January 2011 | Page 17 of 18 | Zagsblog
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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.
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Monday / January 20.
  • When Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard takes his team into Louisville Wednesday night, he will be facing the dynamic duo of his father and his mentor.

    Ralph Willard is the associate head coach of the Cardinals (11-2, 0-0 Big East) and Kevin spent six seasons under head coach Rick Pitino, including 2004-5, when the Cardinals reached the Final Four.

    “I don’t know any of these players,” Kevin told the Louisville Courier-Journal of the current Louisville players. “When I first came back, my first time at Iona [in 2007], I knew all the players I’d just left, so it was very emotional.”

    Pitino reportedly advised Kevin not to leave Iona for Seton Hall (7-7, 1-1), arguing the program had been “devastated” under former coach Bobby Gonzalez.

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when St. John’s was picked to finish sixth in the 16-team Big East.

    Many people thought first-year coach Steve Lavin wouldn’t truly make his mark until the 2011-12 season and beyond.

    That’s when Lavin’s Top 3 recruiting class filled with star players from New York, Ohio, Texas and California comes to Queens.

    Yet here we are in early January and the Johnnies are a perfect 3-0 in Big East play with road wins over West Virginia and Providence and an exciting 61-58 victory over No. 13 Georgetown in an ESPN “Big Monday” game at Madison Square Garden.

    The Johnnies have now won five straight and ended a 14-game losing streak to ranked teams. St. John’s (10-3, 3-0) is off to its best start since 1999-2000 when they were 4-0 in the league.

    Mississippi State junior forward Elgin Bailey (pictured) will transfer and and sophomore forward Renardo Sidney has fulfulled his suspension. The two were involved in a fistfight in the stands Dec. 23 in Hawaii.

    “Elgin told me of his plans to transfer, and we wish him the best as he moves on,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Elgin has had to deal with some very tough injuries, but he’s worked very hard to get to where he is now. Wherever he ends up, I hope he’s able to have a lot of success.

    “As for this team, it’s time to move on and learn from these mistakes. Hopefully, by sending Sid and Elgin home following the incident, a strong message was sent that this type of behavior is unacceptable.”

    Bailey, a native of New Orleans, appeared in 74 games during his career at Mississippi State and recorded 229 points and 161 rebounds to go along with his 44 blocked shots.

    The Big East named St. John’s guard Dwight Hardy and DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin the winners of the league’s weekly men’s basketball honors for the week ending Jan. 2.

     
    Hardy is the first Johnnies player named Big East Player of the Week in seven years. He averaged 20.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, shooting 52.2 percent from the field (12-of-23) and 100 percent (14-of-14) from the free throw line, to help St. John’s to a 2-0 start in Big East play with a pair of road wins. He scored 20 points with six rebounds in an 81-71 win at West Virginia and had 21 points and six boards in a 67-65 win at Providence. Hardy leads the Red Storm in scoring at 16.3 points per game.

    By MIKE VORKUNOV

    NEW YORK — The Lance Stephenson who made his name at Madison Square Garden and the one who arrived there Sunday are not one and the same. 

    The former saw his place in New York City prep lore crystallized with four straight PSAL championships while at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. The latter can’t get himself off of the inactive list for the Indiana Pacers.

    Yesterday seems so far away.

    But whenever Stephenson steps back into the Garden, as he did when Indiana fell to the Knicks, 98-92, he gets that old bravado back.

    “I feel like I can’t miss on this court when I’m playing,” he said.