THE TO RC H P RESENTS
COURTSIDE 2017- 2018 ED ITION
THE ANNUAL RED STORM BASKETBALL PREVIEW
INSIDE THE ISSUE Name A Better Duo .................4 Ponds and LoVett are ready for Act II
A Star Is Born
Akina Wellere shines for the Red Storm
Top 10 Players ..........................18 The best players in St. John’s men’s basketball history
Hall of Fame Reunion
Ewing, Mullin ready to renew rivalry
Legend in the Making
Tartamella enjoying long run of success in Queens
THE ANNUAL RED STORM BASKETBALL PREVIEW
TORCH EDITORIAL BOARD XCV Suzanne Ciechalski Editor-in-Chief
Beverly Danquah Features Editor
Bryant Rodriguez Managing Editor
Courtney Dixon Chief Copy Editor
Dylan Hornik Sports Editor
Steven Verdile Design Editor
Derrell Bouknight Sports Editor
Lauren Finegan Photo Editor
Brendan Myers Assistant Sports Editor
Amanda Negretti Assistant Photo Editor
Ariana Ortiz News Editor
Nick Bello Staff Photographer
Isabella Bruni News Editor
Angelica Acevedo Social Media Manager
Angelica Acevedo Opinion Editor
Erin Bola Social Media Manager
Michael Ambrosino Entertainment Editor
Jim Baumbach Adviser
Written by: Nick McCreven, Darren Maraj, Zoë Stanley, Nithaelle Drouillard, Sean Okula, John Cavanagh, Kyle Suta Illustrated by: Annastasia Marburger, Tauhid Dewan, Carlos Oritz Back Cover by: Alexander Brewington Cover Photos by: Amanda Negretti
TORCH ILLUSTRATIONS/ANNASTASIA MARBURGER
2017-18 MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 11/10/17 11/14/17
New Orleans Central Connecticut
Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena)
GAVITT TIPOFF GAMES Nebraska Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) Molloy Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena)
11/23/17 11/24/17 11/26/17
ADVOCARE INVITATIONAL Oregon State Orlando, Fla. (HP Field House) Missouri/Long Beach State Orlando, Fla. (HP Field House) TBD Orlando, Fla. (HP Field House)
2PM TBA TBA
Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena)
VALLEY OF THE SUN SHOOTOUT Phoenix, Ariz. (Talking Stick Resort Arena)
BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME CLASSIC Arizona State Los Angeles, Calif. (Staples Center)
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN HOLIDAY FESTIVAL Iona New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME HOLIDAY SHOWCASE Saint Joseph’s Uncasville, Conn. (Mohegan Sun Arena)
12/28/17 Providence Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 12/31/17 Seton Hall Newark, N.J. (Prudential Center) 12/5PM 1/3/18 Creighton Omaha, Neb. (CenturyLink Center) 8PM 1/6/18 DePaul Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 2PM 1/9/18 Georgetown New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden) 6:30PM 1/13/18 Villanova New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden) 8PM 1/17/18 Xavier Cincinnati, Ohio (Cintas Center) 8:30PM 1/20/18 Georgetown Washington, D.C. (Capital One Arena) 12PM 1/23/18 Creighton Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 8:30PM 1/27/18 Butler Indianapolis, Ind. (Hinkle Fieldhouse) 2:30PM 1/30/18 Xavier Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 8:30PM 2/3/18 Duke New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden) 12PM 2/7/18 Villanova Philadelphia, Pa. (Wells Fargo Center) 7PM 2/10/18 Marquette Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 12PM 2/14/18 DePaul Chicago, Ill. (Wintrust Arena) 9PM 2/21/18 Marquette University Milwaukee, Wis. (BMO Harris Bradley Center) 12PM 2/24/18 Seton Hall New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden) 12PM 2/28/18 Butler Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 9PM 3/3/18 Providence Providence, R.I. (Dunkin’ Donuts Center) TBA *Home Games in Bold
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Q&A: Bryan Trimble Jr.
The freshman is eager to make his mark in Queens ZOË STANLEY Contributing Writer A consensus three-star recruit in the Class of 2017, Bryan Trimble Jr. came to Queens after decommitting from Florida State in June. Along with Justin Simon, he’ll join a loaded St. John’s frontcourt that features All-Big East selections Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds. The freshman is ready to begin his collegiate career this season, teaming up with fellow Missouri native Marvin Clark II and adding depth to Head Coach Chris Mullin’s promising roster that will try to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Q: What are you most excited about this season? “Playing at the Garden. That’s going to be crazy for me. I mean I know about the history of the Garden and just playing there is just going to be crazy. I can’t wait.” Q: You had several other Division I offers. Why was St. John’s most appealing to you? “I mean the coaching staff is crazy. You have two Hall of Famers on staff. Growing up with Marvin Clark also made it easy. . .Coach having a good relationship with my mentor back home. So, it was just all a good deal.” Q: You’ve had great high school, prep, and AAU careers. What is one major goal you’ve set for yourself as you transition to college basketball? “Stay competitive. Keep getting better. Continue to win. Like I’ve won my entire basketball career. Continue to win. Just do me. Just keep doing what got me here.” Q: If you didn’t play basketball, which sport would you play and why? “Oh, football, easy. Quarterback. I played growing up.” Q: If you could play one-on-one with any past or present professional player, who would it be? “It would have to be James Harden.” TORCH ILLUSTRATION/CARLOS ORTIZ
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Name a Better Duo... I’ll Wait DYLAN HORNIK Co-Sports Editor Abbott and Costello. Simon and Garfunkel. Heck, even Lucy and Ethel. History is littered with iconic pairs that set the world ablaze in one way or another. This goes double in basketball, where NBA greats have often teamed up to win championships and build Hall-of-Fame résumés. Just this summer, fans witnessed last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook recruit former AllStars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to combat the “superteam” that former MVPs Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and others have assembled with the Golden State Warriors. St. John’s basketball is no exception, with heroic duos such as Joe Lapchick and Lou Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry and D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer gracing the floor in front of generations of Red Storm fans. And now, a whole new twosome is dominating the floor in red and white, putting the college basketball landscape on notice. Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett exploded on the scene last winter as dynamic scorers with quick hands, fast feet and room to grow. They ended the regular season as the second-highest scoring pair of freshman in the country, just behind Kentucky stars Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, who were both taken in the top 15 of the most recent NBA Draft. “It’s just the chemistry we have,” LoVett said at St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 26. “We just dug off of that [last year]. Stuff happens on the court for us because we’re always looking for each other.” Ponds agrees. “We play well off each other,” he said. “Most of my shots come from him and most of his shots come from me. We just have a chemistry. We know each other on the court.” Together, they were simply phenomenal, crossing the 20-point mark 20 times and earning All-Big East Freshman Team honors in a season punctuated by a win over No. 13 Butler that featured the perfect combination of the duo’s electrifying attributes.
