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.
Marcus LoVett Shines in St. John’s’ Season-Opening Win
BY CHRIS BARCANEW YORK — St. John’s has a keeper on its hands.
Dynamic redshirt freshman Marcus LoVett was as good as advertised in Friday’s season opener, as the point guard dominated on both sides of the ball to lead the Red Storm (1-0) past Bethune-Cookman, 100-53.
“It was fun playing with my brothers out there,” LoVett said. “It was great. It felt so good to be out there and able to play.”
Despite ceding the start at point guard to sophomore Malik Ellison, LoVett was the brightest star in a young but impressive backcourt on Friday at Carnesecca Arena.
After missing all of last season as a partial qualifier, LoVett showed off his offensive chops by scoring 10 of the Johnnies’ last 15 points of the first half, including eight straight in one stretch.
He dropped another six in the second half, ending the night with 19 points and seven assists.
Scoring on smooth mid range jump shots, threes and athletic drives to the basket, LoVett earned some high praise from second-year coach Chris Mullin.
“I though that he had total command when he was out there,” Mullin said. “He made good decisions. His explosiveness and speed is really valuable and he generated a lot with his unselfishness.”
LoVett also showed off a knack for distributing the ball. He fed teammates driving to the basket with multiple eye-opening bounce passes in traffic; at one point even flexing to the crowd before Ellison had a chance to turn his laser of a one-handed feed in transition into a layup early in the second half.
“That’s what I’m here to do, I’m the point guard,” LoVett said. “I have to put people in the right position to succeed.”
His tough defense also led to a handful of errant passes by Bethune-Cookman ball handlers, smothering the Wildcats along the perimeter along with Ellison, freshman Shamorie Ponds and sophomore guard Federico Mussini.
It’s been anticipated that LoVett and Ponds’ arrival would take pressure off Mussini, last year’ starting point guard, as the Italian wouldn’t be relied on to be the team’s top offensive weapon.
That was true Friday, as a seemingly much more relaxed Mussini came off the bench and mostly played off the ball, en route to a 20-point, 5-for-6 from three-point range effort.
“They’re both great passers and they can find me,” Mussini said of LoVett and Ponds. “They’re really unselfish players.”
Like LoVett, Ponds also impressed in his first game in St. John’s red and white.
After some early missed shots, the Brooklyn product settled into more of a utility role, ending the first half with six points on a pair of three-pointers, three rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
Last year’s PSAL city title game co-MVP finished the night with just eight points and three assists, but he showed off some impressive court vision, feeding big men Bashir Ahmed and Yankuba Sima with impressive baseline passes in traffic.
“They’re a very unselfish group,” Mullin said. “Their talents are very different and together they form a good unit.”
The Johnnies will play one more home game, Monday against Binghamton, before traveling to Minnesota to take on the Gophers next Friday.
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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.