A VIEW FROM COURTSIDE
by Mitchell Petit-Frere by Torch Editorial Staff
RECOVERED AND READY
D’ANGELO HARRISON: STEPPING UP?
by Kieran Lynch
by Michael E. Cunniff
TIME TO REFOCUS
MARCO BOURGAULT: EUROPEAN SWAG
by Kyle Fitzgerald
by Mitchell Petit-Frere
BIG EAST: DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
by Mitchell Petit-Frere
COURTSIDE THE ANNUAL TORCH BASKE TBALL MAGAZINE
Michael E. Cunniff
COPY EDITORS Sarah Yu Peter Long Anthony O’Reilly
WRITERS Taylor Brisco Kyle Fitzgerald Anthony Parelli Matthew Wolfson
PHOTOGRAPHERS Diana Colapietro Colin Johnson (College of Charleston)
Mitchell Petit-Frere Executive Editor
Cover photograph by Kristen Farmer Contents page photos by Kristen Farmer
8 Women’s 28
FROM THE TOP
IT’S HIS TURN NOW
by Anthony Parelli
by Taylor Brisco and Kyle Fitzgerald
BIG THREE: ONE MORE CHANCE FOR HISTORY by Matthew Wolfson
by Kieran Lynch by Michael E. Cunniff
Q&A WITH SAMPSON
Q&A WITH NWACHUKWU
by Matthew Wolfson by Taylor Brisco
Nov. 29 Dec. 1 Dec. 4 Dec. 8 Dec. 15 Dec. 21 Jan. 2 Jan. 5 Jan. 9 Jan. 12 Jan. 15 Jan. 19 Jan. 23 Jan. 27 Jan. 30 Feb. 2 Feb. 6 Feb. 10 Feb. 14 Feb. 20 Feb. 24 Mar. 2 Mar. 5 Mar. 9 4
vs. vs. at vs. vs. vs. at at vs. vs. vs. at at vs. vs. at vs. at at vs. vs. at at vs.
South Carolina NJIT San Francisco Fordham St. Francis UNC Asheville Villanova Cincinnati Rutgers Georgetown Notre Dame DePaul Rutgers Seton Hall DePaul Georgetown Connecticut Syracuse Louisville South Florida Pittsburgh Providence Notre Dame Marquette
Photograph by Diana Colapietro
Photograph by Diana Colapietro
A VIEW FROM COURTSIDE Year one of the Steve Lavin era paid witness to a change in culture for the St. John’s men’s basketball program. Year two saw heightened expectations that failed to be met – for more reasons than one. Now, as new faces mix with old in the Red Storm locker room and Lavin’s coaching staff begins to tie the laces of their iconic Air Force 1’s, there’s an air of uncertainty surrounding the team heading into the 2012-13 campaign. Following last year’s frenzied season, which was highlighted by Lavin’s extended absence, point guard Nurideen Lindsey’s sudden departure and numerous cases of ineligibility, some fans aren’t willing to jump onto the Red Storm bandwagon just yet. However, there is still a sense of optimism about the team. Yes, it’s generally expected that there will be a few learning curves for Lavin’s men to overcome – Lavin himself has admitted it – but it must be noted that this is the first year that the head coach will be granted a full season to work with a group of players that he, himself, recruited. It’s easy for some to forget that the 2011 tournament team was filled with players that Norm Roberts recruited. Considering this, the prospect of Lavin working around the clock, with the kind of talent that he has at his disposal, is an enthralling idea for the fans of Lavinwood. A large portion of the aforementioned talent happens to be last season’s core group of players. They made up the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation and will enter this year with a refined sense of what collegiate and Big East basketball is all about. Their knowledge will prove to be an essential asset to the new batch
MITCHELL PETIT-FRERE EXECUTIVE EDITOR
of players that Lavin has brought in for his quest to capture glory come March. Even more importantly, Lavin will be in full health, able to teach his young Johnnies the philosophy that he believes will translate into positive results on the hardwood. So, as the season begins, the Red Storm faithful are faced with an attractive prospect – following years of uncertainty surrounding the team, St. John’s is on the verge of discovering stability within their men’s basketball program. Lavin is back for good, a strong fan base and a lucrative ESPN3 contract is set in place, all while talented recruits continue to show interest in St. John’s. If 2011 was the breakout year and 2012 marked the first struggle, the 2013 season signals the period in time where St. John’s basketball launches itself into the national spotlight, with Lavin in the driver’s seat
leading the way. With that said, it’s a momentous time for Johnnies fans of past and present. The Redmen fans of yesterday who were fortunate enough to experience the glory days of Carnesecca, Mullin and that legendary Final Four appearance are finally being reunited with a basketball program that has the capability of captivating the minds and souls of a fan base for the long term. So, while the seasoned St. John’s fan experiences a sporting renaissance, younger fans who choose to forge an alliance with the red and white, will do it at the most opportune of times, as the excitement of the Lavin era will affix them to the program for life. There’s no doubt that Red Storm pride will continue to spread throughout New York, but as the reputation of St. John’s basketball continues to grow, expect those Red Storm t-shirts that engulf Carnesecca Arena on game nights to be dawned on the shoulders of fans across the country. The Johnnies are slowly but surely, once again, becoming a prominent figure in the world of college basketball. Chris Mullin has proven to be a crucial ambassador, Lavin’s exuberance and recruiting expertise has made St. John’s a viable destination for top recruits and, most importantly, players are performing at a level that continues to force the national media to keep the spotlight on the program. In 1983, Sports Illustrated named St. John’s the “Beast of the East.” Now, 30 later, St. John’s is nearing closer to that same title. Only this time, they have loftier ambitions.
Photograph by Kristen Farmer
MEN’S BASKETBALL COURTSIDE
Photographs by Kristen Farmer
RECOVERED AND READY FOLLOWING A YEAR OF TURMOIL, THE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM LOOKS TO GROW WITH A HEALTHY COACH, EXPERIENCED PLAYERS AND ANOTHER TOP RECRUITING CLASS IN THE FOLD
by8 Kieran Lynch COURTSIDE
has brought in two
oming into the 2011-2012 season, highly ranked recruiting the St. John’s fan base was reclasses in three years energized from the previous year’s as head coach. NCAA tournament appearance, a No. 3 recruiting class and a head coach in Steve Lavin that had the program heading in an upward direction. Looking back on that season, the result wasn’t anything that could have been predicted. Three players were deemed academically ineligible, two players left the program and Lavin spent much of the year operating behind the scenes, rather than on the sidelines. “Last year, we couldn’t go hard [in practice], we only had six people,” said sophomore Amir Garrett. “We had to play 35plus minutes, it was hard.” In April 2011, St. John’s announced that Lavin had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would undergo treatment. This treatment, which took place in the form of surgery in early Oct. 2011, resulted in the coach only being able to lead his team for four games during the following season. Fast forward to the fall of 2012. The expectations are back, though not as intense. Almost all of last year’s core rotation returns, though this time, they will be surrounded by a second wave of talented recruits as a healthy Lavin continues to build to the goal of turning St. John’s into a national contender. “Last year, the most challenging aspect of the season was not being able to participate in the journey on a daily basis,” Lavin said. “I also knew that the choice to focus on recuperating and recruiting was going to be more important for the future of our program than me being good to have that. Nobody is selfish, everyone is willing to on the sidelines last year because we weren’t going to be able help.” to coach the team, sign eight players and also recuperate fully Behind those leaders, there is another top recruiting class from the cancer.” featuring freshmen JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, Christian During Lavin’s absence, he spent a significant amount of Jones, Felix Balamou as well as junior college transfers Orlando time trying to sway potential recruits to come to Queens. He Sanchez and Marco Bourgault. In addition to the newcomers, succeeded, much in the way he had after his first season, and transfer student Jamal Branch will be eligible come December. picked up an extraordinarily large class with big names. Having such a large group of new players will mean another “We had to make some tough choices,” Lavin said, referring year of development for the Red Storm, though Lavin feels he’s to his time away from the bench. “When you look at our roster, up to the challenge once again. it’s clear the strategy paid dividends.” “We’re a very young team and that makes it interesting That roster has a few familiar faces, but will be missing on a daily basis in practice, it comes with the territory,” Lavin last year’s star. Moe Harkless, who averaged 15.5 points and said. “We have players that are not familiar with this level of 8.6 rebounds per game last season, was the 15th overall pick basketball, but our staff feels strongly that it’s a group where in the NBA draft. Without him, there are four sophomore we can move forward quickly enough to be competitive, by the returnees: D’Angelo Harrison, Amir Garrett, Phil Greene and time Big East Conference [play] roles around.” Sir’Dominic Pointer. Senior God’s Gift Achiuwa, who was While there will be the requisite time spent for the growing in the rotation last season, will be redshirted this upcoming process of young players, each one brings a skill set that St. season. John’s felt it has a need for. “We have a leader at every position,” Harrison said. “It’s JaKarr Sampson, who originally committed prior to the COURTSIDE
We’re going to make the tournament though, I know that for a fact.