TORCH ILLUSTRATION/TAUHID DEWAN
On that memorable night at Carnesecca, Ponds scored 26, including 11 in the final 11 minutes, and LoVett drained a game-tying stepback jumper with less than a minute to go in the 76-73 win. They also led the full-court press that threw the Bulldogs off balance and led to, for now, the signature win of Mullin’s coaching career. “He’s a really phenomenal player, but he also has that [calm and cool] personality,” Mullin said that night of Ponds. “That is his demeanor on and off the court. He doesn’t really show a whole lot of emotion, but yet he’s a fierce competitor.” And although they teamed up at very different points in their basketball careers, they’ve become fast friends in addition to star teammates. Ponds is the kind of
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TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO
homegrown talent that the Red Storm have tried to court year after year with uneven success. He came out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn as a top40 high school player in the country. LoVett, meanwhile, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA in his freshman season, confined to practicing with the team while they lost over 20 games in Mullin’s first year. Now, however, the duo is unstoppable and inseparable. “We always talk to each other, eat together, stuff like that is important,” LoVett said. “We’re always texting each other. Stuff like that, that’s going to make our relationship and things on the court better for our team.” Last year was a superb start to their collegiate careers, but Ponds and LoVett are striving for more. With former top-50 prospect Justin Simon added to the mix, the two should get plenty of different looks as Mullin will reportedly try to employ different lineups to feed his small, but mighty, monsters. Mullin has said numerous times this offseason that Simon will relieve the partnership of ball-handling duties, allowing them to excel at the catch-and-shoot game that they developed with each other around the perimeter last season. “[We’ve worked on] just leading our team to where we’re trying to get to,” LoVett said. “Just being facilitators, finding the open gaps and finding our teammates.” Staying one step ahead of opposing defenses should
TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
get a little easier now that they’re both entering their second year on the court. And with just two seniors, Amar Alibegovic and Bashir Ahmed, on the roster, the sophomores are ready to lead, which is vital for Mullin and the squad if at least one of them will be on the court at all times. “There’s no substitute for experience,” Mullin said. “[Ponds and LoVett] both had a lot of minutes on the floor. I’ve asked them this year to do a little bit more, like help us on the board and become catch-and-shoot players…So far in practice they’ve been great.” Unfortunately, most great duos, at one point or another, meet their demise. Abbott and Costello hit hard times in the late 1950s. Simon went down by the schoolyard, while Garfunkel stayed 99 miles from L.A. Lucy and Ethel got the axe after six seasons. Yes, it’s true that Ponds and LoVett won’t be around forever, especially when the pro ranks come calling in the near future. But they’re here at a program-defining moment in time, with the Red Storm ready to roll back into the spotlight, and they want to be the ones to take them there. “We know we can play with anybody in the country on a given night, and we can get beat,” Mullin said. “That’s a good thing. You always have your guard up. That’s why you rehearse. That’s why you practice.” And that’s why you need a duo like Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett.
Ready for Action JOHN CAVANAGH Staff Writer The St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball team finished last season at 14-19, six wins more than they had in Chris Mullin’s first year coaching the team. The Red Storm’s big step forward was due to the addition of guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett. The two made up one of the highest scoring backcourts in the nation. However, their next step forward may be even bigger than the last one. Enter 6-foot-5 guard Justin Simon and 6-foot-7 forward Marvin Clark II, two transfers who are ready to make an immediate impact. Simon and Clark II were forced to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Clark II transferred from Michigan State and Simon from Arizona, two historic programs led by esteemed coaches Tom Izzo and Sean Miller, respectively. Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach with 19 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, and Miller is a four-time Coach of the Year Award winner. After playing at such a high level, both Simon and Clark II feel the knowledge they gained on their previous teams can carry over to their new team in Queens. “It’s just bringing that toughness, come-to-work, blue collar type feel to practice every day, and hopefully carrying that over to games,” Clark II said. Despite not being able to play, Simon and Clark II aimed to stay in top shape throughout the season. The two worked out together throughout the offseason developing a close friendship along the way. Both feel their bond can help the Red Storm’s chemistry on and off the court. “It can help us a lot. Our team, our locker room has come together a lot since last year,” Simon said. “This team is real close. We all get along, have fun and just enjoy the process.” Clark II echoed Simon’s comments
saying that he believes the chemistry they’ve built has already spread throughout the locker room. “Me and Justin over this year sitting out, we know each other’s games,” he said. “I think we’ve built unbelievable camaraderie, and I think we’ve built a lot of chemistry.” Two years into the Mullin era, his style of play has become clear. The Johnnies are quick, athletic and can fly up and down the court. “If you look at them physically, you would see we didn’t have players like that on our roster,” Mullin said of Clark II and Simon. “It’s a huge plus for us.” Two areas of concern for St. John’s in recent years have been defense and rebounding. By adding Simon and
TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO
TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
Clark II to the team, Lovett feels both can help improve those deficiencies. “Simon’s long, a big guy, a big guard who can grab some rebounds for us and defensively help us out,” Lovett said. “Marvin is a big body and he can bang with the bigs down there.” Ponds says Simon is great at getting his teammates involved and that Clark II can play any position necessary. “I feel confident in Justin and Marvin, I feel they’re going to have a great impact this year,” Ponds said. Upon entering college, Simon was a five-star prospect and Clark II was ranked as a four-star recruit. For a St. John’s team that went 8-24 just two seasons ago, Mullin is a product that is clearly starting to sell. Simon and Clark II are just the latest buyers. “I’ve been impressed with the guys they’ve brought in, from the players to the staff,” Simon said. “That connection between us, and seeing guys develop has really impressed me.” Now, it’s up to Simon and Clark II to impress the Red Storm faithful at Carnesecca Arena.
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The Rim Reapers Singleton and Littleton’s plan: Dominate
St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 26 provided a snapshot of what’s expected this season from the storied women’s basketball team. Following the departure of All-Big East First Team member Jade Walker, the Red Storm look to the return of senior forwards Imani Littleton and Maya Singleton to be major threats in the post this season. After suffering an injury last season, Littleton returns for her fourth and final year playing for St. John’s. Last season, she averaged 5.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game. Playing in nearly every game last season, Littleton’s favorite matchup was the Dec. 21 contest when they defeated James Madison. “My favorite was definitely the kid’s day game,” Littleton said. “We played James Madison University and it’s always fun to have the gym filled with kids and they’re screaming and cheering for both teams. Great day. I just plan on continuing to work hard, continue to be a leader for my teammates and make sure that they can follow my example.” Littleton was also asked about her main motivations that helped her prepare for this season. “You know, it’s never fun being hurt, especially in the biggest part of season I guess,” she said. “Over [the] summer I just worked on getting back with the team. By like June-ish I was pretty much back with the team. But, my motivation was just this is my final season, so I just want to be ready, ready to leave my mark.” When asked about how she and Singleton plan to maintain dominance in their position, Littleton said that they have trained hard and long for the upcoming season, improving and expanding their defensive abilities. Singleton, a forward, proved her dominance and strength at the position last season. She finished the year averaging 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. As one of St. John’s and the Big East’s most reputable rebounders, Singleton became the first Red Storm player since 2015 to record 20 rebounds in a single game during her first career start for SJU.
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
ZOË STANLEY Contributing Writer
Singleton is eager to begin the season and aims to be more of an offensive threat for the Johnnies. “I’m honestly just excited for the season to start,” she said of her expectations for the season. “You know, it’s been a long journey for me to get to this point, so I’m just overall excited.” During his press conference, Head Coach Joe Tartamella spoke highly of Singleton’s skill, attitude and athleticism. “Maya is an emotional leader,” he said. “She works as hard as anybody we have. She got to show everybody what she was able to do toward the end of the year, she is going to be a big part of the team. For me she is going to be a breakout player for us. She has to be a breakout player for us to be successful. “She is becoming a great leader on this team. We certainly look at her as someone who is going to play a big part. I know she is excited for our team and we are excited to have her here.” As for her plan to command authority, Singleton revealed that staying aggressive on both ends of the floor is key. “When I see the ball come off the rim, it’s me versus you and it has to be mine,” she said. “That’s how I see it.” Due to Walker’s departure, the two stand-out forwards have big shoes to fill. But with their hard work, dedication, athleticism and skill, they will be formidable to the team’s success this season.
