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Friday / July 12.
  • Chris Mullin Wins Opening Press Conference, Now Must Get Cracking Recruiting

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    CBhnV1FWoAAEQqINEW YORK — In front of more than 1,000 St. John’s fans, alums, boosters and media members, Chris Mullin hit it out of the park in his introductory press conference.

    The former St. John’s player-turned-head-coach told the faithful inside Carnesecca Arena everything they wanted — and needed — to hear.

    His players would be the fittest around, they would plays their “tails off,” they would be good citizens and the ultimate goal would be to get the Red Storm back to where Mullin led them during that glorious 1985 run that saw three Big East teams playing on the season’s final weekend: the Final Four.

    Then he hit the nail right on the head.

    “It’s my job to recruit the right players and develop them the right way so we get there,” Mullin said.

    Mullin may have just come from the NBA, but he seems to understand that college basketball is all about recruiting players talented enough to get you where John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski and Bo Ryan are this week: the Final Four.

    “Recruiting right away, as soon as this press conference is over it starts, hit the ground running,” Mullin said to a huge ovation.

    “I guaranteee you’ll see me in the public school gyms and the Catholic school gyms and the AAU gyms all over New York City. You don’t have to tell me where they are. I know how to get in the back doors, if not I know the janitor in the gym so I’m gonna get there. I think it’s really important that we dominate New York. If there’s a good player in New York City he needs to come to St John’s if he wants to play the best basketball.”

    Mullin made a smart move in making Iowa State assistant and former St. John’s manager Matt Abdelmassih his first hire and gave him props during his presser, calling him  “one of the best recruiters in the country.”

    Abdelmassih was Iowa State’s lead recruiter for 6-foot-9 Mcdonald’s All-American Cheick Diallo, and sources told SNY.tv you can expect St. John’s to get “aggressive” now for Diallo, who is considering St. John’s, Iowa State, Kentucky, Kansas and Pittsburgh.

    Diallo said during the McDonald’s Game on ESPN Wednesday night that he might announce “maybe after Jordan game or before Jordan game,” which is April 17.

    While former coach Steve Lavin did not recruit 2016 guard Rawle Alkins, the top player in New York City out of Christ the King, Mullin on Wednesady reached out to CTK head coach Joe Arbitello and offered Alkins a scholarship.

    Alkins is already being courted hard by Villanova, Indiana, Cincinnati and others, but Mullin and his staff would be wise to put the full court press on him. He is reminiscent of a young Lance Stephenson, who former St. John’s coach Norm Roberts lost to Cincinnati.

    Meantime, considering St. John’s lost a core of key seniors to graduation and the status of Chris Obekpa (who was at the press conference) and Rysheed Jordan (who was not) remains in limbo, you can expect St. John’s to also get aggressive for some immediately eligible transfers. That was Iowa State’s M.O. and the Red Storm may take a page out of their book.

    “I know that at the end of the day the blueprint that we had [at Iowa State] might not be able to work exactly the way, but I do feel the one thing that I do have is that blueprint,” Abdelmassih said, speaking generally. “We inherited a program that wasn’t where it was supposed to be and coming into this situation, we’re going to get it to that Top 10 program that we really strive to be in, where this program deserves to be. And that blueprint will be executed as soon as you guys are done with me.”

    Abdelmassih said St. John’s would recruit “nationally,” which was something former coach Steve Lavin also did, bringing in players from Texas, California, Detroit and all over.

    Mullin and his staff shouldn’t forget about New Jersey, either. Lavin recruited Isaiah Briscoe —  who ultimately picked Kentucky — but New Jersey has had more talent over the past five or so years than New York.

    Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kyle Anderson, Dakari Johnson, Tyler Roberson, Tyler Ennis, Chris Silva, Malachi Richardson and Moustapha Diagne all played high school ball in New Jersey, and the state is loaded with still more talent now.

    Consider Tyus Battle, Bryce Aiken, Trevon Duval, Nate Pierre-Louis and Naz Reid among others.

    “I think it’s very important to recruit New Jersey hard,” Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff, who coached Briscoe and Reid, told SNY.tv. “New Jersey regularly has some of the top players and teams in the country so I think it’s important to establish relationships here.”

    St. Pat’s coach Chris Chavannes went even stronger in his comments.

    “When Isaiah Briscoe was considering going to St. John’s he started recruiting Dupree McBrayer to go with him,” he said. “I have not heard from a St. John’s coach in four years. The last time I heard from Rutgers was when Danny Hurley was there.  I’ve recently heard from NBA GMs regarding Deandre Bembry [of St. Joe’s] more than I heard from both of those schools. Jersey has great high school basketball, yet hardly any of our kids are staying home.”

    While Mullin sounded a bit old school by saying he wants St. John’s to be “first and foremost a New York team,” he conceded he “understood the landscape has changed a little bit.”

    Abdelmassih knows New Jersey is loaded, probably more loaded than New York with talent.

    “We don’t want the kids to leave the city, we don’t want them to leave New Jersey,” he said. “We do want them to leave New Jersey, we want them to come to St. john’s. We want the local kids to come to the Big East powerhouse that we know this should be.”

    Mullin won the press conference, now it’s time to get to work recruiting.

    Photo: Bruce Beck / NBC Sports

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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.

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