Archive for January, 2016

Here is an article I wrote for another website about how Jerry Reese’s job is on the line in 2016

All Eyes On Jerry Reese

One word that fans shutter to hear is when their beloved team is rebuilding. That one word is usually used to describe a team that will not be able to claim many victories in the current season. So far the St. John’s Red Storm has had a difficult time since their upset victory over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on December 13th 2015. Since that day the Red Storm have been unable to obtain another victory and had setbacks against Incarnate Word and NJIT. While many fans are trudging through a challenging season, the dark days will not last and success is on the horizon.

Certain programs need to obtain certain achievements or benchmarks to be considered a success. Blue blood programs would demand a Final Four appearance to be successful while certain mid-majors would be exalted winning a conference title. At St. John’s a fair annual goal would be to obtain an invitation to the NCAA tournament which was done 18 out of 24 times with Lou Carnasseca at the helm.

The roster projection currently has eight members who are projected to have eligibility for the next two seasons. Reinforcements will also come from within with Marcus Lovett and Tariq Owens being eligible starting in the fall of 2016. Darrien Williams, the JUCO transfer, should also be healthy enough to add depth and size for the Johnnies. There are also two prized recruits heading to Jamaica Queens in the fall with Shamorie Ponds and Bashir Ahmed joining the Red Storm. The recruiting class in expected to grow too with Mullin and staff honing in on other high-caliber athletes and hopes to secure their talents.

Now when will Chris Mullin lead his alma mater to the big dance? The 2016-17 season will be an improvement over this current season and it will most likely be an NIT bid for the Red Storm. The team as a whole will be more experienced, tougher, and deeper. There will be upgrade at the point guard position with Lovett being eligible and Ponds being able to handle the ball in Lovett’s absence. Federico Mussini will be able to play off the ball which will allow him to focus on shooting threes and not acting as the primary facilitator. Yankuba Sima should be physically stronger which would improve his post scoring and rebounding.

When the 2018 NCAA field is announced the St. John’s Red Storm should be in the field of 68. The current freshman class will be upperclassmen and should have gone through their growing pains and start receiving dividends from the obstacles they have faced. At that time the gloom and doom should be removed from the faithful followers who have persevered through tumultuous times.

Entering the Big East clash between St John’s and Xavier the Red Storm found themselves in a similar position by being 15 point underdogs on their home court. Being picked as underdogs will be a recurring theme as the season progress for St. John’s since they were picked to finish in the cellar of the Big East this season. Xavier came in boasting a ranking of 10 in the AP poll and a ranking of 1 in the RPI upon their visit to the Queens campus. The Red Storm demonstrated certain characteristics that should be lauded when playing against one of the best teams in the nation. Yet as this young and malleable team moves forward for the program to reach its zenith St John’s should not accept moral victories.

The Red Storm proved to be very resilient against the Musketeers by being able to fight through two specific forms of adversity. Unfortunately the first form of adversity was self-inflicted mainly because of the horrid shooting performance by the Red Storm. Out of the gate St. John’s converted 1 of their first 13 shots and closed the first half with an atrocious 10 of 37 ( 27%) from the field.

The second form of adversity came at the start of the 2nd half when it was announced freshman sensation Yankuba Sima would be unable to play the rest of the game. Now against a very big and talented front court of Xavier the Red Storm line up became smaller. Many young and inexperienced teams would just roll over and watch as the more experienced and more talented team imposed their will on the weaker opponent. The Red Storm did not fold and quit but fought back and almost had a momentous victory at Carnesecca Arena.

While the effort and fortitude was there the victory did not come for the home team. The end objective for Chris Mullin and his staff is to build a fearsome program that is among the best in the country. Blue blood programs like Duke and Kentucky do not accept or want moral victories and only achieve their goal when they raise a banner in their respective home arena. To reach the upper echelon of basketball programs the Red Storm should adopt the same goals and the expectation should alter from having a strong effort in games to defeating any team at any time in any location.