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
When I see the ball come off the rim, it’s me versus you and it has to be mine. Maya Singleton
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SPEED KILLS NICK MCCREVEN Staff Writer As the game of basketball evolves, players, coaches, analysts and spectators have noticed that players seem to be more and more athletic each year. Big men are expected to be quicker and more agile, and better shooters. Wings are supposed to be able to shoot, run the floor and guard multiple positions. Particularly with guards, however, there has been a sharp rise in speed, ball-handling skills and shooting ability of players who run the offense. As those high school players take the next step into the college game, they’re showcasing a new level of athleticism at the one and two positions in college hoops. St. John’s basketball epitomizes that playing style. Five years of recruiting comprises the current Red Storm roster, one that is stocked with quick and skilled young guards ready to take the reins of New York’s team. For those who watched Red Storm basketball last season, Shamorie Ponds should be a familiar face. The sophomore guard from Brooklyn came out firing in his freshman campaign, averaging 17.4 points per game, shattering D’Angelo Harrison’s freshman record for points scored and finishing fifth in scoring in the Big East. The unanimous Big East All-Freshman Team member maintained efficiency, shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from three. He dazzled fans with his sheer quickness, finishing ability at the rim and tendency for hitting clutch three pointers, all of which frustrated Big East perimeter defenders. Alongside him was redshirt freshman Marcus LoVett, who was also unanimously selected to the Big East All-Freshman Team and a top-10 conference scorer. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native sported a deadly pullup and mid-range jumpers that seemed impossible to guard. He tallied two 30-point games, tying Maurice Hark-
less’ freshman record. The duo was dubbed one of the most skilled scoring backcourts in the Big East and NCAA, garnering national attention despite the team missing the NCAA Tournament. Now there will be an addition to that tandem who watched on the sidelines last season and is ready to come in and contribute in 2017. Justin Simon, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from the University of Arizona before last season, will take the court this November for St. John’s. He had a small sample size, but his per-40-minutes averages were strong: 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Simon also displays blinding speed in his game. He may or may not bring a scoring boost to the squad, but one thing is for sure; he will certainly bring versatility and toughness. Ponds said he believes in Simon. “He’s going to come in and instantly affect the game, defensively and offensively,” he said. “He knows how to pick his spots. His jumpshot is getting much better. He can get his teammates involved.” On the bench this season for the Johnnies is former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Mikey Dixon. The Quinnipiac University transfer will observe from the sidelines. The fast, sharp-shooting Dixon finished ninth all time in Quinnipiac history in points for a season in his freshman year. He will bring that sort of impact to Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden next season, rounding out an intimidating quartet of guards that will give opponents nightmares. Those who enjoy watching fast-paced basketball won’t want to take their eyes off a game these next couple seasons. Fans will be watching some of the most athletic, skilled and explosive guards in all of college basketball that will fuel the Red Storm’s hunt for their first NCAA tournament berth since 2015.
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Free Transfer KYLE SUTA Contributing Writer
torchonline.com was crazy. Fans have a lot of energy here.” Keita, who was rated the 22nd-best forward in the nation coming out of high school, was born and raised in Philadelphia. After playing one season at South Carolina, helping the Gamecocks to a Final Four appearance, Keita was looking to change schools. He didn’t hesitate when the opportunity to transfer to St. John’s presented itself. “I feel like I needed a change,” he said. “The culture at South Carolina just really wasn’t for me. St. John’s was one of the teams that was interested. It is closer to home and I also wanted to play in the Big East, against teams like Villanova and Providence.” Keita, who stands at 6 foot 9 and weighs 240 pounds, is a valuable player at practice and helps prepare St. John’s own big men, such as senior Amar Alibegovic and redshirt junior Tariq Owens. Keita said he knows that this is still a big year for him, and he aims to make the most of his chances next year when he is eligible to play. “Right now, I’m focused on how to get my body stronger,” Keita said. “I just want to make sure I’m ready to go next year.” Clark II, a redshirt junior, mentors the whole team, especially Dixon and Keita. “As with everyone on the team, being an older guy, I’m trying to pass down knowledge to everyone as it was passed down to me,” Clark II said. “With them, I’ve talk-
This season, the Red Storm welcomes two more transfers in sophomore guard Mikey Dixon and sophomore forward Sedee Keita. Dixon left Quinnipiac after his freshman season to come to St. John’s. He said he sees his move to New York as both a challenge for himself and a step up from Quinnipiac. “The main thing I’m focused on is to better my body, and also to get the team better,” Dixon said. “I’m trying to push my teammates everyday in practice, so they’re used to someone going hard and pushing them every day in practice.” Additionally, Chris Mullin’s second year as head coach at St. John’s welcomed two transfer students to the program. Redshirt junior forward Marvin Clark II, who played his first two years of college basketball at Michigan State, sat out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations. The Red Storm also welcomed forward Justin Simon, a redshirt sophomore who came over from the University of Arizona. Simon only averaged 7.5 minutes per game in his freshman season at Arizona, but is expected to be a big playmaker in a loaded backcourt that already boasts Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds. Dixon, a Delaware native, is impressed with the bright lights of the city that never sleeps. “I really like the city, it’s a basketball city, with a lot of energy,” he said. “I really enTORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO joyed my first Tip-off experience, it
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ed to them about the transfer process and how to go about it. I’m telling them to take full advantage of this year and to turn your weaknesses into strengths.” He is eager to get on the floor and make an impact in his first season in Queens. He has competed for playing time with Alibegovic and Owens as power forward and center. People outside of New York have taken notice of the
I really like the city, it’s a basketball city, with a lot of energy. Mikey Dixon
Red Storm and what they can become. Mullin cited transferring as a trend around college basketball that existed during his playing days, but one that is also becoming more and more common now.
“Historically, when I played, we always had transfer students come in,” Mullin said. “It’s probably more prominent now than when I played but it’s something that has always been pretty prominent here.”
A Star is Born
NICK MCCREVEN Staff Writer
TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
The St. John’s women’s basketball team has been very successful over the past half-decade. Making two Big East championship games, five Big East semifinal games, three NCAA tournament appearances and two WNIT tournament appearances in the past five years has truly been a testament to both Head Coach Joe Tartamella’s coaching and the skill level of the players in the program. In Tartamella’s tenure, he’s seen four players move up to the professional level and be drafted by the WNBA. Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith were drafted in 2013 while Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant were selected in 2016. The talent level of players who have called Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden home over the past few years has been tremendous for this team. Last season, highly skilled seniors Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker dominated in the Big East, averaging 11.1 and 13.5 points per game, respectively. While a lot of the attention was on the speedy point guard and versatile forward, another player was growing into the next 5-foot-11 star of the team in the meantime. Akina Wellere, the guard/forward from Chicago, enters her junior year as the focal point of the offense and the expected star player for the Red Storm. “Wellere is going to really have to step into that
role [of Jade Walker’s offensive replacement] and become a consistent scorer,” Tartamella said at St. John’s Media Day. After a freshman year where she played more of a minor role in the offense, averaging only 5.0 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting, Wellere had a very impactful year last season. She started all 33 games, ranked second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting, grabbed 3.6 boards per game and knocked down 49 three pointers on the year at a scorching hot 45.8 percent three point shooting clip which led the Big East. While the two seniors were the focal points last season, Wellere was growing into a highly potent offensive threat. Although she was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll three times last year, she was not given All-Big East honors at the end of the season. Now, with Lewis and Walker gone, Wellere has already been recognized as a preseason All-Big East player. The team takes pride in its strong three point shooting, spreading the offense and allowing the forwards to bully their way to the rim. It’s difficult to imagine that Wellere is not the biggest part of the Red Storm’s offensive mindset. She will be
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...the only thing I would see my teammates expecting from me, my coaches expecting from me, is me growing as a leader.
