Transfer Rasheem Dunn could be the X-factor for St. John's, picked ninth in Big East Conference | Zagsblog
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Wednesday / September 23.
  • Transfer Rasheem Dunn could be the X-factor for St. John’s, picked ninth in Big East Conference

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    NEW YORK — With Shamorie Ponds now in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, a new era has dawned at St. John’s.

    The key question for the Johnnies entering Mike Anderson’s first year at the helm is who will man the point guard duties in the post-Ponds Era?

    St. John’s was picked ninth in the 10-team league as questions loom about how the team will shake out in the first season since Chris Mullin left the program.

    “We got some guys that are starting to figure some things out,” Anderson said Thursday at Big East Media Day. “We’re going to hopefully have more than one or two guys that can man that point guard position. I think the more guys that you have out there that can handle the basketball, it makes you a much more efficient team.”

    A source this week told me St. John’s is “very confident” that Cleveland State transfer Rasheem Dunn will secure a waiver from the NCAA to play this year, which would give an immediate boost to the backcourt. A combo guard who played with Ponds at Thomas Jefferson High School, Dunn transferred to Cleveland State in May of 2018, only to see head coach Dennis Felton fired in July of this year.

    Dunn averaged 15.4 points and 5.7 rebounds two seasons ago at St. Francis.

    “I think that will definitely help, he helps in practice every day,” senior Mustapha Heron told me of Dunn. “He just brings that Brooklyn mentality, that hard-nosed tough basketball every day on both ends of the floor.”

    Heron expects Dunn to get the waiver.

    “I think his waiver will go through,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any reason it shouldn’t.”

    If Dunn does land the waiver, junior wing L.J. Figueroa says he’ll be the “X-factor of the team.” “Very aggressive, plays defense, plays with a lot of heart, the type of system coach Anderson wants,” he said.

    Aside from Dunn, St. John’s has 6-foot freshman John McGriff, 6-3 sophomore Greg Williams Jr. and 6-4 Monmouth grad transfer Nick Rutherford in the mix at the point.

    “You got Nick Rutherford, he missed out on some of the summer because he was finishing up summer school,” Anderson said. “He’s catching up, I think he’ll impact us. I think once we get Greg out on the floor, who’s had a back problem, he’s been out for a while, get him back, I think he’ll be able to help us with the basketball as well. And then you got Johnathan McGriff and Rasheem.”

    Heron said Williams “brings explosiveness.”

    “He’s got young legs, he doesn’t have that mileage on him yet but definitely Greg is somebody on both ends of the floor that is a pest, he’s a bigger pest,” he said. “He’s somebody that as he starts getting healthy is definitely going to help us.”

    Anderson also expects Heron and Figueroa, who both made the Preseason All-Big East Second Team, to handle the ball, too.

    “We’ve been working with Mustapha and L.J. , you’re going to see those guys in a lot in what we do,” Anderson said. “But I think in order for us to be successful we’ve got to have some other guys as options.”

    Heron said multiple players can handle the ball and initiate the offense.

    “We got guards that can play 1-3, all of our guards can play multiple positions,” he told me. “I don’t think there’s a set point guard. We all handle the ball, we all bring it up. We rebound, we run.”

    As for Figueroa, he believes his experience playing with pros in the Dominican Republic helped expand his game. He also believes that with Anderson’s pressing style of play made famous at Arkansas, St. John’s won’t need a traditional point guard.

    “The way we play basketball, our pace is up and down,” he said. “So it’s really just catch the ball, push the ball up the floor no matter who is taking it out, who’s pushing it up. We definitely have a lot of guards that can fill that position.”

    As for being picked ninth, that’s just more motivation.

    “I feel like you always gotta play with a chip on your shoulder,” Figueroa said. “But definitely we have something to prove having a brand-new coach, brand-new team, a lot of young guys. We definitely have a lot to prove.”

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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.