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.
**The videos below with God’sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless were shot last week during Big East Media Day.
NEW YORK — St. John’s was missing its head coach and one of its assistants, but God was on their side.
God’sgift Achiuwa, a former JUCO star originally from Nigeria, was one of six players in double-figures with a team-best 21 points as new-look St. John’s beat Division 2 C.W. Post, 110-80, in an exhibition game at Carnesecca Arena.
Fans began chanting “God’s on our side” during a first half in which Gift went 7-for-7 for 14 points, scoring on a variety of athletic moves near the basket.
“That really got me going because I believe in God so much,” Achiuwa said. “It was motivating.”
Phil Greene and D’Angelo Harrison scored 20 points apiece for the Johnnies, who were without head coach Steve Lavin (prostate cancer surgery) and assistant Rico Hines (torn Achilles’). Greene was 8-of-10 overall, and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“They’re very, very talented offensively,” said C.W. Post coach Chris Casey, a former St. John’s assistant under Norm Roberts. “Their length and athleticism hurt us.
“A couple times we actually guarded well and they’re just so long and athletic that they can still get a good shot over you and beat us with their size. They’re a very talented team.”
Despite playing just seven scholarship players because three freshmen were declared academically ineligible before the season, St. John’s dished out 24 assists to just 10 turnovers. Nurideen Lindsey led the way with seven assists to go with his 16 points.
“We play a pass-first brand of basketball and we did that last year and we convinced those guys that that would take them to uncharted waters,” said St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap, who ran the show in Lavin’s stead.
“While coach isn’t here, everybody else is the caretaker of his branding. And so yeah, I like the way they shared the ball.”
Greene surprised with his accuracy from downtown and was efficient overall on the night.
“I shoot when it’s time to,” Greene said.
Dunlap high praise for Greene’s overall game.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and he’s a sneaky, quick athlete, one,” Dunlap said. “Two is that he has a halfcourt temperament and he knows how to run the point from a halfcourt game, so I think that’s something that’s special in him. And three is that he has an appetite for competition. He’s a quiet competitor at the highest level.”
Freshman Moe Harkless of Queens chipped in with 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Johnnies drew even with C.W. Post at 36 boards apiece.
Size and rebounding will be an issue for the Johnnies all season, or at least as long as they play with seven scholarship players.
“He’s a very long player and he can helps us on the defensive boards,” Dunlap said of Harkless.
Achiuwa is generously listed at 6-9 even though he’s clearly not as tall as the 6-8 Harkless or the 6-6 Sir’Dominic Pointer (12 points).
Still, Achiuwa showed remarkable quickness and agility near the basket and was certainly a crowd favorite.
“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Lindsey said of Achiuwa. “He runs the floor like a deer. I’ve never seen anybody get from rim to rim, baseline to baseline, at his size as fast as him.
“We call him a man-child,” Greene added. “He runs up and down the floor like a guard and we know no big man in the country can stick with him fullcourt so he’s going to be open a lot in a lot of games.”
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.