one of the toughest guards on the perimeter in the entire country for defenders this coming season and Tartamella and the rest of the Johnnies know that and will be able to use it to their advantage. Her skillset will make it much easier for her teammates to score. Wellere also has become a vocal leader for the team as she becomes one of the more experienced members of the squad. “Right now we just have to take it in practice day by day. My role is going to be the same as it has been throughout all my time being here, so the only thing I would see my teammates expecting from me, my coaches expecting from me, is me growing as a leader,” Wellere said at St. John’s Media Day. “So I feel like everyday in practice, we’re put in situations where we’re going to do what’s expected of us when the season comes, so I feel like it’ll come easier when the season arrives.” This group will look to their rising star for leadership as well as offensive production this year. The Red Storm have high expectations and some of the most vital aspects of their success will be their defense, outside shooting and also leadership, which along with seniors Maya Singleton and Imani Littleton starts and ends with Akina Wellere.
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Waiting in the Wings BRENDAN MYERS Assistant Sports Editor The red 22 on the back of his navy blue practice jersey pops as he struts backwards onto the court. He turns around and grins from ear to ear. Before any of Boubacar Diakite’s teammates join him on the court, he’s already knocked in nine consecutive midrange jump shots from the corner. Only one touched part of the iron. Looking at that wide smile, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago Diakite didn’t speak a lick of English. He struggled to make friends at Our Savior New American School on Long Island and struggled in practice because he couldn’t understand his coaches or teammates. In stepped junior forward Kassoum Yakwe, who went to the same high school as Diakite. Like Diakite, Yakwe is also a native of Bamako, Mali. “I knew him from playing together on the courts back home. I would try to sit with him at lunch to help him adjust to things like basketball and school,” Yakwe said at St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 26. He would even help Diakite with things as simple as adjusting to the colder weather in New York. “Kassoum is like a brother to me, playing together in high school and then here together meant a lot to me,” Diakite said. He acknowledges that Yakwe is a huge reason why St. John’s felt like the right place for him. In addition to playing together in high school, Yakwe and Diakite played together on the Pro Scholars Athletics Cardinals AAU team. Diakite’s highlight reel features a series of acrobatic dunks that most people can’t even dream of pulling off in practice, let alone in games. At 6 foot 8, the recruiting website 24/7 Sports described him as a player whose “athleticism, upper-body strength, and length enable him to potentially guard both forward positions in college.” Diakite fits perfectly into the mold of Head Coach Chris Mullin’s pro-style offense. He can fly up and down the court and lead transition breaks. Soon after Sid Wilson’s surprising transfer in August, Diakite announced that he would be enrolling early at St. John’s after reclassifying from the graduating class of 2018
to the class of 2017. A year after a serious leg injury that he’s still recovering from, he thought it was time to move on. “I wanted to start making my dream come true and I wanted to come here with good coaches and fitness staff,” he said. Diakite didn’t see the point in staying his senior season in which he could not play. While still not cleared for full contact, he says his leg is feeling a lot better. He noted that from the start he has cultivated a good relationship with Mullin and his staff. Diakite gave the Red Storm his verbal commitment back in 2016. He knows that to adjust to the physical play in the Big East, he needs to put on muscle. Diakite’s main goal for his redshirt year is to improve upon his dribbling and shooting. He’s been described by various recruiting agencies as a good mid-range shooter, but Diakite said he wants to be able to score from all over the court. When asked what the newcomer’s greatest attribute was, Yakwe and Diakite echoed similar sentiments. “Man, that guy doesn’t back down from anyone. He is so tough,” Yakwe said with a smile on his face. “I think that me and Kassoum are both really tough and I like to play hard,” Diakite said. That toughness was on full display at the 2016 FIBA U18 African Championships. “At first I didn’t want to play, but then they told me I was the captain and I saw the whole country looking to me,” Diakite said. He was only one of two players on the team playing high school basketball in America. The Malian team finished third place in the rankings for teams from Africa in the tournament. He was the team’s fourth leading scorer. Once the high-intensity drills started at practice, Diakite stood at the scorer’s table, clapped and cheered his teammates on as the team worked to carry medicine balls back and forth across the court. Diakite may have an uphill battle, but he won’t back down.
I wanted to start making my dream come true and I wanted to come here with good coaches and fitness staff Boubacar Diakite
1. CHRIS MULLIN A no-brainer. Mullin is St. John’s all-time leader in points with 2,440 and had a historic professional career, winning two Olympic gold medals and making five All-Star teams. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. The current head coach is the most successful Red Storm player ever, both in college and in the pros. 2. WALTER BERRY In his two seasons at St. John’s Berry scored over 1,400 points. He just barely missed out on averaging a double-double for his career, dropping 20.1 points and grabbing 9.9 rebounds per game. The University retired No. 21 three times; once in his honor. 3. MARK JACKSON The NBA’s fourth all-time leading assist man, Jackson dished out 738 dimes at St. John’s-including a program-high 328 in 1986 before a 17-year NBA career, winning the 1987–88 Rookie of the Year Award. 4. MEL DAVIS Imagine if Mel Davis had played four years in Queens. In just half the time, Davis scored 1,130 points and grabbed 845 rebounds, finishing his career with averages of 20.9 points per game to go along with 17.4 boards.
5. LLOYD “SONNY” DOVE The eleventh all-time scorer in program history, Dove played three years for St. John’s and is second on the rebounding list with 1,036.
6. BOB ZAWOLUK Zawoluk was the program’s all-time leading scorer until Mullin surpassed his 1,826 points in 1984. He scored 65 points against St. Peter’s in 1950 and averaged 20.1 per game over his time at St. John’s. 7. FELIPE LOPEZ In 1998, Lopez was an All First-Team Big East selection and a Haggerty Award winner, given to the All-Metropolitan New York Division I men’s college basketball player of the year. He is fourth in program history with 1,927 points. 8. MALIK SEALY A pure scorer, Sealy scored 2,402 points, 38 behind Mullin for the program’s all-time lead. He also averaged close to seven rebounds per contest, good enough for 880 in his career, sixth in program history. No. 21 was also retired for him. 9. D’ANGELO HARRISON Another pure scorer, Harrison played four years at St. John’s before beginning his professional career overseas. His 2,178 points are third in school history, and he’s first in career threepoints field goals made and attempted, and first in three-point field goals made in a season. 10. BILL SCHAEFFER Bill Schaeffer averaged the most points per game in a single season in program history, scoring 24.7 a contest as a senior in 1972–1973 to go along with 11 rebounds per contest.
St. John’s men’s basketball officially began their storied history 110 years ago on Dec. 6, 1907, when they faced off against New York University. In that century-plus, the program has produced the ninthmost wins in Division I history and kickstarted the careers of a pair of Hall-of-Fame players and four legendary coaches. To commemorate the anniversary, the Torch has compiled a list of the 10 greatest men’s players in Red Storm history.