Photograph by Diana Colapietro
-D’Angelo Harrison 2011 season, was deemed academically ineligible along with former commit Norvel Pelle and Garrett. Now, he’s wearing red and white and the expectations couldn’t be higher for the self-professed SpongeBob enthusiast. However, he’ll need to find his comfort zone at the next level. “I’m just confident in my game and I go out there and play it,” Sampson said. “There’s a lot of learning going on, I’m just a freshman and I’m getting used to college basketball. I always try to remember my role, but sometimes I forget so I’m learning and getting better.” With his athleticism and height, comparisons have already been drawn between him and Harkless. Each player has a different opinion on the similarities and Sampson is aware of them. “I see that comparison,” Sampson said. “I saw it a lot when we played with each other at IS8 (a local AAU Tournament).” D’Angelo Harrison had a slightly different reaction to the comparison. “JaKarr is his own person,” he said. “I don’t think he’s really worried about Moe, Moe’s out of here.” When St. John’s opened the season, Sampson was surprisingly quiet on the court, showing clear freshman jitters while only scoring two points. Since then, he’s progressed in an upward trajectory with eight points in Game 2 and 14 points in Game 3. While St. John’s has experience with Sampson’s skill set, the arrival of Obekpa can be expected to change a defensive plan entirely as the program hasn’t had a shotblocker of his caliber in quite some time. “He’s an unusually gifted shot-blocker, a strong rebounder and offensively he processes
at a very high level that allows him to make good choices,” Lavin said. “When you have a shotblocker like him, it changes the game because opponents have to be aware of where he is on the floor and he learns fully healed from prostate very quickly.” cancer, high-fives his With these players at the 2012 Red highly talented Storm Tip-Off. players tacked onto the roster, there’s no ruling out a trip to the NCAA Tournament in March. At least that’s what stretch within conference play that could be Harrison thinks, though, he tempered the deemed an impossible task, except for backenthusiasm he had regarding the Final Four to-back games on the road against Syracuse a year ago. and Louisville. All in all, schedule won’t be “We’re going to make the tournament the thing that holds back the Johnnies in though, I know that for a fact,” he said. 2013. Roster issues, however, never seem to “We’re going to make the tournament.” go away. For the Red Storm to do that, they’ll Following last season’s troubles of lacking need to work their way through their regular a bench, the Red Storm came into 2012 season schedule first. A year ago, the young with similar issues. Bourgault and Sanchez Johnnies took the floor against their normal had yet to be cleared by the NCAA because Big East opponents, who don’t change from of classification questions and the team was year to year. In addition to that, they played contemplating redshirting Achiuwa and Duke (an annual out of conference opponent Balamou. That partly came to an end, when most years) and Kentucky, both on the road. Lavin played Balamou in Charleston, thus Playing teams of that caliber tired out a thin ending his possibility of being redshirted. team that could ill-afford a single twisted For Achiuwa, it remains likely that he will ankle or bruised knee. redshirt. This year, the schedule isn’t as big of a During day two of the Charleston Classic, fear for the team. Out of conference, every Bourgault received word while he was in class game is within reach despite the players’ that he was eligible to play. He then flew inexperience and as of now, there is hardly any down to South Carolina for that evening’s
game against Murray State. For Sanchez, however, his fate had yet to be determined as of the time this went to print on Nov. 19. “With Marco and Orlando, we’re just waiting for a ruling on their eligibility,” Lavin said before the season. “Everything has been submitted so now they kind of evaluate the case that’s been submitted so they give you a choice within a certain amount of time.” Between the previously mentioned high profile recruits, the transfers and the rest of the large class, there is the need leadership and stability. When Harkless left for the NBA, the role appeared to fall to Harrison. Now, as that de facto leader, he will be called on to guide a group of players who are going through the same development he experienced a year ago. “We just have to be ready for the first game,” Harrison said. “The first game is so important. We’re going to come out with a bang, we’re going to play hard.” Things might not be as simple as that, though. Harrison didn’t start in the first
exhibition game, sat out the entirety of the second game and began the team’s regular season opener on the bench. “My job is to play basketball here,” Harrison said following the win over Detroit. “We’re one as a team. It doesn’t matter who starts and who doesn’t start.” One thing Harrison noted was how the emphasis has moved from one based on offense last year to more of a defensive base this year. “I like this team because everyone is buying into the defensive side, that’s different from last year,” he said. “Everybody’s bought into the defense. We feel like if we can stop somebody, we don’t have to score.” When it comes to leadership on the Red Storm, Harrison isn’t the only change. A year ago, with Lavin sidelined, former associate head coach Mike Dunlap took the reigns. Shortly after the season ended, he got the call to move to the next level. He’s now the head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.
“You want your assistant coaches to move on and become head coaches, that’s what they aspire to,” Lavin said. His departure meant that St. John’s would have to fill yet another spot on the team, this time in the leadership. After a lengthy decision making process, Lavin chose a former player in Darrick Martin that received his tutelage at UCLA before going on to a lengthy professional career. “It’s been a transition, but Coach Martin is a great coach,” Green said. With a returning head coach, new assistant coach and a roster filled with new faces, it is clear there will be a time of necessary transition. For a team that has been picked 10th in the preseason coaches poll, there won’t be a major spotlight cast on them early on. That could all change should to team get off to a quick start. “No one goes undefeated,” Pointer said. “Hopefully, we play our best basketball in March.” COURTSIDE
STEPPING UP? D’ANGELO HARRISON IS AN ENIGMA WRAPPED IN A BIG-TIME PLAYER by Michael E. Cunniff
peaking over brunch in late August, I asked Steve Lavin who he thought the most improved player on the men’s basketball team was. His somewhat surprising answer? D’Angelo Harrison. As he ticked off the places where he’d improved, from his ball-handling to court vision to his decision-making, athletic communications director Mark Fratto interjected to put that into context. “We’re talking about the guy who scored 544 points last season as a freshman.” In other words, watch out, Big East. Harrison is due to break out this season. “His vision, leadership,” said sophomore Phil Greene, listing the areas in which Harrison has improved. “Just running the point guard, period. He’s a really good lead guard, and everyone will see it.” That is, of course, assuming he can stay out of Lavin’s doghouse. Lavin benched the sophomore for the Red Storm’s exhibition tilt against Concordia State, and brought him off the bench for the regular season opener against Detroit. The violation, which wasn’t disclosed, wasn’t serious (Lavin likened it to a parking violation). It was more a punishment designed to be a teachable moment for Harrison — to show how serious the responsibility of leading a collection of freshmen and sophomores with NCAA Tournament aspirations is. “He knows Coach Lav is not going to take what happened last year, him yelling at the refs and stuff,’’ sophomore guard Sir’Dominic Pointer said. “Coach Lav wants him to challenge his energy the right way.’’ But a spot on the bench is only temporary for Harrison. He was the driving force behind the Johnnies come-frombehind win that day, scoring 15 of his gamehigh 22 points in the second half, and was on the floor for the opening tip by the next game against College of Charleston. “We’re one as a team,” Harrison said after the Detroit win. “We’re going to just play, and it doesn’t matter who starts, who doesn’t start.”
D’Angelo Harrison is being
looked to as the leader for this year’s young team.
