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 Picked 5th in Big East, But Have Potential to Go Deep
NEW YORK — St. John’s had four players decorated with Big East Preseason honors and received two first-place votes in the Coaches’ Poll.
Yet somehow the Johnnies landed fifth among 10 teams.
Did a couple of coaches vote them eighth, ninth or 10th?
We may never know, but at least one coach believes Steve Lavin’s club has as much — if not more — talent than any team in the new-look league.
“I think they’re as good as anybody in the league,” said Marquette coach Buzz Williams, whose team was slotted first and received five first-place votes.
“I would say that they’re for sure 1 or 2 in regards to talent in the league. I would agree with whoever voted for them first. I think they’re really good.”
Junior guard D’Angelo Harrison was picked to the Preseason All-Big East First Team, while sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson — the reigning Rookie of the Year — -was named to the Second Team. Sophomore center Chris Obekpa was named Honorable Mention.
Freshman guard Rysheed Jordan was selected the Preseason Rookie of the Year.
This is the best and deepest team of Lavin’s four-year tenure in Queens.
“The way that we’re all set up, I don’t even know if I’m going to start, that’s how good this team is,” Harrison told SNY.tv before letting out a big laugh. “I really don’t.”
Still, Harrison said he didn’t mind being picked fifth in the league.
“I like it,” he said. “I mean, we haven’t proved anything yet. That makes us like, ‘Ok, fifth, really?'”
The 6-foot-4 Jordan out of Philly Vaux Roberts could be the X-factor, and Harrison said his teammates are encouraging the rookie to be more aggressive with his own shot.
“Rysheed, we’re trying to get him to shoot more,” Harrison said. “He can get by anybody. He can finish, he just chooses not to. And he’s freakishly athletic, which I didn’t know.”
Right now, Harrison loves the fact that Jordan is dishing and finding Harrison, Sampson, Max Hooper and his other teammates, but he wants the freshman to score, too.
“We need him to shoot more,” Harrison said. “You gotta show people that you can score first, then you can help everybody else.”
Big things are expected at St. John’s this year, and it will fall on Lavin’s shoulders if they aren’t accomplished.
The NCAA East Regional final is slated for Madison Square Garden in 2014, but St. John’s can’t be placed in the East because the Garden is their home floor.
That doesn’t matter.
They just want to get to the NCAA Tournament and try to make a run.
“We want to not only get to the postseason,” Lavin said, “but be in position to do something special once we get there.”
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.