Posts Tagged ‘Steve Lavin’

As the clock expired at Alumni Hall in Jamaica Queens the scoreboard showed a sight that has not been seen in over two months with the Red Storm picking up an 80-65 victory over DePaul. The home crowd and home team could finally celebrate that elusive win that they have come close to achieving several times before but could not grasp in conference play. Now today is a new day and all focus and effort should be directed to the next opponent for the Johnnies, their Big East rival Seton Hall.

Seton Hall is currently a bubble team that has not yet solidified their at-large berth in the 2016 NCAA tournament. The Pirates currently rank 42 in the RPI and do hold a marquee win at Providence but the key conference win has been losing it’s luster by the way the Friars have been playing lately. With their current status the Pirates have no margin for error and a bad loss could disintegrate the Hall’s tournament chances.

Of course there is more to this match-up than possible NCAA tournament positioning when the two teams collide at the Mecca of basketball this Sunday afternoon. The best player for Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead, is no stranger for the loyal fans of the Red Storm. Whitehead went to Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn and chose to go to the Hall instead of committing to then St. John’s coach Steve Lavin in the fall of 2013. Kevin Willard did receive a “tiny” assist from Whitehead’s coach who delivered Whitehead in exchange for a spot on the Pirates coaching staff.

Seton Hall was the dark horse entering the 2015-16 season after limping to the end of the 2015 season and having Jaren Sina announce he was transferring in February of 2015 only to be joined in the exodus from Orange, NJ by Sterling Gibbs who is a graduate transfer at UCONN this season. Whitehead has led a solid group of sophomores that includes Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington and the rest of the Pirates to this point. Whitehead has switched to point guard and has altered his game from a high-volume shooter to a more balanced offensive player that is able to facilitate scoring for his teammates.

Now outside a miraculous run that would surpass the 1983 NC State team coached by Jim Valvano after the Big East tournament Chris Mullin and his squad will be finished for the 2016 season. The role St. John’s can play best for the duration of the season is spoiler and what better than providing a resounding upset that potentially eliminates a rival team from competing in the NCAA tourney this year.

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.