Photographs by Kristen Farmer
It appeared to be the end of the minor controversy, but he was pulled from the starting lineup yet again against Baylor on Nov. 18 for missing the team bus. So it goes with Harrison, who is capable of being as mature and poised on the court as he is sometimes rash and petulant on it. He’s cut from a similar cloth as NBA star Kevin Garnett — a player you love when he’s on your side, and hate when he’s not. He’ll grab the ball out of an opponent’s hands after a whistle for no real reason, argue any call that doesn’t go his way and scream in delirium every time something does. His in-game emotions are something he’s working on keeping in check. He spent the summer training at former NBA guard John Lucas’ prestigious basketball camp in Houston with other top college players, where he said Lucas worked with him on his temperament. “Be a good person,” he said recalling what Lucas told him. “Don’t be that guy that people don’t want to be around or people don’t like you for no reason that haven’t even met you. Basically, just give off a good impression to everyone.” And in between, he’ll hit a 25-foot jumper with a hand in his face. It’s easy to forget that Harrison (and the other three returning starters for that matter) is only a sophomore. Perhaps no guard in the Big East shouldered more of the burden for his team during conference play last season than Harrison. He was the team’s best ballhandler and all-around scorer on the court, and the team’s most charismatic representative off of it. With no backup guard after Malik Stith left the team in February, Harrison was the undisputed leader of the backcourt as fellow freshmen Phil Greene and Sir’Dominic Pointer appeared overwhelmed at times by the rigors of the Big East schedule. Along with Moe Harkless, he was the face of New York City’s college team. He was 18 years old. In the beginning of last season, however, Harrison wasn’t the face of the Johnnies like he is today. That honor belonged to Harkless, the soft-spoken wunderkind from just around the bend in Jamaica. Even troubled Nurideen Lindsey, who emerged from a personal hell for nine turbulent games in red and white received more attention before he left the team, got more pub than Harrison, both on and off the court. Harrison still came in with high expectations, but struggled to meet them. Assistant coach Rico Hines said before last season that he thought the Texas native could be the best shooter in the country, even as a freshman. But he struggled to get off the mark, shooting just 34 percent in his first 10 games.
He says they’re not going to lock on him; they’re going to lock on him. He knows it, we know it too. - Sir’Dominic Pointer
As the season progressed, however, the light bulb went on and never shut off. Harrison scored 18.5 points per game in the Big East play, good for third in the league behind only West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom —two players who were seniors last year. “He’s tough, man,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright after Harrison torched the Wildcats for 28 points in the Red Storm’s overtime loss last year at the Garden. At the end of the season, Harrison had set a St. John’s freshman record with 544 points and earned All-Big East Freshman Team honors. But he was still overshadowed by Harkless, who was named the conference Rookie of the Year and declared for the NBA Draft soon after. This year, comparatively a grizzled veteran at age 19, he’ll have even more on his plate. While Greene ran the point most of the year offensively, this year, Lavin said he’ll put the ball in Harrison’s hands more — giving him the task of creating for others as well as himself. “When we recruited him, he was a combination guard, so that’s what attracted me to D’Angelo initially,” Lavin said, explaining his rationale for playing Harrison at the point. “His ball-handling, his decision-making, his playmaking ability is underrated because people tend to focus on the natural gift he has to make shots from long distance.” But his first job is to score, and so far he’s been quick on the trigger — some might say too quick. He took more than 20 shots in two of the Johnnies first three games, including some illadvised shots in traffic in the team’s first loss of the season to Murray State. “We’ll also work with him on making judgments when he draws two or three defenders, then he’s done his job,” Lavin told reporters after the Murray State game. “He needs to kick the ball to the open man. But he also has the gift that great scorers do, to create offense out of tough situations.” His high shooting volume hasn’t been inefficient — he’s reached the 20-point mark in each of the first four games. Even when he came off the bench against Baylor, he made his presence felt, draining three straight threes when he entered. “He’s a shot-maker and a big shot taker. . . I always know I can pass it to him and get an assist,” Greene said. “Everything he takes is like a layup because he’s one of the top shooters in the country. With him in the game, it just flows better.” And so far, there’s nobody taking his spotlight — on or off the court, no matter how much Harrison tries to deny it. “We have all these guys now, so they can’t circle on me,” he said at St. John’s basketball media day, claiming that he wouldn’t receive increased attention from opposing defenses. “They can’t do it. If you circle on me somebody else is going to go off for 30.” Sitting next to him, sophomore guard Sir’Dominic Pointer scoffed at that thought. “He says they’re not going to lock on him; they’re going to lock on him” Pointer said. “He knows it, we know it too. They’re going to surround their defense around him and other people just have to step up and score. COURTSIDE
AMIR GARRETT: Photographs by Kristen Farmer
TIME TO REFOCUS TWO-SPORT STAR PREPARES TO TAKE ON BIGGER TEAM ROLE by: Kyle Fitzgerald
The gutted 2011 St. John’s men’s basketball team was missing one critical piece to what was supposed to be a contender for an NCAA tournament run: leadership. With players academically ineligible and a head coach whose illness forced him to watch his team from home, the young Red Storm had to look to an assistant coach for inspiration and leadership; amd that wasn’t enough. This year, this young (but not quite as young) group of players have a year of experience behind them and a renewed sense of leadership with the return of their head coach, Steve Lavin. One of these players, sophomore Amir Garrett, brought in lessons learned from last year and will apply them to this year to bring St. John’s back to a championship level. “I’ve learned how to become a leader,” Garret said. “I’ve just learned how to be a bigger leader and just step up when they [teammates] need me.” Garrett made headlines this past summer in a different sport: baseball. The Cincinnati Reds discovered Garrett’s baseball talents in May of his senior year of high school and brought him to the College of Southern Nevada. Although he didn’t competitively throw a baseball in a year, Garrett’s pitches were recorded around 90 mph, which intrigued both the scouts and the Reds. The southpaw had to make a decision about his career: baseball or basketball? Surely it must have been difficult for someone to choose one passion over another,
Garrett SamAmir Sealy comes into his
earned a spot on the St. sophomore season after John’s roster as a walk-on spending a summer because of his size and playing professional attitude in practice. baseball.
yet Garrett was able to work out a deal with the Reds that would give him the opportunity to play basketball and baseball without violating NCAA rules. He was drafted in the 22nd round of the MLB draft and signed a deal with the Reds on Aug. 15 worth with a $1 million signing bonus. Although the deal allows Garrett to play for St. John’s basketball during the academic year, he cannot play collegiate baseball. For now, the 6-foot-6 California native is placing his MLB career on the backburner and is giving his undivided attention to the upcoming
basketball season. When Garrett first arrived on campus, he had difficulty adjusting to more strenuous practices. “It was kind of difficult when I first came,” Garrett said. “The training was a lot different, from baseball to basketball. I couldn’t even get up and down the court with these guys.” Nevertheless, he insists that he is nearly at full strength. “I have a little bit more work to do, but right now, I’m caught up to where I need to be right now,” he said. Garrett comes into this year with a chip on his shoulder
after he was ruled academically ineligible a year ago. He sat out the first half of the 2011-2012 season as a result. Academic ineligibility has humbled Garrett. He assured many people that his grades have gotten better and he looks to set himself as an example for both the younger players on the team and to his teammates from last year on and off the court. “‘Stay on top of your grades’ and that’s it,” he said. “I bring 110% every game, every practice. I just play hard. I just look for my younger teammates to follow as I do. I’m not going to steer them in the wrong direction.” With his grades back up, Garrett is able to leave last year behind him and now focus on the present and help his team on the court, where his size and length is welcomed. Now that Moe Harkless , last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year, is in the NBA, Garrett will be one of the players giving St. John’s a presence under the rim where they can get second opportunities to score or prevent other teams from getting another shot. Garrett also explained that he’s added more dimensions to his offensive game. “I’ve been working on my mid-range game.” he said. “I’ve been trying to be a fascilitator I get into the lane and pass out tothe open shooter With the season underway and the Johnnies dual sport threat at peak condition, he’s confident the Johnnies will turn heads. “The potential on this team is crazy – it’s amazing,” he said. COURTSIDE
WITH JAKARR SAMPSON
THE JOHNNIES’ BIGGEST TALENT (AND BIGGEST SMILE) TALKS ABOUT SPONGEBOB AND HIS MENTOR, LEBRON JAMES by Matthew Wolfson Torch: How did your year at Brewster Academy, the New Hampshire prep school, affect you: positively or negatively? JaKarr Sampson: Positively, definitely positively. It helped me mature. It helped me get stronger and faster. It gave me some time to work on my game, and we won a national championship, so that’s good too. How do you expect to fit into Coach Lavin’s system, and what do you expect your role to be? My role is just to do whatever Coach Lavin tells me to do, so that’s all I’m going to do. Are there any areas that you’ve seen in practice that you, or the team as a whole, need to improve on this season? Well, we improve ourselves in practice every day, that’s how we’re going to get better. Defensive-wise, we’ve gotten a lot better with our rotations and help defense and stuff like that. We’re going to keep improving there, definitely, but we’ve also been improving offensively, and we’ll keep doing that.