PHOTOS COURTESY/ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS
LLOYD “SONNY” DOVE
20 | COURTSIDE
Staff Predictions: Men’s RECORD
BEST NON-CONFERENCE GAME
With a deeper roster and another year of experience for Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, I think the Red Storm will hover around the 20-win mark and vie for a postseason berth.
It’s easy to say Duke, but there’s nothing like playing against old rival Iona in the MSG Holiday Festival.
The Red Storm should win at least nine nonconference games, and with a stronger roster, Chris Mullin’s first winning season should come with at least 19 wins.
Duke is the obvious choice, but if the Johnnies play Missouri in the AdvoCare Invitational, facing off against Michael Porter Jr. would be an exciting early-season test. Duke at Madison Square Garden. What a big-time match-up.
The Johnnies think they can be a tournament team and hit the 20 game win mark. I think they hit that goal by taking care of business early on and in the Big East. 18-13 (9-9 Big East) Call me optimistic, but if they beat up on the bottom of the Big East, Chris Mullin’s crew could be knocking on the Big Dance’s door.
Dec. 17 vs. Iona This matchup with a local foe (and perennial NCAA Tournament qualifier) should be a good early-season litmus test.
With two more bona fide scorers in Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II added to the program, I think year three of the Mullin era can see this team can win 18-20 games.
Not going out on a limb, but it’s hard not to love that Feb. 3 showdown with Duke.
17-14. The Red Storm will be able to grab some big wins throughout the year, and I believe they will be able to improve as the season progresses.
Duke. Although I think the St. Joe’s vs St. John’s game at Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase will be an exciting one, I can’t ignore the potential for a win against the Blue Devils.
MOST IMPROVED BEST PLAYER NEWCOMER
Marvin Clark II
Marvin Clark II
Marvin Clark II
Marvin Clark II
Bryan Trimble Jr.
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Staff Predictions: Women’s RECORD
BEST NON-CONFERENCE GAME
Tartamella’s stellar coaching career will continue with another season of more than 20 wins and a trip to the postseason for the 6th consecutive season.
Matchups with Fordham and Miami are intriguing, but Tartamella’s alma mater, James Madison, will play hard in front of their old coach.
Tartamella will get at least 18 wins, possibly 20, extending his streak of 20-win seasons to five. Expect another trip to the postseason.
Energy should be high as Coach Tartamella faces his Alma Mater, James Madison, on Dec. 9. Pair that with the Dec. 3 game in Miami and the team could get two huge early wins.
(19-10) The Johnnies have a much younger team, but they won’t miss a beat from last season.
A mid-December game where the Red Storm battles the Kansas Jayhawks.
17-12 (8-10 Big East) Jade Walker and Aaliyah Lewis are gone, and even with eight returnees from last year’s NIT-bound squad, a step back seems inevitable.
Dec. 3 at Miami (FL) This matchup with the Hurricanes could prove to be a statement game against a tournament team from a year ago.
Joe Tartamella seems to have the formula to get to 20 wins. Yes, they lost Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker but this team has a ton of young talent to hover around that 20 win radius.
To kick December off, the Johnnies head down to South Beach to take on Miami, a team that finished 24-9 last season and returns a lot of experience.
20-9. The women will grab 20 wins for the fifth year in a row under Coach Tartamella.
The Hurricanes were ranked 22nd in the country in the preseason. The game in Florida will be a tough battle but this St. John’s team has the experience to nab a win.
MOST IMPROVED BEST PLAYER NEWCOMER
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Will They Kneel? ANGELICA ACEVEDO Co-Social Media Manager Perhaps one of the questions in the backs of spectators’ minds as the St. John’s basketball season quickly approaches is: Will our athletes kneel during the national anthem? Ever since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 as a form of protest, there have been many instances of players following in his footsteps, as well as some who have condemned it. Due to the nature of the protest, it’s simple to understand why this subject continues to be one that is hotly debated — not only in the world of sports, but also more recently in politics. During St John’s Media Day on Oct. 26, forward Tariq Owens said he could not speak on behalf of his team on the issue, stating that they have not come to an agreement just yet. “I know some guys feel like we should, and I know other guys are not opposed to it, but some just haven’t stepped up and said, ‘Yeah, I’m willing to do that,’” Owens said. “[At] the end of the day that’s a big thing to do, no matter what level you do it or who’s watching.” However, he added that there is a possibility he would take his own stance on the matter. “It’s the national anthem, something that gives our whole country pride, but the reasons for doing it I believe are right,” Owens said. “Personally, I would want to just because, like I said, I believe in the reasons why people are doing it and the true purpose behind it.” Kaepernick explained his reasons for kneeling for the first time in an interview with NFL Media in August 2016 in which he said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Forward Imani Littleton similarly said that the women’s
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
basketball team has not discussed the possibility of taking a stance; but that, “Obviously it’s a really important issue, but I don’t have a comment as to how we would go about it.” As a result of President Donald Trump’s tweets calling for a boycott of the NFL on Sept. 23, more professional football players and teams began to kneel during the national anthem in the previous months. Trump’s tweets that sparked the latest series of protests were in direct response to Golden State Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry declining an invitation to visit the White House as well as the Commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell’s statement justifying the NFL athlete’s First Amendment rights to protest. “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Earlier this fall St. John’s Director of Athletics Anton Goff issued a statement to the Torch in which he said student athletes are free to express their opinions on “social issues.” “At St. John’s, we recognize that freedom of thought, expression, and speech are intellectual pillars of our
torchonline.com University community and key parts of our Vincentian mission to serve those in need both locally and around the world,” Goff said. “In particular, we encourage our student-athletes to openly discuss their views on social issues after careful consideration of the impact they can have as leaders within the University community and in society as a whole.” He added, “It is our obligation as an institution of higher learning to promote reflection and informed conversation when supporting causes, both publicly and privately.” Forward Kassoum Yakwe said that the men’s team “probably will take a stance.” On the other hand, other players were not as sure as Owens and Yakwe about the possibility of publicly taking a stance during the national anthem. Qadashah Hoppie, one of the guards on the women’s basketball team, reiterated that their team has yet to come to a decision on the matter. “As of now we haven’t really talked about doing anything but we are aware of the situation,” Hoppie said. “But like my coaches say, if you’re gonna stand for something, you better know what you’re standing for and if you truly believe in it.” Marcus LoVett echoed Hoppie’s comment, as he said, “At some point we will talk about it and discuss it, and see what we do as a team collectively.” Among the men’s and women’s basketball team, this was the consensus at St. John’s Media Day.
COURTSIDE | 23 Forward Amar Alibegovic said, “Everyone’s aware of what’s happening and everyone has their own opinions, I know we have a lot of different opinions, so we’ll keep it at that and we’ll see what we decide as a team.” However, not all of the players seem to be interested in making a statement. Some of the players on the women’s basketball team believe they will not participate in this protest. Forward Maya Singleton said she does not intend to take a stance on this particular issue. “Honestly I don’t watch NFL so I really don’t know what’s going on with that,” Singleton said. “I don’t pay too much attention to it.” Tiana England, a guard on the women’s basketball team, said that as of now, “We don’t plan on doing that.” It is plain to see that on both the men’s and women’s teams, there is no definitive answer on the controversial topic — which, among other things, will make for an interesting season. “I’m pretty sure that’s something that will be mentioned soon. We shall see,” guard Bryan Trimble Jr. said. Forward Justin Simon said that although he is not sure if the team will participate in some form of protest during the national anthem, “It’s interesting to see how those NFL teams and owners handled all that, it’s inspirational to watch.”
