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.
Johnnies Take Recruiting Hit as Shepard Heads West
St. John’s took a minor recruiting hit Thursday when Winston Shepard, a 6-foot-9 wing from Findlay Prep, committed to San Diego State over New Mexico.
St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin visited Findlay Prep Wednesday as the Johnnies tried to make a late run at Shepard, a versatile playmaker and lockdown defender averaging 15 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds.
“They started to get in late,” Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck told SNY.tv by phone. “Winston had it down to New Mexico and San Diego State.”
Peck compared Shepard to former Steve Fisher wings Jalen Rose at Michigan and Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State.
“He can handle the ball, and pass and make decisions on the perimeter,” Peck said. “Fish will give him the freedom to do similar things to Kawhi Leonard.”
St. John’s previously lost out on former Johnnies commit Ricardo Gathers when the 6-8 “Bayou Bull” chose Baylor earlier this month.
St. John’s remains involved with 6-9 shot-blocker Chris Obekpa of Our Savior New American, who recently visited DePaul and will take an unofficial to UConn this weekend, and 6-8 JaKarr Sampson of Brewster (N.H.) Academy. Sampson decommitted from St. John’s in the fall and is mulling St. John’s along with Kansas, Providence, Baylor, Florida and others.
Lavin is not permitted to comment on unsigned players but says he needs to sign about half a dozen players.
The team currently has just seven scholarship players competing under assistant Mike Dunlap while Lavin recovers from prostate cancer surgery.
“Now obviously, recruiting becomes critical,” Lavin said Thursday. “We have to land another strong class this year and that will build our team depth, and we’ll move forward from there.”
Lavin returns today from a West Coast recruiting trip and said he will be at Madison Square Garden Saturday for the UCLA game.
“I’ll watch the game in the Garden,” said Lavin, whose team is 10-16, 4-10 in the Big East.
A year ago, the Johnnies returned to Lavin’s former school and lost 66-59.
This year the game doesn’t quite have the same import for the coach.
“I really haven’t had much time to reflect on the significance of playing UCLA,” he said. “I think last year, naturally, because it was my first year back coaching and my year back to Pauley Pavilion and facing an opponent where I’d worked previously at that school for 12 years.
“But really coming up to this game, it’s just been more focused on continuing to elevate our team’s play and then…I’ve been expending the majority of my energy out on the road because we have to sign a class of five or six kids in April, so we’re kind of in that closing mode as we come down the home stretch of what looks to be a very promising recruiting class.”
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.