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Bulls Recon: Rumble In The Garden Talks St. John's Basketball

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Welcome back the latest edition of Bulls Recon. Today, we have Pico Dulce from our great St. Johns site Rumble In The Garden here to talk some Red Storm hoops. In this edition, we talk about St. John's doomed recruiting class, Coach Lavin's recovery from cancer, and of course Big East expansion.


1. Coach Lavin had a pretty nice recruiting class coming in this season, but for one reason or another a big chunk of it are off the roster? What exactly happened?

Oh, the recruiting class. First, there were nine - a battalion of young promise, an agile and versatile collection of wings and guards... who would probably still lose a lot of games.

Over the summer, JaKarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle, and Amir Garrett were ruled ineligible - each were missing core classes for NCAA eligibility and needed to get high marks in those classes, but the NCAA didn't accept their grades from the Rise Academy. I know, I know. Make fun all you want, but it does seem like the NCAA was trying to enforce a little when they could, to show that they had some level of control given the scandals of the previous year/ years.

But the NCAA wouldn't let them into the club. The spring semester was a possibility for each, but only Amir Garrett completed his requirements to make it to campus.

The other two have opened their recruitment. Norvel Pelle is in Philadelphia taking classes, and has been rumored to be going to UNLV or San Diego State. But UNLV now has Khem Birch transferring in. Pelle also isn't the most decisive sort, and one wonders if he'll be eligible next year, even. Sampson has gotten looks from Providence, and possibly Kansas and Florida, but St. John's is still recruiting him. The NY Post passes on that Sampson is a heavy St. John's lean.

During THIS season, Nurideen Lindsey left the team. He clashed with the interim head coach Mike Dunlap and teammates, and was less comfortable with Lavin not on the sidelines to guide him. He was a speedy talent, but his style of play may have hurt the development of the team - very go-for-self, aggressive, but not that efficient or interested in the nuance of passing.

More bodies would have helped, but so far, the Storm haven't really been fatigued - they've been outclassed, out-experienced. Nurideen could have helped with his ability to create shots, but he hurts with his turnovers and selfish play. Sampson could have helped on the boards, and he's probably the one whose absence hurts the most. Pelle was known as an athlete and shotblocker, and part of me thinks he would have transferred back west after a year anyway... and wouldn't have been a great rebounder in his first year.

2. With the exception of D'Angelo Harrison, this is a pretty horrible 3-point shooting team. Have teams just been running zone and daring them to shoot out of it?

Pretty much. You'll see a graphic showing that the Johnnies are near the bottom of Division I in three-point makes. But they also wisely don't take a lot of threes. Really, they do a good job of trying to get all of their shots off within 10 feet of the basket. But players are developing; Maurice Harkless and Sir`Dominic Pointer are showing signs of having range.

3. Can you tell us a bit about Harrison and Moe Harkless and the type of skill set they have?

Moe Harkless has a ridiculous set of skills that he's just tapping into. Of course, "just tapping into" could also indicate a guy who takes shots he can't make but keeps taking them (a la Gus Gilchrist, who has improved but not enough for his skills to reach his fantasy of himself). Harkless is LONG, decently quick, able to get shots off from all kinds of places. He can get buckets off of a dribble if not properly defended. He can rebound. If/ when he can hit open jumpers with a little more range, I think he has a real shot at the NBA. But right now, he's slim and needs to connect on more of his attempts. When Harkless is going well, he's drawing fouls and has a double-double before you realize it.

Harrison is - and forgive me for saying this - a little bit like Dominique Jones. Ok, that's hyperbole - but he's a solidly smart, high-usage guard who draws fouls and can pass a little. He defends better than you think, is a stand-up guy and a future leader so far. Harrison also has swagger that he's learning to contain. And by "swagger", I mean that urge to follow up a made shot by jacking up a 25-footer in transition on the next possession. He's probably the best on the team at shooting off the dribble, he's the real creative option.

4. How is Coach Lavin progressing from his cancer treatment? Do you expect to see him back on the sideline this year?

Steve Lavin is cancer-free, per his own report, but still regaining the energy to be the energetic, jumping, foot-stomping coach he wants to be on the sidelines. He can do the more passive parts of the job - talking to reporters, watching high school kids in bleacher seats. But the in-game coaching he found to be a struggle.

There's no word on when he'll make it back, but he has said to the LA Times (and others) that he may not make it back to the sidelines this season. We'll see, but I'd say probably not.

5. What do you think of the new Big East members?

I tried to put a positive spin on it before. Still, they're not here yet, and I'm going to pretend Houston and The Big East can't be put into the same sentence. And I'm hoping Matt Doherty learns how to coach in the next year.

Gosh, those are some poor hoops teams. Can we lemon law them? Is their football good enough to compensate for the turdy basketball? If there are west and east divisions, does that make the west a cakewalk?

On the plus side, free wins for many programs!

6. Finally, how do you see this one finishing up?

Slowly, snoozily. I think St. John's can beat the Bulls with a really good gameplan, but if the Johnnies can get to the line and can't hit some scores in transition, South Florida should be, for once, the bully kicking sand in the faces of the Red Storm.

(I mean, are Bulls fans itching for a chance to finally beat St. John's? It's been since 1995...)


The answer to that is yes, yes we are. Thanks again to Pico for helping us out today. Make sure to head over to Rumble In The Garden for my answers to his questions.