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Back in the NY Groove
Rory Kuhn joins Red Storm as assistant coach ARIANA ORTIZ Co-News Editor Rory Kuhn says that one of the main attractions of his new role as an assistant coach of the women’s basketball team is simple: St. John’s is synonymous with home. “Being from New York, the allure of St. John’s is just something that’s huge…If you’re a New Yorker, you associate it with basketball,” Kuhn, who signed on in early September, said. “Being able to come back and work at St. John’s, in the basketball world, is pretty special.” Kuhn is from Long Island, where he coached high school basketball for nine years before becoming an assistant coach for the Northwest Florida State College Raiders in 2013. He said that his experience on Long Island formed the foundation of his career. “That’s where I got my feet wet,” Kuhn said. “I started off coaching girls originally for three years then I switched over to coaching boys, did that for six years.” Throughout Kuhn’s tenure as assistant coach for the Raiders, he helped guide the team to the 2014 National Championship and a 111-19 record. Of his time with the Raiders, Kuhn said that it was an exciting transition to work with “high level” players. “There were adjustments to be made from coaching at a high school level, but I mean it was all for the better,” Kuhn said. “It was growth…Being exposed to different things, learning from different coaches, different philosophies, taking from that and incorporating it into your own coaching strategy — and obviously being effective in winning games down there helped a lot.” For Kuhn, the similarities between coaching high school and college basketball still greatly outweighed the differences. “At the end of the day,” he added, “it’s basketball.”
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
Kuhn cites working under Head Coach Joe Tartamella — who he considers a mentor — among the benefits of his new position. “[Tartamella’s] somebody I’ve known from my days here coaching in NY, so now to come back and reconnect with him and it’s all kind of like, full circle to be able to see him coach and learn from him,” Kuhn said. “I’ve already learned so much from seeing the way he handles everyday things…You can see why he’s successful by the way he approaches each day.” “[Kuhn] has brought some really good things to us early in his start here,” Tartamella said in his opening statement at St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 26. The Red Storm’s first game is on Nov. 10 against St. Francis Brooklyn and many players are already feeling Kuhn’s presence on the court. According to redshirt freshman guard Tiana En-
COURTSIDE | 25
torchonline.com gland, while the team has not yet played a game and therefore not fully experienced Kuhn’s approach, it is clear that he is making an effort to know the team. “During practice, he’s really helpful, really energetic,” England said. Senior forward Imani Littleton has similar thoughts, citing Kuhn’s approachability. “We haven’t seen much of his coaching style just yet, it’s pretty early,” Littleton said. “In practice, he’s definitely vocal, he’s always trying to pick us up and help us be where we need to be.” “I feel like he’s getting more comfortable, and we’re getting more comfortable with each other as practices go by,” Tamesha Alexander, a senior guard, said. “He’s more of a vocal guy, so he talks a lot on the sidelines and things like that. So while we’re still kind of feeling each other out, I get a sense of his direction.” Kuhn believes his experience and accomplishments in Florida, as well as the new energy he brings, will lend itself well to his new role. “If you’re confident in yourself as a coach and you’ve had some success winning games, just bring it over,” Kuhn said. “Try to learn a little bit more under somebody new, grow a little bit and just continue to win games.”
In practice, he’s definitely vocal, he’s always trying to pick us up and help us be where we need to be. Imani Littleton
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
PHOTO COURTESY/ST. JOHN’S WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TWITTER
AVAILABLE JANUARY 2018
skip the line all over campus
customize your meals skip the line by ordering ahead pick up on your schedule
no fees. just food, fast. “Boost Ordering” in the App Store
RECHARGE YOUR MEAL PLAN
Did you know you’ll save almost 20% if you use a Meal Plan!?
WHAT PLAN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Dining Dollars can be used at any dining location on campus and it’s similar to a debit card. You can put a minimum of $25 on your StormCard and if you put $100 or more, you’ll receive a 10% bonus. Additionally, purchases are sales-tax free.
250 Dining Dollars: $250 $25 Bonus 5 Meal Exchanges 500 Dining Dollars: $500 $50 Bonus 10 Meal Exchanges
BLOCK MEAL PLANS Enjoy the benefits of all-you-care-to-eat dining at Montgoris or a Meal Exchange at D’Angelo Food Court, Marillac Food Court, Red Storm Diner, The Marketplace and Dunkin’ Donuts.
25 Meals: $275 25 Meal Swipes or Exchanges 50 Meals: $500 50 Meal Swipes or Exchanges 75 Meals: $700 75 Meal Swipes or Exchanges
Whenever you eat in Montgoris or use a Meal Exchange, a meal is deducted from your balance.
Use your Meal Exchanges at D’Angelo Food Court, Marillac Food Court, Red Storm Diner, the Marketplace and Dunkin’ Donuts during posted meal exchange hours. An Exchange offers you options for your entrée, side and drink.
MEAL PERIODS Breakfast Lunch Dinner
7am-11am 11am-5pm 5pm-10pm
MEAL EXCHANGE PERIODS DAC Food Court Marillac Marketplace Red Storm Diner Dunkin’ Donuts
Mon-Fri Lunch & Dinner Mon-Fri Dinner 7 Days Lunch & Dinner Mon-Fri Dinner Sat-Sun Breakfast & Lunch
* Both Meal Plans roll over Fall to Spring and expire every May 31st.
IT’S AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3!
1) Log into MySJU and click on the UIS tab. 2) Click “Manage Your StormCard” and “Add Money to Your StormCard Account”. 3) Select your choice of Dining Dollars or Block Meal Plans, and Click “Submit” and pay by credit card or electronic check.
