremendous crew of @CBTonNBC writers explain their thoughts on which preseason top-25 team has the best chance of missing the NCAA tournament. Check  the homepage later for Today’s installment.

What team outside the top-25 has the best chance to make the Final Four?: Everybody has penciled in Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville. But this season’s Final Four, maybe more than ever, could feature a team well outside the preseason top-25.

Kentucky guard Julius Mays survived an injury scare in Wildcat’s’ exhibition win over Transylvania: The fifth-year senior transfer from Wright State knocked knees with a Pioneer’s player midway through the second half. Mays left the game and did not return, but no significant damage was done. You may remember back to a month ago when Nerlens Noel nearly rolled his ankle during a Big Blue Madness pep rally. Seems like Calipari dodged yet another bullet.

Is Georges Niang the next Doug McDermott?: Iowa State freshman forward Georges Niang spent last season battling Nerlens Noel during practice at The Tilton School in New Hampshire. While Niang is undersized at 6-foot-7, has the elite game-IQ and superior skills that will remind Cyclone fans of Ames’ native son Doug McDermott.

 

Hoops Housekeeping:

– Marquette got terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news on Monday. Turns out that potential breakout star Todd Mayo, the younger brother of Dallas Maverick’s star O.J. Mayo, was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA and will have to sit out the entire season. That’s a major loss for a team already looking to replace both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. (Paint Touches)

– Michigan recruit Austin Hatch, who was seriously injured in a 2011 plane crash that killed his father and stepmother has been cleared by doctors to participate in high school practice. It is still uncertain if he will be able to participate in games. Awesome news nonetheless. (MLive.com)

– Arkansas’ sophomore guard B.J Young is expected by many (As you will read later) to be one of the nation’s top guards this season. But he will have to sit out the first two games of the season (Arkansas Democrat-Republic)

– Syracuse added their first recruit from the class of 2014 in 6-foot-8 Chris McCullough (Syracuse Post-Standard)

– During a Q&A session on Monday, Rick Pitino revealed that Louisville freshman center Mangok Mathiang was denied eligibility by the NCAA and will redshirt the season (Cardinal Authority)

– Highly touted class of 2014 forward Dakari Johnson has decided to reclassify to 2013, joining the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Seldon and Noah Vonleh (SNY.tv)

 

Observations & Analysis:

– Missouri’s Phil “Flip” Pressey was the preseason pick for SEC Player of the Year, but could a much less heralded guard end up hoisting the award at the end of the season? (Sports Illustrated)

– Jeff “Two Scoops” Goodman provides a 2013 NBA mock draft. Clearly Goodman and the CBS guys have run the well dry of season preview posts (CBS Sports)

– Northwestern gets all the publicity, but William & Mary has made the NCAA tournament just as many times as the Wildcats. Zero. But will the tide change for the Tribe in 2012-13? (College Chalktalk)

– In case you forgot, the Loyola Greyhounds represented the MAAC in the NCAA tournament last season and find themselves as league favorites, a position the program has been held in nearly 20 years (Baltimore Sun)

– Much of North Carolina State’s success will depend on the production provided by the team’s star players. But in order for guys like C.J. Leslie and Rodney Purvis to be productive, they will need to master Mark Gottfried’s variation of “the UCLA high post offense”. (Backing the Pack)

– The season has not even begun yet, but it’s pretty evident that Minnesota’s Tubby Smith and Northwestern’s Bill Carmody appear to be on the coaching hot seat. Depending on what happens between November and April, Jon Beilein, Tom Crean and John Groce could join them (Rush The Court)

– With Moe Harkless in the NBA, St. John’s must rely heavily on the performance of sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison (New York Daily News)

– I guarantee this will be the most you read about Youngstown State all season. But since this is a season preview, this will last you until April. Well, more like early March since the Penguins have never made the postseason as a Division-I member (Horizon League Hoops)

 

Odds & Ends:

– This is the longest Q&A session you will ever read. But since it’s in the words of Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, I highly recommend you read it. Buzz is never not entertaining. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

– Somebody actually values Rob Dauster’s opinion of the Florida State Seminoles. I’m shocked. I only value Rob’s opinion when it comes to bar food and the best formations to use in FIFA ’12 (Tomahawk Nation)

– A rather entertaining season preview for the Atlantic-10. Language somewhat NSFW. (Blackburn Review)

– A quick preview of the favorites to win each of the 13 major conferences (The Back Iron)

– Here is close to 9,000 words previewing the Big Sky Conference. Make sure you give some of it a read. Eastern Washington and Montana should be fun to watch this season. (Big Sky Basketball)

– In case you forgot how the Colorado Buffaloes won the Pac-12 last year, here’s a very solid review of 2011-2012 (The Ralphie Report)