The New York Jets season ended in western New York, following a 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. For a team that showed a lot of toughness over the past five weeks and the ability to overcome a lot of negativity late in games, the magic ran out. The last three Jets offensive possessions ended in interceptions by Ryan Fitzpatrick. None was more costly then the first one. With the Jets finally moving the ball on consecutive possessions, they trailed 19-17. On a second down at the Bills 15 yard line, Fitzpatrick fired a ball to a well covered Eric Decker. The ball was intercepted and the drive ended, and along with it ended the last best chance the Jets had to yank one last game out of the fire.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the not the only guy to point the finger at in this season ending loss. There is plenty of blame to go around. The defense could not get off the field for the majority of the game. Darelle Revis could not cover Watkins. The play calling on both sides of the ball left a lot to be desired. Dropped passes, missed field goals, missed tackles and on and on it goes. All in all the team with nothing to play for showed up ready to fight and the Jets magic ran out.

As hard is it is to swallow as a fan of this franchise, the Jets made a lot of strides in 2015-2016. They were coming off a 4-12 season and were a franchise in turmoil. They won ten football games this year, under a new General Manager, Head Coach and quarterback. Not the easiest of tasks. But in the end it just was not enough to qualify for the AFC playoffs as they lose the six seed tiebreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Todd Bowles, in my opinion, along with the rest of his team chose the wrong game to not be ready for the moment. For the first time in a while they looked like the game was too big for them. Hopefully it is a stepping stone in the right direction. But as Bill Parcells, Bowles famous mentor said, “you never know what another year will bring, it’s another off-season, another draft, another mini-camp, another training camp, another preseason, and 15 more games just to get back to this day.”

We will see where it goes from here. It was my pleasure to report on a very fun Jets season and I hope it was entertaining to read.

– Rob DiToma

Chris Mullin and staff were able to get a victory off the basketball court this past week when Mullin was able to procure the services of Bashir Ahmed from Hutchinson Community College. Ahmed does have similarities with previous greats who have donned the red and white of St. Johns by being highly recruited and hailing from New York City. A third similarity that Ahmed has with other greats of St. John’s basketball is the route he took. Ahmed has a chance to build a legacy and be the cornerstone of a program similar to three other junior college transfers helped bring the Red Storm to glory.

The most successful two-year run since the retirement of Lou Carnesecca was during the 1999 and 2000 seasons when the Red Storm made it to the Elite Eight in 1999 and won the Big East tournament in the year 2000. One of the key contributors during that run was a player who had the first name was Marvis but most people know him as Bootsy Thornton. Thornton averaged over 15 points a game in his two seasons at St. John’s and was a clutch player who hit the game winning basket at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke in February 2000.

Marcus Hatten was another Johnnie who made a tremendous impact on the court after attending a junior college. During Hatten’s two seasons he averaged 21.2 points per game while on his way to two consecutive All Big East first-team selections. There were also two magical moments that Hatten provided for the Johnnie faithful. First was in January of 2003 when Hatten made a crucial steal and made the game winning free throw with no time on the clock to lead St. John’s over Duke. Second was in April of 2003 when the Johnnies cut down the nets at MSG after defeating Georgetown for the NIT title.

In Steve Lavin’s first season as head coach at St. John’s the Red Storm were orchestrating upsets over national ranked opponents on a weekly basis. The maestro of these upset was Dwight Hardy. The JUCO transfer from Indian Hills Community College brought up his scoring average from 10.5 points a game in 2010 to 18.3 in 2011. Hardy’s brightest moment was when he hit an acrobatic game winning lay-up against Pittsburgh to secure the 60-59 victory.

All three of these men had team success, personal success, and victories against Duke on their resumes. Ahmed will only have two years of eligibility for the Red Storm but can make an impact that is felt for years to come and can have Madison Square Garden roaring again for St. John’s.