Daniss Jenkins will be the straw that stirs the drink for St. John's: Pitino | Zagsblog
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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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Monday / September 25.
  • Daniss Jenkins will be the straw that stirs the drink for St. John’s: Pitino

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    NEW YORK — Daniss Jenkins was Rick Pitino’s first commit at St. John’s back in April, but it took five months for Jenkins to officially join the St. John’s roster.

    It took some serious work for the 6-foot-4 Jenkins to take summer courses and graduate from Iona.

    “He just had to pass all the courses, and it was a tedious summer for him,” Pitino told me in a private box at the U.S. Open Wednesday night in between matches.

    Now that he’s on the roster, Pitino says Jenkins will be the straw that stirs the drink for the Red Storm during his first year in a return to the rugged Big East.

    “He has something that nobody else on the team has, he makes everybody else better,” Pitino said. “He’s the only player outside of RJ Luis who has that type of ability so Daniss, we needed him more than any player on the team because nobody anybody better except Daniss.”

    The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points and 4.9 assists at Iona, which led the MAAC and ranked top-50 in Division I. He played his first two seasons at the University of the Pacific, the 2021-22 campaign at Odessa College and last season at Iona.

    “I’ve got 12 guys that can really play but nobody makes anybody better but Daniss, so that was big for us” Pitino said.

    “Great defensive player, great athlete, playmaker.”

    Meantime, Pitino says incoming freshman guard Simeon Wilcher has great upside but still has a lot to learn. The 6-4 Wilcher starred at New Jersey powerhouse Roselle Catholic and initially committed to North Carolina before decommitting and landing at St. John’s in June.

    “Simeon will play but he needs a year of development,” Pitino said. “He will be a star but it’s not going to be this year because he has a lot to learn. He has to learn how play the point. He has to learn how to run a pick-and-roll. He has to learn so many things, but his ability is off the charts. Great kid.”

    He added: “Everybody’s gonna leave [after this season] and he’ll be the star.”

    Pitino is also impressed by Luis, the 6-7 transfer from UMass who was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team after averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds on 46% shooting and 36% from deep as a freshman.

    “RJ Luis is the guy who has the most ability of all of them because he can make people better,” Pitino said. “Six-seven, he knows how to pass, he can score, he can jump, he’s got the full gamut of ability.”

    All told, Pitino and his staff brought in 12 new players and kept two holdovers from the Mike Anderson Era in big man Joel Soriano and forward Drissa Traore. With 14 total players, one will have to be a walk-on, but Pitino did not want to disclose which player it was.

    Pitino, who has previously coached at Providence and Louisville in the Big East, called the Big East “the best basketball conference by far.”

    In the latest ESPN.com preseason rankings, defending NCAA champion UConn is ranked No. 5, followed by No. 10 Marquette, No. 13 Creighton, No. 16 Villanova and No. 25 St. John’s

    “I’m hoping we can be in the middle of the pack of a dynamic league like the old days where eight or nine teams got a [NCAA Tournament] bid,” he said.

    “And right now you’ve got [five] legitimate teams ranked in the Top 25 and then you’ve got St. John’s and Georgetown banging on the door.”


    Pitino told a story about how in the 1990s Andre Agassi read his book Success is a Choice and offered to fly Pitino from Kentucky where he was coaching to Flushing Meadows, Queens for the Open.

    That was the heyday of the Agassi-Pete Sampras rivalry in men’s tennis and Pitino would’ve seen some great tennis.

    But the coach was too focused on his team and declined Agassi’s invitation.

    He regretted it but finally got his opportunity Wednesday night when he saw American Madison Keys and world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz advance to the semifinals.

    Asked if he could get a point off Alcaraz or his opponent, No. 12 seed Alexander Zverev, Pitino joked, “No, 100 [percent], no.”

    For the record, Pitino likes 23-time major champion Novak Djokovic, who will re-gain the world No. 1 ranking on Monday, to win a record-tying 24th major title.

    We could be headed for another instant classic between Djokovic and Alcaraz in Sunday’s final.

    “I played Novak in Cincinnati, I played Carlos here,” Zverev said.” I think they’re very, very similar from the level of the game. There’s some things that Novak does better, there’s some things Carlos does better.

    “But yeah, other guys gotta catch up, that’s as simple as that.”


    St. John’s this week is hosting two key recruits in 6-6 four-star Patrick School wing Jaiden Glover, who arrives Thursday, and 7-foot three-star big man Khaman Maker of Trinity International Schools in Las Vegas, who comes Friday.

    The Red Storm are in great shape with Glover, who could have a big role on next year’s team with so many players graduating. He did also recently visit St. Joe’s.

    “I like it,” he told 247Sports.com of St. John’s. “Obviously [Pitino’s] coaching experience in the NBA, I can’t wait to see how they perform this year with him as their coach.”

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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.