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Thursday / March 23.
  • Chris Mullin Says St. John’s Must be ‘Realistic’ in Recruiting

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    NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at St. John'sNEW YORK — In an ideal world for new St. John’s coach Chris Mullin, he and his staff would’ve taken Queens by storm on the recruiting front in their first few weeks on the job.

    After taking over last month, Mullin and assistants Barry “Slice” Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih met with key 2015 targets Brandon Sampson and Cheick Diallo in the hopes of convincing one or both to be part of something new in Queens.

    But the 6-foot-4 Sampson chose home-state LSU over St. John’s, while the 6-9 Diallo on Tuesday announced for Kansas over St. John’s, Kentucky, Pitt and Iowa State.

    Mullin is not permitted to discuss specific recruits, but during a lunch meeting Wednesday near campus with beat reporters, he said the staff — and fans — have to be “realistic” in their approach to recruiting.

    “This is a huge transition period,” Mullin said. “We’re always going to have really high expectations. We always want to get every single guy but to be realistic, to walk in the day recruiting started pretty much and try and forge relationships that had been fostered other places for years, I’m all into miracles but you also gotta be realistic about what you’re really doing kind of building this program.”

    With the addition Wednesday of Pittsburgh transfer Durand Johnson, St. John’s now has 10 players in the fold: Amar Alibegovic, Felix Balamou, Christian Jones, Rysheed Jordan and Chris Obekpa plus newcomers Yankuba SimaDarien Williams, Tariq Owens and Ron Mvouika. The 6-11 Owens will sit next season after transferring from Tennessee.

    That leaves three scholarships for 2015-16.

    They remain in the mix for 2015 Burlington (N.J.) Life Center guard Malik Ellison, who visited along with Johnson on Tuesday and will announce on Friday between St. John’s, Rutgers, Minnesota and South Carolina; as well as Italian guard Federico Mussini, who may or may not elect to play college in the U.S. versus remaining in Europe; Chicago guard Marcus LoVett, who has yet to take any official visits; and Greek 7-footer Georgios Papagiannis, who may make a decision on his future by June.

    The Red Storm continue to be in the mix for several immediately eligible transfers, including Florida guard Elijah Carter, a Paterson, N.J., native who played with Johnson at Brewster (N.H.) Academy. Johnson told he’s recruiting Carter to St. John’s.

    St. John’s is also working on recruiting several key 2016 targets, including the NY Rens duo of Rawle Alkins and Mustapha Heron, who will be among the biggest targets on the circuit this spring and summer, and Vermont Academy guard Bruce Brown.

    Obviously, landing a big-time target like a Diallo would probably have facilitated the recruitment of other elite players like Alkins and Heron.

    “I think that that’s how it’s worked in the past,” Mullin said, speaking generally. “I think that’s important. You still have to have the right fit. For some kids, the circumstances may be that it’s not right. You gotta find the right one and then you go from there.”

    Mullin said recruiting “hasn’t been as overwhelming as I’ve heard it would be” because it’s similar to what he did in the NBA.

    “We do a pretty fair amount in the NBA,” Mullin said. “There’s a recruiting piece to free agency and different scenarios so it’s not as foreign as you would think. In the NBA you do a lot of coercing / convincing just to absorb game plans, [by] players and coaches.

    “So I find in my conversations and meetings, there’s enough similarities where I don’t feel like I’ve never been in this world before.”

    Asked if he was “happy” with where the program is now in recruiting, Mullin said, “To me, [we have had] good meetings. It’s been good. Until those guys are in uniform and I’m out there on the court that’s when I’ll feel good or bad.”


    Mullin said he’s still evaluating people for the third assistant coaching job and has no timetable on hiring a replacement. Among those linked to the job is Chicago Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney, Mullin’s old friend from their days in the Big East. “There’s a lot of different candidates,” Mullin said…Mullin also said he hopes to play more games at Madison Square Garden. “I like to get to the point where we have to be in the Garden, that we’re selling the Garden out and it’s a must that we have to play there, like we can’t play here [Carnesecca Arena] anymore,” he said. He also likes Barclays Center for some games. “I’m a Brooklyn guy, I do like that arena….But the Garden is the world’s most famous arena. I think there is some mystique, some attraction there that you can’t deny.”

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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.