– Eight teams will unveil special camouflage uniforms on Friday as part of the four military appreciation games (The Dagger)

– Tonight’s exhibition game between St. John’s and Concordia is being endorsed by the Johnnies student section as “Dress like Lavin night”. Phenomenal. (Sweet, Sweet Lavin)

 

Video(s) of the Day:

Doug Wojcik enters his first season as head coach at College of Charleston and will lean heavily on senior Andrew Lawrence and talented big-man Adjehi Baru. Here’s what went down at the school’s “Maroon Madness” event over the weekend. (College of Charleston Hoops)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hhZzNn5AhU%5D

 

Players from Arkansas-Little Rock are not happy about their 2011-2012 Sun Belt Tournament exit against Western Kentucky. Can you say “Bulletin board material”? (Burn The Horse)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PLFJIps9rg%5D

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Conference Preview: Louisville is the favorite in Big East after run to Final Four

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

It came as no surprise last week when the Big East coaches resoundingly named Louisville the preseason favorite to win the conference, but what about the other storylines?

This year’s edition of the Big East has all of the ingredients for drama: realignment storylines, television negotiations, and a little preseason war of words.

Let’s break it all down:

Five Things to Know

1. “Realignment” is the word in the Big East. Absent at Media Day was a longtime fixture, Bob Huggins, whose West Virginia Mountaineers are now members of the Big 12. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are both entering their final season in the conference before heading to the ACC. Notre Dame is likely negotiating some sort of deal to head to the ACC early, as well. On the horizon wait Memphis, Temple, UCF, Houston, and SMU, ready to enter the league. Prepare yourself for frequent “this could be the final match-up…”-type storylines as the season progresses.

2. Louisville is the preseason favorite to win the conference, but much of its success hinges on Big East Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva. We saw different versions of the then-junior point guard last season. Who will ultimately prevail this season, the player who was the catalyst for Louisville’s run in the Big East and NCAA tournaments or the player who averaged 5.4 points and 3.6 turnovers per game for a seven-game stretch in late December and January?

3. Connecticut is in a season of change. Not only are they banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but longtime head coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement earlier this year. Former Husky assistant Kevin Ollie now takes over the program. Players say that, though more stern, Ollie is the same optimistic leader as they remember him in his assistant role. He might be just what they need in this season of transition.

4. Syracuse has lost a number of key pieces from last season, among them Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, and Scoop Jardine, but comes into 2012-13 as a top-15 team nationally that is ready to compete for a conference title. Expect sophomore Michael Carter-Williams to have a breakout year.

5. Stan Heath and South Florida surprised a lot of people last season when they finished 22-14 and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. Point guard Anthony Collins returns for his sophomore season and will be key. Interesting note: Despite the slow offensive tempo that produced just 59.2 points per game last season, Heath told NBCSports.com at Big East media day that this year’s team is built to play faster, so don’t be surprised if we see Collins lead the “Running of the Bulls.”

Impact Newcomers

C Steven Adams (Pittsburgh)

The 6-10 Adams was chosen by league coaches to be the Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year and will have expectations to match in 2012-13. The New Zealand native likely has been praised by scouts for his upside.

C DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The local prospect will have to help in compensating for the loss of Fab Melo to the NBA. Reports are that he has lost significant weight (he was last listed at 6-9, 275 pounds), which should make him more mobile.

F Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)

Rick Pitino and the Cardinals were fortunate enough to land Harrell after he decommitted from Virginia Tech this spring. Point guard Peyton Siva says he already sees improvement in the 6-8, 215 forward, who should provide more stability in the frontcourt.

F Stephen Domingo (Georgetown)

Domingo was a member of the Class of 2013 until he committed to Georgetown and sped up his high school timeline. The lanky California native should provide the three-point threat that the Hoyas need.

F JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s)

Sampson is an elite athlete who returns to the Red Storm after taking a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy in 2011-12. He has a different skill set than Moe Harkless, who left for the NBA after one season in Queens, but has a high ceiling and an undeniable “wow” factor when his athleticism is on full display.

G Kris Dunn (Providence)

With Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible to play this season, Providence head coach Ed Cooley will rely more on his other star recruit, Dunn. Injury is holding him back for now, but if he doesn’t redshirt, he will change the complexion of the Friar offense.

Breakout Players

F Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse)

Carter-Williams played sparingly during his freshman season, but he’ll have an increased role because of the loss of key pieces to the NBA.

G Anthony Collins (South Florida)

If coach Stan Heath wants to implement a faster brand of offense, Collins is his man. Quick and explosive, the sophomore is ready to lead.

G Vander Blue (Marquette)

Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have moved on to the NBA, which leaves Blue with a chance to shine.

