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.
Vince Cole knows he will have a bigger role for St. John’s if L.J. Figueroa leaves
By ADAM ZAGORIA
As soon as L.J. Figueroa put his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal on Monday, St. John’s coach Mike Anderson called Vince Cole to let him know about it.
St. John’s assistant T.J. Cleveland followed up with another call to Cole on Tuesday morning.
Cole, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound All-American shooting guard from USC-Salkehatchie, committed to St. John’s last September. And now he will be counted on to play a bigger offensive role if Figueroa leaves.
“I got to talk to the coaches a little bit about it,” Cole said Tuesday by phone from South Carolina, where he has been training in his school’s gym.
“Their message was “just get ready to come in and play basketball, play my game. Can’t really have that JUCO to D-1 late transition, just have to be ready from the jump.”
One source close to Figueroa said he’s considering all options, including remaining in the NBA Draft, the NBA G League, transferring and even returning to St. John’s., although it doesn’t appear likely he will return to the Big East School.
The Johnnies would then lose their top two scorers from last season in Figueroa (14.5 ppg) and Mustapha Heron (13.8 pg), leaving Rasheem Dunn (11.9 ppg) and Julian Champagnie (9.9 ppg) as the leading returning scorers.
Cole, meantime, averaged 18.7 points and 6.2 rebounds last season while shooting 47 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep. He feels he can score at the D-1 level, too.
“Yessir, I feel like I can score at any level,” Cole said. “I know it’s going to be a faster pace and once I get on campus, I feel like everything will be a whole lot easier just getting in the flow of everything.”
Cole said he’s permitted to be on campus July 6.
New York has suffered the most of any state from the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 367,000 cases and in excess of 23,000 deaths as of Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the number of deaths is still tragic “but relative to where we’ve been, we’re on the other side of the curve.”
Cole and his junior college team were preparing for the National Junior College Athletic Association national basketball championship at Hutchinson (KS) Community College when it was canceled by the pandemic in March.
“We just got back from winning the conference championship,” he said. We were getting ready to practice and our coaches told us we wouldn’t be able to go to Hutch in Kansas.”
Cole felt his team could’ve done some damage at nationals.
“We felt like we were the best team and we were only getting better,” he said. “And we were really close together. It was really hard, not so much me as my other teammates who didn’t get a chance to get seen enough. I know a lot of them would have blown up just like I did.”
Now he’s looking forward to teaming up with his new teammates, including 6-10 South Carolina native Isaih Moore, to do some damage in the Big East.
“Really everybody,” he said. “I saw Julian had a great season. I’m really looking forward to playing with those guys and learning from a lot of guys, like David [Caraher], Ra[sheem] Dunn, Isaih of course. We get to run that back again.
“I’m really just looking forward to being on the team.”
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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.