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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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Thursday / December 14.
  • Freshman Harrison Leading & Recruiting for Johnnies

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    NEW YORK — St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap wasn’t convinced that freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison had what it takes to be a leader when he first arrived on campus from Missouri City, Texas.

    “He was pretty wild when he first game to us,” Dunlap said after the Johnnies lost an exciting Big East battle to Villanova, 79-76 in overtime, Saturday at MSG. “Sometimes it was misdirected passion in terms of just because he’s anxious and that, but that’s us learning how to work with him.”

    But after going back and forth with Villanova junior guard Maalik Wayns on big shot after big shot down the stretch, Harrison finished with a career-high 28 points on 8-for-15 shooting before fouling out.

    He now appears to be becoming more and more of the leader St. John’s needs on a team with just seven recruited scholarship players.

    “He’s a beauty in terms of his competitive spirit,” Dunlap said. “I love players like D’Angelo because as they mature, they end up being something very special and I think he’s going to be a very, very special player.”

    Harrison ranks second behind teammate Moe Harkless among Big East rookie scorers (14.6 ppg), 11th in rebounding (4.0) and second in steals (1.67)

    Villanova coach Jay Wright said he believes outside of UConn’s Andre Drummond, Harrison is among the best freshman in the league.

    “Yeah, definitely,” Wright said.

    Harrison has also been key in terms of recruiting other players to the Johnnies.

    He has known point guard Jamal Branch since middle school, and was in fact a key reason why Branch opted to transfer to St. John’s from Texas A&M. (He must sit out until December.)

    “Jamal’s just a well-rounded guy,” Harrison told SNY.tv. “He fits perfectly in the group, so it was just a good fit for him.”

    Branch, in turn, has said he will go to work on trying to get 6-8 power forward Ricardo Gathers of Louisiana to come back to St. John’s fater he decommitted.

    Still, Gathers is considering Baylor, Florida and N.C. State in addition to St. John’s and told FiveStarBasketball.com the Johnnies “got a lot of work to do right now.”

    “But they are missing a lot of players right now,” Gathers added. “We’ll see who goes there next year and hopefully, I’m one of them but if not, best of luck to them.”

    For his part, Harrison knows the Johnnies need to add some big guys for next season to bulk up a frontcourt that now features only Harkless (16 points, 7 rebounds), who is more of a wing, and God’sgift Achiuwa.

    “A couple more bigs wouldn’t hurt,” Harrison told SNY.tv. “But we’re just going to keep fighting and as we mature, we’ll be alright.”

    St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin is involved with several bigs, including Gathers, 6-8 St. John’s de-commit JaKarr Sampson, 6-9 Chris Obekpa of OUr Savior New American and 6-9 Orlando Sanchez of Monroe (N.Y.) College.

    “We all have good relationships with the people they recruit,” Harrison told SNY.tv.. “That’s what they’re recruiting them because the’re not going to recruit nobody that we don’t really know.

    “The coaching staff does a good job recruiting basically our friends so we reach out to our friends, hit them up. It’s not always necessarily about basketball but just St. John’s and show them it’s a good fit and it’s a good coaching staff here.”

    FREE THROWS

    Dunlap said he’s says he’s “not opposed to” keeping freshman Amir Garrett in the starting lineup going forward, but added they always keep a “hot chair” so no player gets comfortable in the starting lineup. Dunlap added that “it will take him literally another month before he’s up to speed with our playbook.”…Dunlap said Sir’Dominic Pointer, who attempted the game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of the OT, was the “fourth option” on that play. It was designed for Harkless to take the shot, but the play broke down….Johnnies coach Steve Lavin was in the Garden for the game.

    Photo: Daily News

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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.