G Ryan Boatright (Connecticut)

Plagued by NCAA investigations last season, Boatright should be able to focus and find his groove in 2012-13 as part of a backcourt with Shabazz Napier.

G Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)

He averaged 12.3 points and led the Irish with 5.0 assists per game last season, but didn’t get the national recognition that he should be able to grab this year.

Player of the Year: G Peyton Siva (Louisville)

The biggest question will be which Peyton Siva shows up for most of the season, but if the end of the season is any indication, we could be in for a special season from him.

Coach Under Pressure: Oliver Purnell (DePaul)

After a 3-15 season in Big East play, Purnell and his reported $1.8 million annual contract will have to prove some things in 2012-13. The Blue Demons are still projected to finish in the bottom third of the conference.

All-Conference Team

(*) denotes Player of the Year

G Peyton Siva (Louisville)*

G Vincent Council (Providence)

F Otto Porter (Georgetown)

F Jack Cooley (Notre Dame)

C Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)

Predicted Finish

1. Louisville–Coming off a Final Four run and with Siva at the point, the Cardinals are the favorite.

2. Syracuse—Personnel losses shouldn’t be a problem for the Orange. They have reloaded and will be solidly in the nation’s Top 15.

3. Notre Dame—Jack Cooley and Scott Martin are key, as are guards Jerian Grant and Erik Atkins. Could be the final Big East season for the Irish.

4. Cincinnati—Yancy Gates’ departure will hurt Mick Cronin’s team, but guard Sean Kilpatrick should be able to continue capitalize on momentum from last season.

5. Georgetown—The top three scorers for the Hoyas—Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims—have all left. This is Otto Porter’s chance to step up.

6. Pittsburgh—With no Ashton Gibbs, Tray Woodall takes on more responsibilities in the backcourt. Big man Steven Adams will play a role, as will transfer Trey Zeigler.

7. USF—The element of surprise is gone for Stan Heath’s team. Can they compete when other teams expect it?

8. Marquette—Crowder and Johnson-Odom aren’t easily replaced. If we’ve learned one thing, though, it’s not to underestimate Buzz Williams.

9. Connecticut—The general sentiment around the program is that this is not a loss season, despite the postseason ban. We’ll see what Kevin Ollie can do in his first season.

10. St. John’s—Steve Lavin returns after undergoing prostate cancer surgery and has another young, talented recruiting class coming to the Red Storm.

11. Rutgers—Coach Mike Rice began to lay the foundation with his recruiting class last season and now he will build on it. Eligible transfer Wally Judge should help.

12. Villanova—Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek have departed, take with them a combined 30 points per game. Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono will compete for the starting PG spot.

13. DePaul—Cleveland Melvin once again is the centerpiece. Injuries plagued the Blue Demons last season.

14. Providence—Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible hurts the Friars in the short term, but the long-term outlook is bright.

15. Seton Hall—Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope have left, and the NCAA’s decision not to grant a hardship waiver to guard Sterling Gibbs will make life more difficult in Jersey.

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

Steve Lavin makes return to St. John’s sideline for good after prostate cancer surgery

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JAMAICA, N.Y.–As St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin jogged out of the tunnel during his introduction at the Red Storm’s Midnight Madness festivities Friday night, McFadden & Whitehead’s hit song “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” boomed in the background, fittingly marking Lavin’s first big, public moment with the team in nearly a year.

Lavin underwent prostate cancer last October and returned to coach sparingly during the first part of last season before taking time to recover and focus on the recruiting trail. He missed last season’s event, which took place shortly after he underwent surgery.

“Feeding off the players’ energy is an uplifting experience,” he said. “It reminds you of the joy that team sports can bring. Seeing those kids as they watch their team members go out…it was a palpable energy.”

Friday night’s appearance was met with an uproarious applause from the nearly 3,200 in attendance at St. John’s on-campus Carnesecca Arena and, after the event, Lavin was back in rare form with the media, speaking in his patented off-the-cuff metaphors and similes.

“It’s like Christmas Eve, shaking the presents and trying to figure out what they are,” he joked. “Easter egg hunts or Halloween, putting the gear on for the first time. All those things that bring joy to young people.”

The event at Carnesecca Friday night gave the public its first glance at Lavin’s latest top-10 recruiting class, which is led by athletic post-graduate JaKarr Sampson and late signee Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking presence that St. John’s lacked last season.

A young and inexperienced Red Storm team finished 13-19 in 2011-12 and, though they lost centerpiece Moe Harkless to the NBA, return leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison.

Harrison becomes the clear team leader after averaging 16.8 points per game last season. Expect Harrison to see time at the point guard spot, though he is more of a natural shooting guard.

