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.
NEW YORK — St. John’s coach Steve Lavin freely admits that the 2010-11 college basketball season was fourth on his list of priorities when he accepted the job in March.
Because he was taking over a team with nine seniors and no commits for 2010, Lavin had to prioritize recruiting and hiring a staff ahead of the games themselves.
“When I first took over the focus was on picking up one or two recruits in that 2010 class because we were so far behind in getting hired so late,” Lavin said recently. “We were fortunate to get Dwayne Polee.
“Then the focus went to the staff, trying to secure a first-rate staff. Then it turned to 2011 recruiting and then it’s turned to the 2010-11 season.”
Having locked up a six-member recruiting class for 2011 that is ranked among the Top 5 nationally, Lavin, the former UCLA coach, must now turn his attention to the start of the season in his hometown of San Francisco.
The Johnnies, picked sixth in the Big East, open at St. Mary’s in a game that will air at 2 a.m. Tuesday as part of ESPN’s 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon.
Forty hours later, the Red Storm will host Columbia in their home opener at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday. (New Columbia head coach Kyle Smith is a former St. Mary’s assistant.)
“We’re definitely just going to have a great year and bring all the energy and excitement back to St. John’s basketball,” St. John’s senior wing D.J. Kennedy, a preseason second-team All-Big East pick, said in the above video interview.
Lavin brought his players to the Bay Area on Saturday to see the sights, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
“I think it’s important when you travel with your team to do some educational or community service related activities,” Lavin said. “So we’ll go to Alcatraz, get a tour of that. We’ll also go up the Golden Gate Bridge. We’ll do some community service as well. But the main objective of this trip is to get a `W’ against a quality team in Saint Mary’s.”
Under head coach Randy Bennett, the Gaels are coming off a Sweet 16 appearance last season and are led by guards Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova.
“It’s great to bring a Big East team out here,” Bennett told the Contra-Costa Times. “They return 10 seniors and they have a chance to be a good team. Steve Lavin’s coaching them and it’s his debut back, so that’s exciting.”
Polee, who was a schoolboy star in Los Angeles, is also returning to the West Coast for his college debut.
“As a team, we have prepared strenuously throughout the summer and fall leading up to this one game that’s going to start our season,” he said. “We are just trying to start the season off right. Everyone is excited, but we know what we have to do to get the win.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.