Coach Lavin had a lot to say about your personality and the game that you bring to St. John’s. What do you think you’ll bring to the team this year? I feel like I bring energy to my team. If we’re having a not-so-good day at practice with low-energy, I feel like I bring that energy to the team. From the team as a whole, what are your expectations and how far do you think you guys can go? I think our team can go pretty far. We’ve got a good, young team with a lot of players that came back, so we’re not like last year’s team where nobody came back. I feel like we’re going to be good this year. We set high expectations for ourselves because we’re a good team; we’re a good young team. We’re not as experienced but we’re going to work on that as the season goes on and get better.
JaKarr Sampson, drives to the basket.
Moe Harkless had an impressive season last year, and now that he left, have you been getting a lot of comparisons to him with expectations of filling that role? No, that’s actually the first time I’m hearing that. I actually like that comparison. I like people putting that on my shoulders because it gives me a reason to compete more and to live up to that standard. You attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, the same school as NBA superstar LeBron James. How do you feel about having him as a role model? Normally, I talk to him when he’s in town in the offseason, because then we can hook up and play at opens and he’ll have me over for pickups and stuff like that, and as a role model, he just won a championship, even though he fell multiple times, he just kept trying and kept getting better, kept in the gym and just didn’t give up.
Photograph by Kristen Farmer
After de-committing from St. John’s last year, and then being heavily recruited by a lot of top schools like Kansas and Florida. What was it about St. John’s that brought you back? The players. I formed a close bond with the players and the coaching staff before I left. That brought me back, because I just couldn’t leave them like that. We already formed that bond and we were already close so that’s definitely what brought me back, and the first time I came to the city was for my first official visit and I was like, ‘Wow, I love New York City.’
Many Twitter followers and fans are wondering, where does the love for SpongeBob SquarePants come from? It comes from my childhood, you know? I always loved SpongeBob because I always thought he was funny. Some of my teammates don’t think it’s that funny so they’re always giving me stuff about it. I just always thought he was funny, and he always gave me energy as a child just to run around the house and go crazy. I just love him.
Photograph Courtesy of Twitter
I formed a close bond with the players and the coaching staff before I left. That brought me back, because I just couldn’t leave them like that.
You play in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of basketball, one of the biggest stages in basketball, it helps you get ready for the next stage too, because playing in a place like that, not every college student gets to do it. It wasn’t hard at all to come back.
room at St. John’s, decorated with SpongeBob paraphanelia.
EUROPEAN SWAG FRENCHMAN BOURGAULT ADDS INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR TO STJ by Mitchell Petit-Frere
Photograph by Colin Johnson
t. John’s is New York’s team, and New York is the home to the most diverse urban area in the world: Queens. How fitting it is, then, that a team that speaks so many different languages plays nearly half of their home games in the most diverse place in the world. For fans that get the chance to sit courtside at Carnesecca Arena or Madison Square Garden this season, they may hear up to four different languages being spoken on the court by Steve Lavin’s men. “You got English, broken English, French and Spanish, so there’s four languages going on here,” explained D’Angelo Harrison. “Marco is the translator for everybody. Everything starts with Marco.” Marc-Antoine Bourgault is one of the many new additions to the Red Storm this year. He’s a sharpshooting Frenchman who has NBA range and an uncanny ability to “woo” the ladies. “Marco?” Harrison asked. “He obviously brings European swag.” Despite possessing “Euro swag” that would impress the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Bourgault was forced to add a dash of American flavor into his first name after touching down in the states, as it was proving difficult for his North American peers to pronounce. “My name on Facebook is Marc-Antoine,” Bourgault said. “But American people have trouble saying it, so it’s easier for people to call me Marco.” Bourgault committed to St. John’s after a two-year stint at Monroe College in the Bronx. The Frenchman only spent one season on the hardwood for the Mustangs, though, because of a torn ACL procured during the 2010 season. “It was pretty hard,” he said of the injury. “But I worked hard over the summer, I came back in my last year of junior college and I signed a scholarship with St. John’s. Everything is back to normal now.” After a bit of uncertainty heading into the season about his playing status due to his amateur status, the junior has been cleared to take the floor for the Johnnies for the next two seasons. Bourgault actually had one of the most fascinating debuts in Red Storm history, as he was notified of his eligibility in class, some seven or so hours before his teammates were set to take the court in a game against Murray State in Charleston, South Carolina. After hearing the news, he immediately left his multimedia communications class and boarded a plane to Charleston to make his debut in a Red Storm jersey. The Frenchman’s handling of the situation probably alludes to the swag Harrison mentioned earlier. Now that Bourgault’s spot on Lavin’s roster is confirmed, he’ll be expected to become an all-important perimeter threat that will allow the Johnnies to spread the floor against opposing defenses.
“Marco is a great jump shot shooter,” said sophomore Amir Garrett. “We want him to shoot the ball so that’s what he’s got to do.” Other than displaying his range, Bourgault’s teammates will also look for him to use his 6’ 6” frame to trouble the opposition down low. “He’s a big guard that can shoot the ball,” Harrison said. “He can bring it up the floor and he can post guys up. He brings a lot to the table. It’s going to be hard to guard him.” Another dimension to Bourgault’s game that Lavin took a fond liking to was the Frenchman’s impressive basketball knowledge. “I think my vision on the court and my [basketball] IQ are probably some of the reasons why Steve Lavin recruited me,”
Bourgault said. His mature understanding of the game stemmed from his experience playing in Europe, where there is a greater focus on fundamentals rather than sheer athleticism – a great contrast from the American style of basketball. “The American game is way faster, especially guards,” Bourgault said. “There is stronger defense and the bigs are more athletic than the bigs in Europe. But in Europe, everybody can shoot.” Freshmen Chris Obekpa and Felix Balamou as well as senior Orlando Sanchez are three other new members with international roots on Lavin’s squad. Sanchez, who was Bourgault’s teammate at Monroe, has also been dealing with eligibility problems. However, if the
Dominican Republic native is cleared to play at any point this season, it may bode well for the Johnnies, as the Monroe duo’s past has seen them develop good on-court chemistry. “We help each other a lot,” Bourgault said. “On the court, we know each other well and [know] where to find each other.” Whether or not Sanchez ends up playing this season, Bourgault’s all-around game will surely pay witness to him linking well with whomever he finds himself on the court with. His teammates will probably look to feed him the ball in tense, end-of-game situations, too. Two of his favorite players are Steve Kerr and John Paxson. They certainly had a fondness for lategame heroics.
Better late than never: Bourgault was forced to sit out during preseason and the Red Storm’s first game because of classification issues. Photographs by Colin Johnson COURTSIDE
DOWN, BUT NOT OUT by Mitchell Petit-Frere
Photograph courtesy of Georgetown athletics
Georgetown head coach John Thompson III called
the Big East’s realignment an “evolution.”
