Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Mullin Frustrated With NCAA Over Looming LoVett Decision
NEW YORK — St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin says he knows people in Indiana from his time with the Pacers, so he wouldn’t mind flying to familiar territory to personally find out why the Indianapolis-based NCAA has yet to decide on the academic eligibility of Red Storm freshman point guard Marcus LoVett just six days before the regular season.
“It’s absurd and I’m 100 percent frustrated,” Mullin said after his Johnnies topped Sonoma State 64-46 in Saturday’s exhibition tilt. “I’m thinking about flying to Indianapolis myself. I have some friends there with the Pacers, I may fly to Indianapolis myself to investigate.”
With LoVett sidelined by both the NCAA investigation and a leg injury, fellow-point guard Federico Mussini struggled to pick up the slack for the second straight game. The Italian scored just five points, all on free throws, as he went 0-7 from the field, turned the ball over five times and was even whistled twice for traveling before reaching half court as he brought the ball up the floor.
“Of course,” Mullin said, when asked if having LoVett eligible would help lessen the pressure on Mussini. “And he deserves to play. The kid has done everything.”
Saturday’s win certainly wasn’t pretty, thanks to Mussini’s play and the Red Storm’s 1-12 effort from three point range, but it was a step up from Wednesday’s 90-58 demolition at the hands of Division II program St. Thomas Aquinas.
“Even though these don’t count, for the new guys who don’t have college experience, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Christian Jones, who scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double. “In the first game, everyone is still nervous. But in the second game, everyone got the jitters out.”
The Red Storm were paced by freshman center Yankuba Sima, who dropped 16 points, snagged 16 rebounds, blocked eight shots and turned the ball over just once in 34 minutes of floor time. He dominated the interior early, altering numerous Sonoma State shot attempts, and also displaced a soft touch from the free throw line, converting all six shots.
When asked about his performance, Sima said he hopes to become a leader on both sides of the ball.
“I felt good on the court,” Sima said. “I hope I can do it every day, every game.”
Mullin acknowledged the Johnnies are nowhere near where he’d like them to be heading into next Friday’s regular season opener. But in taking a page out of former Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin‘s book of postgame metaphors, the first year man likened his team to a home under construction. One piece of wood at a time.
“Building is tedious and it takes time,” he said. “It’s a lot, but that’s where we are. Sometimes you buy a new house. Sometimes you build a house. And we’re building one here.”
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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.