Unexpected Returns for St. John’s Basketball

When forecasting the 2015-16 season for St. John’s men basketball the consensus was that the Red Storm would need an infusion of new players to remain competitive. And as the off season progressed the only two members of the roster with significant playing time that could have returned for this season, Rysheed Jordan and Chris Opekba, have left the program. While Mullin and his staff did a commendable job on the recruiting trail this off-season and obtained the commitment of nine athletes, two returning players have provided unanticipated contributions for the Red Storm

One of the most maligned reserves for the last three seasons has been Christian Jones. Upon arriving on campus in the fall of 2012 there has always been a certain type of preseason mystique around Jones with whispers of his pure strength and athleticism and how Jones would be a key contributor. In previous seasons Jones potential did not come to fruition. In his previous three seasons Jones has been red-shirted a season and has not averaged over 2.5 points a game or averaged more than 10 minutes a game. In the initial stretch of this season Jones has seen much more playing time and his production has improved with Jones playing over 27 minutes a game while averaging 6 points a game. And to further build up the anticipation for the future Jones has another year of eligibility after this season.

Another Johnnie that has had sporadic playing time in previous seasons has been Felix Balamou. Arriving at the same time as Jones, Balamou has impressed Red Storm fans by his pure leaping ability and energy on the court. What probably hurt Balamou’s playing time was the plenteous amount of talented guards for the Red Storm. Unfortunately, which has been becoming an unwanted preseason tradition, Balamou was declared academically ineligible for the first two games of the season by the NCAA. Balamou’s arrival could not have come at a better time as he was the catalyst in St. John’s 16 point comeback victory against Rutgers.

While the names of Jones and Balamou became an afterthought with every Red Storm recruit both of these players can become valuable assets for St. John’s. Jones can provide rebounding and depth at a position that is desperately needed this season. Balamou could develop into a defensive stopper and stat stuffer in a similar mold as Sir Dominic Pointer.

Also both need to be leaders on and off the court. With a primarily green roster Jones and Balamou need to demonstrate to the newbies how to handle yourself during the game, during practice, and on campus. If Jones and Balamou establish the right example for Chris Mullin’s Red Storm the legacy of Jones and Balamou will be forever connected with the success of the 2015 recruiting class and the program Mullin wants to build.