During St. John’s run to the NCAA tournament in 2009-10, Lavin put a similar player and scorer, Dwight Hardy, at the point guard spot with good results. Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch is also eligible to play in December, which could solve some of the depth chart issues in the backcourt.

The Red Storm also lost assistant coach Mike Dunlap to the NBA, as he took a job to become that franchise’s next head coach. Darrick Martin, a former NBA point guard who has ties to Lavin’s time at UCLA, takes Dunlap’s spot on the bench.

St. John’s was picked to finish 10th in the preseason media poll, released Tuesday, just ahead of Rutgers and slightly behind Connecticut.

Much of the Red Storm’s success this season will depend on the development of its youth, namely Harrison, elite defender Sir’Dominic Pointer, guard Phil Greene, and swingman Amir Garrett, all of whom are now sophomores.

“With every optimistic remark that I make about an individual or collectively, I temper that with the harsh reality that it’s the youngest team…in the country,” Lavin said. “We’ll have to go through all the trials and tribulations that young teams do.”

But, as much of the focus was Friday, much can be said about the impact Lavin has now that he is back on the sidelines.

“We have our leader back,” said Garrett. “When he was out last year, it was sad. But now he’s back and ready to go.”

The Red Storm open their season on Nov. 13 at home against Detroit.

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

St. John’s officially announces hiring of former UCLA/NBA guard Darrick Martin as assistant

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St. John’s has officially hired former UCLA guard Darrick Martin to replace Mike Dunlap on its coaching staff, the school announced Friday.

“I have known Darrick personally for more than 20 years, and our staff is pleased he has chosen to become a member of the Johnnies basketball family,” head coach Steve Lavin said in a statement. “With our current team being one of the youngest in school history, the timing is ideal for Darrick to join forces with our staff to assist in our efforts to return St. John’s to college basketball prominence.”

Martin played his college ball at UCLA before joining the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1994. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, averaging 6.9 points and 2.9 assists per game over the course of his career.

“I am really excited for the opportunity to work with Coach Lavin, our staff and student-athletes,” Martin said in the release. “There is a huge comfort level for me, having played for Coach Lavin and knowing Rico Hines coming in. I have met the staff and I am looking forward to working with this talented roster, and helping the student-athletes develop on and off the court.”

Martin joins the staff after Dunlap left in June to take the head coaching job with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Dunlap had been with the staff since Lavin took over in Queens in 2010.

Martin, a former point guard, will likely be pegged with helping to develop a young backcourt that includes leading returning scorer D’Angelo Harrison, Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch, who becomes eligible in December, and Chicago native Phil Greene.

The school also announced the promotion of assistants Rico Hines and Tony Chiles within the staff.

“Coach Hines and Coach Chiles are clearly deserving of this promotion,” said Lavin. “From the outset of my tenure at St. John’s, these two talented coaches have been tirelessly working alongside me, and their contributions have been vital to our efforts as we diligently work toward putting the Johnnies in position to be a consistent winner.”

The Red Storm finished last season with an overall record of 13-19, including 6-12 in the Big East. Star forward Moe Harkless has departed for the NBA, having been drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2012 draft.

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

St. John’s Amir Garrett continues baseball journey, is called up to Cincinnati Reds Rookie League team

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Amir Garrett is getting the best of two worlds right now.

At St. John’s, he is part of a solid young team that could catch some by surprise in the Big East in 2012-13. During the off-season, he’s pitching in the Cincinnati Reds farm system after being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft.

On Tuesday news came from Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin that Garrett was to be called up from the Arizona League Reds to the Billings Mustangs, the Reds’ Rookie League affiliate.

While with the Arizona League Reds, Garrett appeared in seven games, throwing 14 innings and striking out 13 batters, with an ERA of 5.79.

For Garrett, much of the talk about his baseball career hinges on potential: a 6-6 lefty whose fastball was clocked at 96 MPH on the radar gun during a pre-draft workout.

And though it’s not unusual for college athletes to take a shot at pro baseball while still playing another sport in college—see: football players Drew Henson, Ricky Williams—it’s less common for basketball players to have both going for them.

Garrett came to St. John’s in the middle of the 2011-12 season after being ruled ineligible for the first semester. After gaining eligibility, he averaged 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game for a team that finished 13-19, including 6-12 in the Big East.

“Baseball’s always going to be there for me,” Garrett told the New York Times this spring. “I don’t know, something about it; when I start playing baseball, I get into it really quick. I get back into the motions. I always snap back into baseball mode once I step on the diamond.”

For this upcoming season, the Red Storm will be without one of their stars from last season, forward Moe Harkless, who left for the NBA Draft and was selected 15th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lavin welcomes another large recruiting class to Queens, led by forwards JaKarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa.

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