Chris Mullin Expecting Big Things From Rysheed Jordan, Chris Obekpa | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / June 18.
  • Chris Mullin Expecting Big Things From Rysheed Jordan, Chris Obekpa

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    NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-2nd Round-San Diego State vs St. John'sNEW YORK — As St. John’s transitioned coaches from Steve Lavin to Chris Mullin, the fates of their two most important players hung in the balance.

    Sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan could have opted to transfer or declare for the NBA Draft, and in fact was not there the first time Mullin met his new players after taking over for Lavin.

    Junior big man Chris Obekpa had been suspended for the NCAA Tournament after failing a drug test, and his future with the program was also highly uncertain.

    Considering that St. John’s was already losing a lot of firepower in graduating players D’Angelo Harrison, Sir’ Dominic Pointer and Phil Greene, and then proceeded to lose out on recruits Brandon Sampson and Cheick Diallo, the departures of Jordan and/or Obekpa could have been devastating.

    “Anytime you have guys that have played in the Big East, they have games under their belt, that have experience, especially when you’re losing a considerable amount of firepower, it’s really important,” Mullin said Wednesday.

    After averaging 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season, the 6-foot-4 Jordan should have a huge role with the 2015-16 Red Storm. He is their only proven returning scorer on a team that will have a slew of new faces.

    “He had a good year,” Mullin said of Jordan. “I think he’s capable of more. I wouldn’t put [the offense] 55 percent on his shoulders.”

    Jordan considered declaring for the NBA, but could have gone undrafted.

    “When you’re coming from life or death situations where he’s coming from, I’m sure he considered it,” Kamal Yard, Jordan’s AAU coach in Philadelphia, told SNY.tv. “Cooler heads prevailed and he made the right decision in going back to school.”

    Now Jordan can help his NBA stock if he stays on the straight and narrow and does his academic work.

    “I think he can help himself a great deal,” Yard said. “To have a person of coach Mullin’s acumen and pedigree vouch for you, for that life you’re trying to attain, being a part of that NBA, I think that’s good for the kid.”

    Jordan can only benefit spending time with Mullin, a Naismith Hall of Famer.

    “He’s got tremendous talent,” Mullin said. “The immediate future, he’s probably getting through finals. That’s the immediate future. As far as talent, he’s really gifted and I think I can really help him develop. We had some good sessions in the gym. That’s the basketball part, the other part will play out.”

    As for Obekpa, Mullin said he didn’t feel the big man owed the team an apology after missing the NCAA Tournament.

    “All of us have made mistakes at this table,” he said. “No one pitches a perfect game in life. Sometime in baseball but not in life. The best thing you can do is learn from your mistakes, so I’m not really here to judge the past.”

    If he’s right and motivated, the 6-9 Obekpa should continue to be a defensive force blocking and altering shots, even if his offense is severely limited. He averaged 5.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.

    “The past two or three weeks I’ve been here he’s been tremendous, on time, energetic, just really, really enthusiastic,” Mullin said.

    As for who else might step up to help provide offense, Mullin said it was too early to tell.

    “I think that’s gonna take the summer to sort that out,” he said.

    The good news, for now, is that Jordan and Obekpa are back.

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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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