THE BIG EAST HAS SEEN BIG TEAMS DEPART, BUT THOSE WHO REMAIN SAY THE LEAGUE WILL BE JUST FINE
he Big East is undoubtedly the premier basketball conference in the country. In eight of the past 10 years, at least one Big East team has made the Final Four, three of them eventually being crowned national champions. Despite the conference’s longstanding success, its looming realignment threatens to force collegiate basketball to bear witness to a major shift in power, as the ACC, a conference that already boasts two of the most storied programs in the history of the sport in North Carolina and Duke, begins to prep for the arrival of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. With West Virginia already testing their luck in the Big 12, and the three aforementioned teams halfway to the ACC, the Big East can only look forward to welcoming basketball minnows SMU, UCF, perennial wildcard Memphis and fallen giant Houston to take the place of the departing juggernauts. As the conference begins to prepare for the impact of losing three of its most storied programs, many are wondering if the Big East will have the means to maintain the success it has experienced the past 33 years. To make matters even more hectic, Rutgers was rumored to join the Big Ten conference by the time Courtside went to print on Nov. 19. Nevertheless, longstanding members of the conference are adamant that the Big East will prevail through the struggles that it will soon face. “Coaches will change and players will change,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “It’s evolution, it’s growth. You’ll look at the Big East in three-four years and it’ll still be the Big East. Thompson III even alluded back to the previous phase of realignment when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech packed their bags for the ACC in 2005. “We ended up getting stronger [after they left],” Thompson III said.” Despite the Georgetown coach’s encouraging words, many are still left wondering whether the departure of basketball powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh will damage the Big East’s reputation. Considering the fact that top college prospects want to play against other
high caliber players, the media coverage that the ACC is receiving regarding its strengthening may end up hurting the amount of talent the Big East can lure to its programs. Nonetheless, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin is certain that his program will not fall victim to the changes that the conference is enduring. “What we’ve tried to do is focus on St John’s,” Lavin said. “I don’t think the Big East realignment will affect St. John’s ability to recruit at a high level because we’re uniquely positioned with our heritage and tradition, as Madison Square Garden is our home court and New York City is the media mecca of the world. I’m confident St. John’s can continue to be a competitive basketball program independent of what happens with conference realignment.” D’Angelo Harrison, Lavin’s main scoring threat this season, agreed that the Johnnies’ recruiting prowess won’t take a hit due to realignment. “The Big East is always going to be the best conference, so I don’t think it’s [realignment] going to affect us too much,” he said. Some coaches even arrived at the conclusion that the realignment will end up affecting fans more than the actual product on the hardwood. “I don’t think [realignment] will affect the league as much as it will affect the fans and alums,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “They’re used to those rivalries and relationships.” It’ll be a harsh pill to swallow for fans that have been involved with rivalries involving Syracuse, as the program was one of the original seven teams to join the conference in 1979. The Orange have played a pivotal role in the rise of the Big East, including some thrillers with Georgetown. Thompson alluded to this at Big East Media Day. “The game against Syracuse is special to us [Georgetown],” Thompson III said. The affected fans will also be forced to bear witness to an ushering in of a new guard of coaches, which will alter
Legendary Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is embarking on his last season in the Big East.
Photograph courtesy of Syracuse Athletics the image of the Big East even further. Wright explained that the conference is going through a ‘passing of the torch’ phase as coaches of past successes slowly make way for a younger generation of sideline generals, who will be counted on to maintain the Big East’s prominence. While the venerable Jim Calhoun stepped down as Connecticut’s head coach in September and Jim Boeheim readies Syracuse for seasonal matchups with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, it’ll be the likes of Rick Pitino, John Thompson III, Jay Wright and even Steve Lavin who become the new faces of Big East basketball. “Names will change,” Wright said. “But the game will stay the same.”
Names will change, but the game will stay the same
- Jay Wright
ROLE PLAYERS MATTER
KIERAN LYNCH EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
nybody who has spent any amount of time reading about the Red Storm this season should know most of the storylines by now. The stellar recruiting class and D’Angelo Harrison’s sometimes-rocky transition from second in command to sophomore leader are the ones most often in the headlines. There’s a whole level of player on the St. John’s roster that is going unnoticed. It’s a group that plays, quite possibly, the most important role on a team like this. They are the returners who don’t necessarily grab the spotlight: Phil Greene, Amir Garrett and Sir’Dominic Pointer. It doesn’t take much to see the difference that this spotlight creates. All it takes is one glimpse inside a press conference, either pre or post game. There, a pool of reporters throws question after question to head coach Steve Lavin or Harrison. The questions go from the guard being in the coach’s doghouse to on the court emotions. From there, things move to the new players, those who have the lofty expectations that come from being highly ranked high school players. All the while, Greene and Pointer find themselves having to give their opinion on the Harrison situation or this new guy or that new guy. Very rarely does anybody stop to ask what each player thinks about themselves or their game. I’m as much to blame as any other me-
dia member. Every reporter has a job to do and that means finding the most meaningful story, which sometimes means brushing aside a role player for the guy who makes the headlines. That doesn’t mean, however, that these role players don’t play a crucial part in whatever success the Johnnies hope to have this season. On Opening Day against Detroit, the impact of Greene was quite clear. He came out of the gate with a clear confidence that resulted in him dropping what was at that point a career-high 20 points. He showed poise in the first half, when every player around him was displaying everything but that. I think it’s clear where I’m going with this. Greene wasn’t the headline maker that day. It was Harrison, who to be fair, was a real difference maker, scoring 22 points and sparking the Red Storm in the second half. But, without Greene’s contribution in the first half, there would have been no team for Harrison to spark. That game would have been dead and buried by the time halftime rolled around. The very next game in Charleston, it was the exact reverse. While Greene scored half as many points as he did in the opener, he got going and dropped 10 in the second half. That wasn’t the end of his influence, however, as he added three steals and four assists, while once again, showing his improved ball handling skills. The experience is starting to show and it’s doing nothing but good things. The same can be said for Amir Garrett. After coming in last December, he’s been showing steady improvement on both ends of the court. Last winter, we witnessed him mostly slashing his way into the paint. Now, it’s a different scene, as he frames up his body with the basket, understands when to pull up for a short jumper and even hit a smooth three pointer in Charleston. As I said, though, it goes for both sides of the game. The forward has played consistent, yet quiet defense and honestly, that’s the best kind. Last but not least, is Pointer. When he was recruited, the idea was that he’d come in and be a long-armed defensive specialist. Thanks to the roster issues that came with last season, he saw himself getting more than major minutes and contributing in big ways on the offensive side. Now, with a full roster
around him, I have a feeling he’s going to return to that earlier desired role. That’s a good thing. The term “role player” should be pretty clear at this point. Pointer plays a less glorified, but equally important role of getting in the face of the opposing team’s star player and disrupting their flow. It won’t grab all the headlines, but necessary all the same. The direction of the season will depend on Greene, Garrett and Pointer. They may not always be the ones on the highlight reels, but without them, there is no backbone to for the big stars to lean on. So, next time you see Greene smoothly dribble around an opponent, Garrett stop a freshman’s errant pass from sailing out of bounds or Pointer knock a ball out of the opposing point guards hands before it gets within 20 feet of any basket, remember that’s what wins games. It’s the small things. It’s the things that don’t get your name in the headlines as often as it should. If those things don’t get taken care of and the role players don’t achieve their own form of success, then come March, there won’t be any headlines anywhere. But if they do, every player on the Red Storm’s roster, whether it’s the superstar, the phenom, the role player or the walk-on, will benefit more than they can imagine.
Photograph by Colin Johnson
BIG EAST PREVIEW
The Orange are restacked and recharged despite losing key members of the 2011/12 squad in Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo and Scoop Jardine. Head coach Jim Boeheim’s team might not match last season’s 34-4 mark, but it will will remain at the top of the conference in its last season of Big East play.
Marquette Golden Eagles The Golden Eagles are fresh off of back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. It’s not all perfect in Milwaukee, however, as head coach Buzz Williams will need to replace Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. In addition, sophomore Todd Mayo, who was expected to take on a greater role this season, will be academically ineligible until the beginning of conference play at the earliest.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
No matter what the preseason predictions are, the Fighting Irish find a way to finish higher than the expectations. Last season, they made their fifth NCAA tournament in the last six years. While they lose Tim Abromaitis, they only had him for two games last year before a season-ending injury and will return all five starters this time around.
