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.
St. John’s Sima Dominates In Win Despite Dislocated Pinkie
NEW YORK — There was a scary moment for St. John’s late in the first half of their game against St. Francis at Madison Square Garden when freshman standout YankubaSima was forced to the sideline after dislocating his right pinkie.
The 6-foot-11 freshman from Spain sat on the end of the bench grimacing as trainer Ron Linfonte attended to him and wrapped the digit.
“It was really painful because my finger was disolcated,” said Sima, who ranked the degree of pain a nine out of 10. “But when they put it back in it was way better.”
The big man returned with his right hand taped up in the second half and responded by knocking down his first three-pointer of the season en route to a 17-point, 10-rebound performance as St. John’s beat St. Francis, 63-56, in the ECAC Holiday Festival. It was the freshman’s first double-double of the season for the Red Storm (5-3), who used a 19-2 run at the end of the first half to take control.
The victory made first-year coach Chris Mullin a winner in his coaching debut at the Garden.
“I love this place, always have, always will,” the 52-year-old Brooklyn native said. “I think I enjoyed playing here more than coaching.”
Before the game, teammate DurandJohnson motivated Sima by reminding him how talented he is.
“I was in [Sima’s] ear for like 10 minutes just telling him how good he is [and that] he’s the best player and he should dominate the game,” said Johnson, who finished with a game-high 19 points and six rebounds, including a baseline jumper with 30 seconds remaining that sealed the victory for the Red Storm.
“And he went out and showed that. When he went down with the finger, I was a little worried, but when I talked to him at half time, he said he was good to go, I knew he was going to go out and be ready.”
Sima, who entered with a right thumb injury, showed an ability to finish with both his right and his left hands near the basket. He also took — and made — his first 3 of the season.
“Did he hit a 3?” St. Francis coach Glenn Braica said. “That kind of surprised me. He’s really athletic and long around the basket. That affects you. We got into the lane a lot, and I thought their athleticism and their length bothered us. That’s understandable.”
“He’s going to be really, really good,” Mullin said of Sima. “It’s just not going to be there every night like probably our whole roster.”
Christian Jones added 13 points and nine rebounds for St. John’s, which was coming off a loss to Fordham, which is now riding a six-game winning streak.
In his second game back after being cleared from the NCAA, freshman forward Kassoum Yakwe managed just two points and one rebound in 17 minutes.
The Red Storm are already muddled with injuries. Malik Ellison (foot) has missed the past six games and Darien Williams (shoulder) has missed the past five. There is still no time frame on the return for Ellison or Williams, but Ellison is expected back sooner. Mullin said both would be re-examined on Monday.
The Johnnies were fortunate that Sima’s injury was not more serious.
The freshman with pro potential is ranked the 40th best freshman in the nation, according to DraftExpress. The site scouted Sima as a player who “lacks elite size or athleticism to be considered a top-shelf big man prospect from an NBA standpoint, but should nevertheless be a difference maker at the college level at St. John’s with a chance to get drafted down the road if his skill-level, feel for the game and motor continue to improve.”
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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.