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A Hall of Fame Reunion It’s real. Mullin, Ewing set to battle again. DERRELL BOUKNIGHT Co-Sports Editor They were back to where the rivalry first started, the two friends who were introduced as enemies 36 years ago, separated by cameras and a few hop steps. In The World’s Most Famous Arena — the same arena where Ali lost to Frazier and Billy Joel can’t stop breaking his own records — the two laughed and joked and reminisced while microphones and tape recorders hovered around their beaming faces. What a sight it was at Madison Square Garden in mid-October: Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing at Big East Media Day, speaking of the glory days of Big East basketball and the rivalries that once were. For what seemed like an eternity, as shutters sounded and the scrums expanded, as smiles and slight jabs were exchanged, they discussed Georgetown and St. John’s and the renewal of a storied antagonism between two of the Big East’s premier programs. At times, the basketball legends acted like it was nothing, but in truth, the animosity never took a hiatus. “There’s always going to be a rivalry,” Ewing, Georgetown’s rookie head coach, said. “We’ve always battled. Chris and Mark Jackson were always talking trash, especially Mark…So naturally when we play that team, there’s always going to be something special.” Just over seven months ago, a Madison Square Garden crowd felt the tension between the schools. The Hoyas and Red Storm faced off in the Big East Tournament, the players getting testy after a foul. A shoving match ensued, followed by a verbal altercation between former Georgetown coach John Thompson III and Mullin. Former assistant and son to the elder Ewing, Patrick Ewing Jr. even interjected. For about two minutes, it felt like 1985 all over again. Then Mullin began to make his way to the media area. He strolled with calmness, his hands in his pockets, pulling his
suit jacket back just enough to showcase the entirety of his royal blue necktie. He stopped just underneath the basket, the one furthest from Ewing’s No. 33 hanging in the rafters. He took a barrage of questions, ranging from his star-studded backcourt and newcomers to whether he’s in favor of the one-and-done trend that dominates college basketball. Then one came about Ewing, with whom he had posed for photos and hugged earlier in the day. What’s it like to have him back in the Big East? “I think it’s great for Georgetown,” Mullin said of Ewing’s hire. “They made a great choice. I think he’s going to get them back on top. The Big East will flourish from that, and I think college basketball in general. With a guy of Patrick’s stature, with the respect that he deserves and garnishes, it’s irreplaceable. It’ll be fun.” The last time the two faced off on the court was March 2001, when Mullin’s Golden State Warriors played Ewing’s Seattle SuperSonics. Mullin only appeared in 20 games that year, last seeing action in February. Ewing started and scored 12 points, grabbing six rebounds with three blocks in 30 minutes of playing time. But it was during the pinnacle of Big East and NBA hoops
TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
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TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO
in the 80s and 90s when Mullin and Ewing first came to know one another. “When we played [Georgetown], it was just different,” Mullin said. “Because it was, quite frankly, Patrick Ewing. That’s what it was all about. He was vicious, he was a competitor. People don’t understand that when Patrick was in college, he averaged 16 points per game. He could’ve averaged 40 if he wanted to.” Despite the fierce competition, there was always respect and admiration between them. Their basketball careers have taken them to new heights, both saying that they never imagined being college coaches, especially at their alma maters. Ewing said it gave him goosebumps. Mullin called it surreal. Then came the 1992 Olympics. Ewing and Mullin won two gold medals together, but their friendship both on and off the court peaked as members of the Dream Team. Mullin spoke of how games didn’t take place until 10:30 p.m. local time in Barcelona, giving players a full day of leisure. When they were allotted gym time, it was almost always Ewing and Mullin who went together, sometimes by themselves. “We were going every day, just to kill time and get out of the hotel,” Mullin recalled. 36 years after the rivalry began, one’s career has been a near reflection of the other’s. Each were top-10 selections in the 1985 NBA Draft and were later inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Mullin won three Big East Player of the Year Awards, while Ewing won two. They shared the honor in 1984 and 1985, the latter year being when Ewing’s Hoyas defeated St. John’s in the Final Four before winning the NCAA title. Ewing made the NBA Finals with the New York Knicks in 1994 and 1999, Mullin in 2000 with the Indiana Pacers. Now, with both coaches tasked with bringing their respective teams back to prominence, expectations range across the board. St. John’s was picked to finish sixth in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, and Georgetown ninth, even with a talented roster. Despite what record the teams conclude with, a consequential reminder of the Big East 80s will compete with one another on the sidelines at least twice this season, Jan. 9 and 20. This time as coaches. Just as Ewing got up for television interviews, leaving the Garden floor and heading up the tunnel, Mullin was asked about whether he believes the rivalry between the two programs is coming back to life. Earlier, his new coaching counterpart didn’t hesitate to voice his thoughts. “There’s always going to be tension,” Ewing said sharply. Mullin, standing tall in the house of the greatest Knick to ever play in the Garden, leaned back and smiled, hands still in his pockets. Twice a year, fans get to watch as he and Ewing battle. They’ll always remain friends, they’ve come too far to terminate their friendship. They knew of each other in high school, played one another in college, went to the NBA together and dominated on their respective franchises for years. That won’t change, but perhaps for 80 minutes on game days this coming January, they’ll be enemies. So, is the rivalry coming back? Will fans see a revival of the glory days? Only time will tell. Both coaches are in unique stages, with Mullin having the best roster during his threeyear tenure and Ewing settling into what he calls the “CEO” role of Georgetown basketball. More than a decade after the conclusion of their playing careers, their admiration of each other hasn’t faded away, a sight to see when the 6-foot-7 Mullin and 7-foot Ewing come together to exchange hugs, just as they did moments before Big East Media Day began. But Mullin’s response to the question was his last. It was candid, a short one that will evoke the memory of those who yearn for a reborn tug-of-war between towel-wearing Thompson and sweater-sporting Louie. “Yeah,” Mullin said of a restored rivalry potentially brewing, Ewing’s silhouette still casting an elongated shadow in the tunnel to his right. “I hope so.”
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Brelovin’ it in Queens ISABELLA BRUNI Co-News Editor
“I always knew that the small town was a great place that supported my dreams, but it wasn’t the place to follow them.” For self-proclaimed country girl Curteeona Brelove, the journey to playing for St. John’s included a few pit-stops up the east coast. Coming from the Snowhill neighborhood of a small country town called Malone in Florida right by the Alabama and Georgia state lines, Brelove found it hard to imagine a city like New York in her future. She said in a town so small that there are only two stop lights, one grocery store, one gas station and a few other small businesses, there are not many opportunities outside of being a farmer, correctional officer or a student at the junior college. “I live on a dirt road with a lot of trees, and a cow field is right across from my house. Many people don’t believe that Florida has really [a] countryside to it,” Brelove said. She went to a K-12 school where she said “everyone knows everyone” and spent the rest of her days outside either playing basketball or tending to the farm animals with her grandfather. “Basketball has been a part of my life for so long and I couldn’t imagine being in the position I’m in without it and the support from my mom and town,” Brelove said. “All I’ve ever known was school, basketball, family and faith, not necessarily in that order.” The 6-foot-2 senior forward signed with the program last May as a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. As a junior, she appeared in 29 of the Rams’ 31 games, making 13 starts and averaging 8.3 points in 22.0 minutes per game. Having the chance to transfer to St. John’s helped Brelove realize it was time for a change from VCU and she said everything “just felt right.” “Once the coaches from St. John’s contacted me and I found out the school was in New York, I was almost completely sold,” she said. “New York, to me, was a place that seemed as if it was on another planet, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity if I could.” And she did just that. Brelove said that so far being part of
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
Senior transfer ready to make an impact
the Red Storm has been great, practice is going well and her coaches and teammates are fun to be around. The relationships she’s building off the court will most likely translate into her role with the team on the court, as she said her key traits like aggression, leadership and bringing energy to the floor will help her contribute. “I would say my greatest strengths are being able to score, be a presence on defense and communicate with my coaches and teammates with understanding, knowing they have my back.” Brelove said of her skill set. “[And] Being able to make and create plays with and without the ball in my hands.” The forward has some high expectations for herself and for the rest of her team this season, including winning the Big East Tournament and going to the NCAA Tournament. “My expectations for the team as well as myself are to be as great as we can be as individuals and student-athletes,” she said. “We have so much potential and it shows every day in practice. The ultimate goal is to grow and get better in all areas — school, basketball, etc., in every way possible, making us a stronger team and closer to achieving our goals.” Analysts have hinted that Brelove is going to surprise those watching this season. She agrees, adding that she thinks she’ll surprise herself even more. “I’m in a new place, with new people, and I want to be a better and new me,” she said. “I’m striving to be the player who does the expected, as well as the unexpected in the best way possible, to help my team be even greater.”
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TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
COURTSIDE | 33
Q&A: Tamesha “Sox” Alexander
The senior will play a key role for the Red Storm this year NITHAELLE DROUILLARD Contributing Writer
Q: Do you have any rituals that you must perform before a game? No, I wouldn’t really say I have a ritual. I usually just listen to music and zone out. I come in, sit and play my pregame playlist. Q: What’s your favorite downtime activity? I’m goofy. I like to dance and listen to music. I don’t know, I just chill. Sometimes I play video games, you know NBA 2K, but yeah mainly I just chill. Q: Is there a particular significance to your jersey number? No, I originally wanted number two. However, when I got here it was already taken. So, what’s better than number one? Q: What’s your favorite show? Hmm, my favorite show right now? Well, I’m going to say Game of Thrones. I’m a Game of Thrones fan. So, I watch that and Power. Those are my two shows right now. I’ll watch other TV mostly like reality TV shows. However, those are the shows that I like. Q: What are your predictions for the season? I predict that we’ll come out and compete every game. We’ll compete in our league. Our ultimate goal is to win a championship. Definitely, we want to come out and compete. We want compete in the NCAA berth. We’re just focused on competing every day. Q: Who’s your fashion inspiration? I like Rihanna. She’s dope. I like Chris Brown. He’s dope too. When I’m feeling in tomboy-ish mood, I’ll go to him. His collection of clothes is really nice. Rihanna is just super dope. Anything she does is super dope.