Cincinnati Bearcats Sean Kilpatrick returns to lead a Bearcats team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen last march. They are missing their all-time leading rebounder Yancy Gates, though what they lose in size will be made up in speed. With three returning starts, head coach Mick Cronin will look to get 6-foot-7 JuCo transfer Titus Rubles involved early on.
Georgetown Hoyas The Hoyas had success a year ago with a team that included 10 freshmen and sophomores. This season, the hope is that this early experience will help offset the loss of Hollis Thompson, Henry Simms and Jason Clark. Add in three freshmen recruits in Brandon Bolden, Bradley Hayes and D’Vauntes SmithRivera and you have a top-flight Big East team.
South Florida Bulls Stan Heath has the task of replacing three Bulls starters from a year ago. At the same time, the team is coming off a school record 22 wins last season. With a large incoming class balanced between freshmen and transfers, Heath will try to find the right mix of experience and talent to replicate the results from a year ago.
Louisville Cardinals The unanimous No. 1 in this year’s preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Cardinals will look to make it a step further than the Final Four, their landing spot a year ago. Three starters return, including preseason Big East Player of the Year Peyton Siva. His leadership, along with the team’s incredible depth, could make the difference in getting over the final hump en route to a National Championship.
PRESEASON AWARDS 2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva, Louisville 2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year Steven Adams, Pittsburgh 2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati G, Junior, 6’ 4” Otto Porter, Georgetown F, Sophomore, 6’ 8” Gorgui Dieng, Louisville C, Junior, 6’ 10” Jack Cooley, Notre Dame F, Senior, 6’ 9” Vincent Council, Providence G, Senior, 6’ 2” 2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team Shabazz Napier, Connecticut G, Junior, 6’ 1” Cleveland Melvin, DePaul F, Junior, 6’ 8” D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s G, Sophomore, 6’ 3” Anthony Collins, South Florida G, Sophomore, 6’ 1” Brandon Triche, Syracuse G, Senior, 6’ 4” 2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention Chane Behanan, Louisville F, Sophomore, 6’ 7” Jerian Grant, Notre Dame G, Junior, 6’ 5” Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh G, Senior, 5’ 11” C.J. Fair, Syracuse F, Junior, 6’ 8”
PREDICTIONS 1. Louisville Cardinals
(Preseason Coaches Poll: #1)
2. Syracuse Orange (#2)
3. Georgetown Hoyas
BIG EAST PREVIEW Connecticut Huskies The Huskies’ year can already be summed up in one word: adversity. Replacing a Hall of Fame coach, NBA draftees in Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond and dealing with a posteason ban due to a low academic rating will be no small task for new head coach Kevin Ollie. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are key returners.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (#3)
5. Cincinnati Bearcats (#4)
6. Marquette Golden Eagles (#7)
7. Connecticut Huskies (#9)
Seton Hall Pirates The loss of Jordan Theodore will be a difficult one to get over for the Pirates. They return emerging leader Fuquan Edwin in his junior year and need to get transfers Brian Oliver and Gene Teague involved early on. Head coach Kevin Willard will look to a large influx of new players to refresh a team that was one of the last to have its NCAA Tournament bubble popped last season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
By all accounts, the Scarlet Knights are a program on the way up. Guards Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears look to build on their experience as transfer forward Wally Hudge will look to replace Givydas Biruta, who transferred out after being the only Rutgers player to start every game last year.
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (#6)
9. St. John’s Red Storm (#10)
10. South Florida Bulls (#8)
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (#11)
12. Seton Hall Pirates (#14)
13. Villanova Wildcats (#12)
14. DePaul Blue Demons (#13)
15. Providence Friars (#15)
St. John’s Red Storm Head coach Steve Lavin makes his return to the sidelines following his successful recovery from prostate cancer last year. The Red Storm will have the tall task of replacing the all-around presence of NBA draftee Moe Harkless. They return five players from last year’s young team and bring in another young bunch in the form of a top recruiting class once again.
Pittsburgh Panthers The 2011/12 season was a disappointing one for the Panthers. They broke their streak of 10 straight NCAA tournament appearances thanks, in part, to inexperience and an injury to Trey Woodall. While Pittsburgh only made the CBI last march, they’ll be aiming their sights much higher as they return five of their top seven scorers.
Villanova Wildcats After appearing in seven straight NCAA tournaments, the Wildcats finished last season with a 13-19 record. Head coach Jay Wright is losing guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. With these losses and the lack of success last year, all signs point to a longer rebuilding process than Philadelpia is used to out of Villanova.
Providence Friars Coming into head coach Ed Cooley’s second season, the Friars are dealing with the partial qualifier of Ricky Ledo. Without this heralded recruit on the floor, they will be relying heavily on Vincent Council in the backcourt and Ladonte Henton up front. Providence could find themselves struggling to avoid the bottom of the Big East.
DePaul Blue Demons
Third-year head coach Oliver Purnell will look to take his team out of the basement of the Big East for the first time in his tenure this winter, and this may be his best shot yet. Forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young return with experience as juniors, while three freshmen join the fold in DeJuan Marrero, Durell McDonald and Jordan Price.
LOOK INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL COURTSIDE’S EDITORS (AND WIZARDS OF PREDICTION) GIVE THE LOWDOWN ON WHAT TO EXPECT THIS SEASON
MICHAEL E. CUNNIFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
MITCHELL PETIT-FRERE EXECUTIVE EDITOR
KIERAN LYNCH EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
Who’s going to be the biggest surprise this season for the men’s basketball team? I think a lot of people are writing Phil Greene off, especially with Jamal Branch waiting in the wings. Look for him to have a breakout year and solidify his role as the starting PG.
I’m thinking Chris Obekpa. He’ll obviously be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball, but look for his offensive game to mature as March nears closer.
I’m a big believer in Phil Greene. He improved his ball-handling skills and his overall jump shot this summer. Add increased poise to that and he becomes an important piece.
Which game will end up being the Red Storm’s most crucial victory of the season? Needing a signature win for a late-season RPI boost, the Johnnies will go into South Bend and beat Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion to put themselves in the March Madness convo.
Lavin and co. will hand Syracuse a loss at the Carrier Dome in Feb. It’ll be the last Big East matchup between the two before the Orange trek to the ACC, so why not one last upset?
Coming down the stretch, the Red Storm will defeat Connecticut at home in early February to define themselves as a contender when it counts.
Which player would you choose to join you on a journey up Mount Everest? Definitely not D’Angelo Harrison. His screams would cause an avalanche. Christian Jones seems like he’d be strong enough to move mountains; climbing them will be easy.
JaKarr Sampson. I’m not worried about the physical strain of the journey, so I might as well pick someone entertaining. SpongeBob on our satellite phones on rest breaks!
Have to go with Sir’Dominic Pointer. His long arms and quiet determination to go beyond the limits can make the difference in such a harrowing situation.
What will the Johnnies’ final record be this season? Will they make the tournament? They stumble out of the gates in the beginning of Big East play, then slowly find their footing as conference play progresses, and win one in the Big East Tournament, finishing at 19-13 (9-9) and barely missing the Big Dance.
They’re young and inexperienced so there’ll be a slow start. But college basketball is about talent, and the Johnnies have a lot of it. They’ll finish 20-12 (11-7) and head to the tourney thanks to a couple of signature wins.
Combine coaching with a new bench and you have an underrated squad that goes on to win 20 games and steal the national spotlight. They’ll be 20-10 and back in the tournament. COURTSIDE
2012-2013 Schedule Dec. 1 Dec. 9 Dec. 15 Dec. 16 Dec. 22 Dec. 28 Jan. 2 Jan. 6 Jan. 12 Jan. 16 Jan. 20 Jan. 23 Jan. 27 Jan. 30 Feb. 2 Feb. 9 Feb. 12 Feb. 17 Feb. 20 Feb. 23 Feb. 27 Mar. 2 Mar. 4 26
at vs. vs. vs. at vs. vs. at vs. vs. at vs. at at vs. vs. at vs. at vs. at at vs.
