St. John’s Duo Awaiting Eligibility Rulings, Two Others May Redshirt (UPDATED)
NEW YORK — The St. John’s basketball roster is in a major state of flux.
Two members of the Johnnies’ heralded recruiting class — Orlando Sanchez, a 6-foot-9 forward (pictured), and Marc Antoine-Bourgault, a 6-6 swingman — are awaiting “separate eligibility rulings from the NCAA regarding classification,” St. John’s announced before the team’s 73-55 exhibition victory over Sonoma State at Carnesecca Arena.
In the meantime, head coach Steve Lavin said he’s considering redshirting both senior forward God’sgift Achiuwa and freshman wing Felix Balamou.
All four players sat on the St. John’s bench during a game in which Lavin used only seven scholarship players.
Sources said St. John’s could learn the results for Sanchez and Bourgault within a week to 10 days, and that they expect both to be fully cleared to play this season. Sanchez is 24 years old and his eligibility questions stem in part from his age.
“There’s two separate issues,”Lavin said. “With Orlando it’s related to eligibility. It’s age and eligibility are the two things that are being evaluated.”
“With Marco, it’s about being reinstated. More paperwork and things have to be reevaluated. It’s like the waiver appeal process that we go through. We’re just waiting to find out what the determination will be.”
Both Sanchez and Bourgault attended Monroe (N.Y.) College, but Lavin said their school was not a factor in the eligibility issue.
“Totally unrelated, two completely different situations,” he said.
After the rulings, Sanchez could be listed as either a junior or a senior. If the latter, he would spend just one year at St. John’s. Bourgault could be listed as a sophomore or junior.
This development comes one year after three members of St. John’s heralded 2011 recruiting class — JaKarr Sampson, Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett — were deemed academically ineligible by the NCAA. Sampson and Garrett were both later cleared and are now at St. John’s, while the 6-10 Pelle committed to Iona but remains in NCAA limbo.
Meantime, Lavin is weighing redshirting both the 6-8 Achiuwa, who averaged 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, and the 6-4 Balamou, a true freshman (pictured at left).
“We’re trying to figure whether or not we would redshirt them for different reasons,” Lavin said.
“Considering the potential of redshirting both of them. If they play five seconds in an exhibition game it wipes the year out, and we’re still evaluating them every day in practice. We’ll make a choice on that before our Detroit game [Nov. 13].”
That gives Lavin about 10 days before the season-opener to potentially learn the status of all four players.
He and his staff will also factor into consideration what players might be likely to leave after this season.
If Sanchez is cleared to play, St. John’s will have him,Sampson, Chris Obekpa and Christian Jones up front and Achiuwa would likely be redshirted.
The 6-8 Sampson, who grew up in LeBron James’s hometown of Akron, Ohio and is friendly with King James, could potentially be one-and-done, which would then open up more room for Achiuwa to re-join the active roster for the 2013-14 season.
Asked how Achiuwa took the news, Lavin said, “Through the conversation it became very appealing to redshirt. Sitting down with his family he saw the value if he is to redshirt.”
Summing up the situation, Lavin said, “It’s very fluid right now because we’re waiting to get the word on Orlando and Marco.”
Garrett and Phil Greene led the way with 17 points apiece, and Sampson added 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Obekpa had 7 blocks, 7 rebounds and 4 points. “He could have had 10, 11 or 12 blocks,” Lavin said of Obekpa. “He has tremendous upside.”…D’Angelo Harrison, the team’s leading returning scorer, did not start for what Lavin called a “minor team infraction.” He had a rough night, going 2-for-9 for 5 points with 4 fouls. “When you’re setting the tone, setting the tenor on the season, it’s important that we make sure guys are toeing the line,” Lavin said of the benching to start the game…Jermaine Lawrence, a 6-10 forward from Pope John (N.J.) attended the game and sat courtside in a red sweatsuit. Lawrence and Philly point guard Rysheed Jordan are St. John’s top two recruiting targets in 2013.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.