TORCH ILLUSTRATION/CARLOS ORTIZ
Going into her last season with the Johnnies, Tamesha “Sox” Alexander will hit the court with full force for the Red Storm this year. During St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 26, the young point guard talked about her experience at SJU and her mindset both on and off the court.
Q: How do you handle pressure before and during a game? I handle pressure during the game by not letting a mistake or something distract me. I just try to shake it off. Before the game, I don’t think about it too much. I try to be as loose and free as possible. Q: Why did you pick St. John’s? When I was in high school, I had a great rapport with Coach T. The year I committed, he became the head coach. I felt the family environment when I committed and I loved the teammates. It was a great program I was stepping into. So, I felt comfortable here. Q: What are your plans for the future? Well, I want to get my master‘s after graduating with a business degree. I also want to get into coaching when I’m done. Q: Being from Philadelphia, did it feel like a big change coming to New York? No, it’s very similar to Philly. Everything was really the same. I think it just more people. Just more lights.
34 | COURTSIDE
Legend in the Making Tartamella enjoying long run of success SEAN OKULA Staff Writer
TORCH PHOTO/LAUREN FINEGAN
A coach’s success can be defined in a number of ways. One may start by looking at the banners hanging in the rafters, or in the case of Carnesecca Arena, on the walls. Women’s basketball Head Coach Joe Tartamella has left his mark on those concrete stanchions. Five seasons have passed since he took the reigns as head coach of the St. John’s women’s program — a daunting position for the then-32 year-old career assistant. The Johnnies were coming off five straight postseason bids under thenHead Coach Kim Barnes Arico. Expectations were sky-high for this dawning age of Red Storm dominance. Tartamella did not disappoint. His first year saw its ups and downs. A slow start for the preseason 14th-ranked Red Storm, coupled with the loss of guard Eugeneia McPherson to injury, had the new lead man on the rocks. But what truly defines a leader is his ability to climb up from the doldrums of defeat. The waters settled, and by the end of the 2012 season, the Johnnies were in the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight year. They have not looked back since. Four 20-win seasons, two more NCAA Tournament appearances, two WNIT bids and a Big East title later, Tartamella and his players are in the midst of a Red Storm renaissance. And yet, Tartamella looks beyond the win-loss record as a mark of his accomplishments. He sees a much
bigger picture in defining his program’s success. “For us, it’s really trying to see how good we can be as a group,” Tartamella said about preparing for the coming campaign. “We define our success in a number of areas, it’s not just about getting to the postseason. Certainly that’s one of them. We really are looking for growth, from the end of our [previous] season till we
finish [this year].” Before taking the lead role in Queens, Tartamella was a member of the supporting cast as an assistant under Barnes Arico for ten seasons. His first year as a graduate assistant, 2002, saw the Red Storm accumulate eight wins. By the time he graduated to assistant coach in 2005, the Johnnies were in the NCAA Tournament
COURTSIDE | 35
He teaches us basketball — he teaches us life through basketball. Maya Singleton
Round of 32 with a 22-8 mark. Tartamella knows how to best motivate his squad, putting them on the path to make the most of their time donning the red and white. “Success for us, really, is wanting to make sure we get the best out of our team,” Tartamella said. “We don’t want underachievement; we want to be able to overachieve.” He has helped turn players’ dreams into reality. Four former St. John’s players have gone from Tartamella’s program to hearing their names called at the WNBA Draft, most recently Aliyyah Handford and Danaejah Grant in 2016. The genuine care for his players does not go unnoticed by the women he leads in battle each season. They know how much he knows, how much he motivates and how much he cares. “He teaches us basketball — he teaches us life through basketball,” said junior forward Maya Singleton of Tartamella’s person-to-person coaching style. “Every day in practice he just demands the most out of us, and that’s what we try to give him in order to be great.” Beyond his personal nature, his full-on understanding of the game has kept him at the forefront of the Big East coaching scene for the past five seasons. “When we break down film, you get to see how much he really understands the game,” said senior guard Tamesha Alexander. “He’s great at breaking it down for you so that you’re able to understand.” Fifteen full seasons around the women’s game will provide such an expertise. And yet, even with a wide range of experience, Tartamella constantly finds himself adapting in an ever-changing basketball landscape.
TORCH PHOTO/AMANDA NEGRETTI
“In 15 years I’ve seen a lot, but I haven’t seen it all,” he remarked with a smile. “Certainly we’ve had our challenges.” His evolution as a coach is apparent to his players as well. To some veteran eyes, he has developed a bit of a sweetness. “He’s a softie now,” Alexander said with a chuckle. “He has a little baby girl...He doesn’t yell as much and he has a little more patience now.” An overturning roster, an evolving game and an expanding size of the family car. Yet one thing has remained constant through the years: a victorious tradition. “I’ve learned so much. I’ve changed a lot as a coach,” Tartamella said, always remaining humble. And with an entire slate of games ahead, the basketball junkie is ready to absorb some more.
2017-18 WOMENâ€™S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 11/10/17 11/17/17
St. Francis Brooklyn William & Mary
Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena)
GULF COAST SHOWCASE 11/24/17 Western Michigan Estero, Fla. (Germain Arena) 11AM 11/25/17 South Carolina/Rutgers Estero, Fla. (Germain Arena) TBA 11/26/17 TBD Estero, Fla. (Germain Arena) TBA 11/30/17 Albany Albany, N.Y. (SEFCU Arena) 7PM 12/3/17 Miami Coral Gables, Fla. (Watsco Center) 1PM 12/9/17 James Madison Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 2PM 12/12/17 Fordham Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 12/18/17 Kansas Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 12/21/17 Buffalo Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 11AM 12/28/17 Marquette Milwaukee, Wis. (Al McGuire Center) 8:30PM 12/30/17 DePaul Chicago, Ill. (McGrath-Phillips Arena) 8PM 01/2/18 Providence Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 01/5/18 Creighton Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 01/7/18 Xavier Cincinnati, Ohio (Cintas Center) 2PM 01/10/18 Butler Indianapolis, Ind. (Hinkle Fieldhouse) 7PM 01/12/18 Georgetown Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 01/14/18 Villanova Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 2PM 01/21/18 Seton Hall South Orange, N.J. (Walsh Gymnasium) 1PM 01/26/18 Creighton Omaha, Neb. (DJ Sokol Arena) 8PM 01/28/18 Providence Providence, R.I. (Alumni Hall) 1PM 02/2/18 Butler Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 02/4/18 Xavier Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 2PM 02/9/18 Villanova Villanova, Pa. (The Pavillion) 11:30AM 02/11/18 Georgetown Washington, D.C. (McDonough Arena) 2PM 02/16/18 Seton Hall Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 02/23/18 DePaul Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 7PM 02/25/18 Marquette Queens, N.Y. (Carnesecca Arena) 2PM *Home Games in Bold
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