Boston University Duke Tennessee Tech UCLA/St. Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Quinnipiac NJIT Delaware Rutgers Seton Hall Pittsburgh Notre Dame Syracuse Louisville Providence Connecticut Georgetown South Florida Cincinnati Marquette Rutgers Villanova Seton Hall DePaul
Photograph by Diana Colapietro
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COURTSIDE
Eugenia McPherson and
the rest of the returning St. John’s players are coming off of an unprecedented Sweet 16 appearance.
Photographs by Diana Colapietro Photographs by Kristen Farmer
BACK FOR MORE
EVEN WITHOUT KBA, THE VETERAN WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM GOES INTO THIS YEAR AS A BIG EAST POWERHOUSE by Anthony Parelli
he 2011-12 season was a year to remember for the St. John’s women’s basketball team. They finished with a 24-10 record, made it to the semi-finals of the Big East tournament, clinched their first Sweet 16 appearance in school history and most importantly, they garnered a national following that has media outlets across the country lauding the program’s success. However, as the Red Storm head into a season with high expectations, many questions will need to be answered. How will first year head coach Joe Tartamella handle his transition from assistant coach to head coach? Can Da’shena Stevens be replaced, on and off the court? But, most importantly, can the team advance further than the Sweet 16 this year? Considering all of this, the Lady Johnnies are certainly on the radar of the basketball world; they entered the season with their highest preseason ranking ever at No. 12. “I think they’ll do great,” said Rutgers’ Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer. “They have the core of their players back, and
they’ve obviously done a great job of recruiting.” In addition, seniors Shenneika Smith and Nadira McKenith’s reputations have earned them spots on the preseason All-Big East team. “It’s an honor,” Smith said. McKenith agreed, adding, “It’s about being recognized for the hard work I’ve been doing for years here. It’s an honor, I won’t take that to the head, I’ll just go out there and continue working hard and leading my team.” The biggest hurdle the team may be facing is the Big East conference itself. It has shown potency throughout recent years, sending six straight teams to the Final Four along with being represented in ten of the last 13 NCAA Championship games. “Our women’s basketball [conference] is absolutely the best in the country,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said. For St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella, his title may have changed, but the scene remains the same. His elevation from assistant to head coach comes as no surprise considering that he
was second in command for nine years to the recently departed Kim Barnes Arico, who accepted the head coaching job at the University of Michigan. “I think that there’s a little more level of comfort having been here, and obviously our expectations are high,” Tartamella said. Tartamella was an integral part in the building of this team because he recruited and coached every member of this team at some point in time. This means that he has a cohesiveness with his players that is not typically found on a team with first-year coaches. “He has relationships with all of us because he helped recruit us,” said redshirt Junior Mary Nwachukwu. “He’s created a lighter environment, we have fun at practice but we still work hard.” The Red Storm enter the 2012-2013 season after losing only one starter. But that starter was Da’Shena Stevens, who was not only a constant voice in the locker room, but a dual threat on the court.
takes a shot during the Red Storm’s home opener in mid-November.
“I don’t think you can ever replace a player like Da’Shena,” Tartamella said. “But I think we did a great job of filling our areas of need. I think we have a lot of well-rounded players that can help us fill those voids.” The Johnnies know it will have to be a collective effort, but they believe that they have the personnel to accomplish their lofty goals. “Da’shena was a big loss,” McKenith said. “But we have a lot of players who are coming in who may not necessarily fill her shoes or do what she does, but we’re going to gel those pieces in, and I think they can have a huge impact, not to replace Da’shena, because no one can replace her, but I think we’re going to be great as a whole.” Two starters from last year who figure to help fill that void are Nwachukwu and Amber Thompson, and neither of them are under the illusion that it will be an easy task. “I think I have big shoes to fill, but as long as I keep pushing myself and my teammates keep pushing me I think I’m up for the job,” said Thompson, who led the Red Storm with 198 rebounds last year, 91 of which were offensive. Nwachukwu boasted a 49 percent field goal percentage last season and hopes to continue her success. “It’s definitely going to be a group effort, hopefully
Freshman Ashley Perez adds an outside shooting threat.
Freshman Aliyyah Handford is an athletic point guard that was ranked No. 9 at her position in high school.
scoring and rebounding wise I’m able to keep contributing,” she said. Two other role-playing returners who hope to help shoulder the load are junior Keylantra Langley and sophomore Mallory Jones. “I feel that it’s about doing the little things like shooting and rebounding, and hopefully I can help with that,” Langley said. Jones had her freshman year cut short because of a shoulder injury but feels she still gained valuable experience from the bench. “Well, last year I was hurt all the time but I got to watch great role models in Da’shena and Mary and see what they could do,” Jones said. “I think whether it be filling in for one one them, or even shooting, I could help this team out.” Aside from the aforementioned
returners, the Johnnies have four incoming freshmen who they hope can make an immediate impact. Ashley Perez, a combo guard who led all of Connecticut in points per game last season, is still making the adjustment to college basketball. They will look to her to provide a perimeter threat, something that was lacking last year. “Well, it’s been really different for me as a freshman coming from high school,” Perez said. “The speed is
different, the plays are obviously really different and we work a lot more, but we’re working really hard.” Sandra Udobi is a 6’2 forward who was ranked in the Top 100 by ESPN HoopGurlz and should provide another presence down low, off the bench. Udobi is already confident in the team’s ability and cohesiveness. “We’re always playing for the team every single time, no matter what situation we’re in, we’re always together, we always try to talk to each other,” she said. “When you have team bonding, you’re going to go places.” The two other guards the team added are Aliyyah Handford, the No. 9 ranked point guard on ESPNHoopGurlz, and Cedrica Gibson, a standout from Oak Ridge Military Academy. “We have great talent that came in this year and we have the same talent as last year, so I expect the same result,” senior Jennifer Blanding said. The Red Storm will have a unique opportunity this year, as its homecourt, Carnesecca Arena, will play host to regional games for the NCAA tournament. “You always say playing in the tournament is amazing, but getting to play in front of your family, your friends and the student body of this university, it would be really amazing,” Smith said. “So we really want to get back to this tournament, and I guess that means winning some games so I guess we’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m excited.” Tartamella’s team has already gained the respect of seven-time National Champion and AP Coach of the Year, Geno Auriemma of Connecticut. “I would think that they have a great opportunity, with a really good team and a lot of upper classmen,” Auriemma said. “I would think that they’re without question one of the best teams in our league.”
I would think that they’re without question one of the best teams in our league
- Geno Auriemma
IT’S HIS TURN NOW AFTER SPENDING 9 YEARS IN KBA’S SHADOW, HEAD COACH JOE TARTAMELLA IS EXCITED TO TAKE THE REINS by Taylor Brisco
ollowing the women’s basketball team’s first ever appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the program was rising through the ranks of national prominence, becoming the freshest face on the biggest stage. Then, on April 20, 2012, head coach Kim Barnes Arico left St. John’s, deciding to take over the women’s program at the University of Michigan.
