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.
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After missing on Jordan Riley, St. John’s must land some New York-area stars
By ADAM ZAGORIA
There was a time when St. John’s could build a Final Four-type team simply by accumulating the best players in the greater New York City area.
New York natives Chris Mullin, Walter Berry and Mark Jackson all starred on the 1985 Final Four team.
But those days are long gone and even if coach Mike Anderson and his staff could gather together the city’s best players, it likely wouldn’t be good enough to go deep in March. The overall talent level in New York City has dropped off over the years, and many of the city’s top players now leave the Big Apple for national powerhouses, New Jersey titans or New England prep schools.
Still, the Johnnies do need to keep adding talent from the New York area, and so while missing out on Jordan Riley on Friday isn’t the worst thing in the world, it is a setback in terms of building the local talent base. Riley pledged to Big East rival Georgetown after also considering St. John’s, Kansas, UConn and Florida State.
“New York City doesn’t produce the number of elite players we once did,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski said this week by phone.
“And St. John’s could be a national power in the past based on just recruiting locally, with subway tokens. They can’t do that any longer. Still, what’s very important, to the extent they want to bill themselves as New York’s team, they’ve got to get New York players and they’ve got to get many of the good players in the area, or at least some of the good players in the area.”
St. John’s has done a good job in landing local talent under Anderson and must continue to do so to be competitive in the brutal Big East.
Brooklyn’s Shamorie Ponds was St. John’s most recent star, while the current roster includes Brooklyn natives Rasheem Dunn and Julian Champagnie, as well as Marcellus Earlington of Stony Point. Two incoming freshmen — Posh Alexander and Dylan Wusu — teamed up at Our Savior Lutheran and figure to make an impact for the Johnnies.
“Will that make them a national power? No, not just based on that,” Konchalski said. “But that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to secure your recruiting borders and build a fan base that way.”
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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.