Photographs by Diana Colapietro COURTSIDE
Fast forward one week later to April 27 and interim head coach Joe Tartamella was named the eighth head coach in program history. Now, Tartamella is adjusting to hearing his new title being spoken aloud. “Every time you hear it, it makes you excited,” Tartamella said. “The first time you hear it in a press conference is probably when it hits you that I was hired. It is also from the standpoint of knowing that this is the place that allowed me to grow to get to this point in my career. It’s exciting, but it’s about getting some work done. I get more excited about the fact that I am able to stay at this place and be here for a longer period of time.” Tartamella started his coaching career as an assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach at St. Anthony’s High School from 2001-2002. Then Tartamella
came to St. John’s as a graduate assistant from 2002-2004 for the women’s basketball team. He left St. John’s for a brief time (2004-2005) to become the assistant men’s basketball coach at SUNY Maritime College. Tartamella could not resist his love for St. John’s and came back in 2005 to become the assistant coach for the women’s basketball team. He continued to move up the ranks and became the associate head coach in 2008 until being named head coach in April. In addition to his coaching expertise, he has been present for the program’s turnaround that has taken place over the past decade. As a member of the program, Tartamella has been involved in four NCAA Tournaments. Along with that, he was on the bench during St. John’s run to its first Sweet 16 appearance. Besides taking
part in four tournament runs, he has taken part in St. John’s nine appearances in the Big East Tournament and two Women’s National Invitation Tournament appearances. Tartamella has coached 19 All-Big East and All-Rookie players, 12 AllMet selections and has received Top 25 national ranking
From Joey T. to Coach Tartamella Having been around the program for so many years, there is a level of familiarity for both the coach and the players, especially because of the role Tartamella played in recruiting this current crop of players. Tartamella understands each player’s style, struggles, strengths and weaknesses. He can connect with them in a way that few firstyear coaches can. He has gotten along with many players long before he was promoted to the head coach position – which has formed a unique relationship between players and coach. There is only one problem that Eugenia McPherson pointed out: “I think the only trouble we have is calling him ‘Joey T’ instead of coach and that’s something all of us have to work on,” she laughed. “We say ‘Joey T! – I mean Coach’.” (Kyle Fitzgerald) 32
inherits a senior laden team in his first season as head coach.
mentions, which includes a program best No. 13 Associated Press ranking last season. On top of the on-court accolades, the first year head coach was deeply involved in the recruiting process for the players that have propelled the program to where it is today. Regardless of
There’s always going to be a nervous excitement. Those nerves are calmed by knowing our players, knowing St. John’s, but I think it also drives you to be better because you do not want to have a let down. his experience, though, he said that it’s impossible to be 100 percent ready for what lies ahead. “All the experiences that I have had I think have prepared me to get to this point,” he said. “I don’t think if anyone said they were fully prepared they would be telling you the truth because no matter what, it’s always going to be different when you get to that spot. So, I think that there are things you are prepared for and things you are going to learn so you have to navigate that. Being here gives me a level of comfort. You always feel prepared as you’re working as an assistant and that’s your job as you’re coming up the ranks. There are other things you just have to experience.” Tartamella feels like there was always going to be a “nervous excitement,” but the fact that the players and the St. John’s community knows him so well makes things easier than if he were named head coach at any other school. “There’s always going to be a nervous excitement,” he said. “Those nerves are calmed by knowing our players, knowing St. John’s, knowing this place, them knowing me; but I think it also drives you to be better because you do not want to have a let down. You want to make sure that you are doing everything
you can for those players on that floor and for this university. I think until you walk out onto that court and you’re dealing with it there’s always going to be something there, but that happens, that’s built in.” Not only will this season have a new head coach, but it will also bring four freshmen who are expected to fill the gap of losing Da’Shena Stevens. Along with the freshmen, there are four returning starters, eight letter-winners, and 79 percent of the team’s scoring from last season. The team was selected at No. 14 in the preseason top 25 AP poll and fourth in the Big East preseason Coaches’ Poll. Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith were voted to the preseason All-Conference team. Despite the new coach and recruiting class, the team’s goals will always remain consistent. “We always have certain expectations and goals of the year,” Tartamella said. “We want to make sure that we are competing every single day, every single game, and every single practice. We want to make sure that we are competing at a level for a conference championship and NCAA tournament. Reaching post-season play means that we can get a game here and leave that legacy behind.” COURTSIDE
STJ’S BIG 3 34
ONE MORE CHANCE TO MAKE HISTORY THE TOP GUNS FROM KBA’S TOP RECRUITING CLASS HAVE ALREADY MADE THEIR IMPACT. NOW THEY HAVE ONE MORE YEAR TO DO IT ALL AGAIN by Matthew Wolfson
Photographs by Diana Colapietro
lthough the St. John’s women’s basketball team has a new head coach, the roster has remained very much intact from their Sweet 16 finish last season. At the helm to help head coach Joe Tartamella keep the culture of winning going inside Carnesecca Arena are three senior guards, Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Eugeneia McPherson. “I think each of us has a different role on that team,” Smith said. “We’ve put that together and that’s made us successful over the years.” Smith led the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes played last season, giving the Red Storm a durable leader to rely on. She realizes the importance of meshing as a unit going into the season as the most important part of success. “If we continue to strive to be great, and help our teammates, especially the younger ones, like we’ve been doing for the last few years, I think we’ll be pretty successful,” Smith said. McKenith, who led the team with 149 assists and 70 steals last season, was certainly on the same page as Smith, noting that the importance of experience and skill will weigh heavily on the outcome of the season. “I think we’re going to bring leadership, as three players familiar with playing at the collegiate level,” McKenith said. “So we’re going to bring our hard work, our work ethic, and I think we’re going to mean a lot to this team this year, and I think this team will go as far as the three of us can carry us, and I think we’re going to have a really good year.” McPherson, the squad’s three-point threat, enjoys the role of helping young teammates, and after losing Da’Shena Stevens to graduation, feels the need to bring her leading role to a new level. “I see myself as a leader by example and I have a really hard time voicing it,” McPherson said. “But last season I think I stepped up a lot, and losing Da’Shena makes me want to step up that COURTSIDE
St. John’s players huddle before foul shots during a game at Carnesecca Arena.
much more, because she did have a voice. And I’m more confident in myself and that makes my teammates have more confidence in me, so I’m looking forward to having that voice.” While each senior brings a specific and useful quality to the team, making everything click at the same time is what turns the Lady Johnnies into a winner. Playing with each other since freshman year, and developing their games together, they believe there is great significance to the fact that they’ve worked with one another for so long. “Freshman year we came in, we were just trying to prove ourselves,” McKenith said. “But as the years progressed the coaches have told us what we need to do to be successful at the college level. So we just go out there and play hard, take in what the coaches have to say, and just be ourselves and be the hardest working basketball players.” Smith had a similar sentiment, proud of the work her teammates have put in since coming to St. John’s. “I think our game has developed a lot, and we’ve learned a lot from freshman year,” Smith said. “And now becoming a senior, we can continue to build on that. We have a lot to learn, we did a lot of work together here over the summer, and we’re getting better. I think if we continue to build on that we’ll be amazing.” The seniors, who often like to laugh and joke, become very serious when talking about their expectations for the upcoming season. Especially with Carnesecca Arena as a location for the NCAA Tournament in March, these ladies want to play such imperative games in front of their home crowd. “I think this year we have to make a statement,” McPherson said. “In our first three years here I think that’s what we did, we made a statement, which made us a different kind of class. But our seniors this year are determined, and we’re looking to make the program proud. I would love to play in front of my family, hosting the NCAA Tournament.” COURTSIDE
Smith was particularly fiery about building on the accomplishments of the last few years, and expects a lot from her top-ranked team this fall. “Our expectation never changes: it’s always getting back to the tournament and getting a step further,” Smith added. “Our freshman year we lost in the second round, sophomore year again, and last year we got to the Sweet 16, which was sweet, and there’s just no going back from that.” Tartamella is proud of his underclassmen, and sees many of them having a large role in the team’s success, but he also understands that the seniors will have to help in passing the torch, and helping him teach good habits. “These players have done a lot to make the program what it is today, and they understand what’s at stake,” Tartamella said. “Their goal is to make sure they keep their legacy intact in making the tournament.” The freshmen have already taken a liking to their predecessors, and enjoy the facilitating that takes place on and off the court. For freshman forward Sandra Udobi, who is from Nigeria, a new environment could be tough to adjust to, but she feels she is getting the attention from her older teammates that she needs to grow in Tartamella’s system. “They’ve been great so far since I’ve got here,” Udobi said. “At practice we do drills and stuff, and if I really don’t get it, they pull me aside and pick me up. And if I feel like I’m doing something wrong they always talk to me, and build me up and give me a lot of advice. They’re just so much help.” Aliyyah Handford, a freshman guard from Newark, New Jersey, has also found the seniors’ instruction constructive. “They push me, and they help me with the things I don’t know, they play a big role,” Handford said. “They really show that they’re leaders. I think we can go far, this team is very good.”
& Q A
WITH MARY NWACHUKWU THE OFFENSIVE THREAT TALKS PERSONAL STRUGGLES, ADJUSTING TO A NEW COACH AND HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS by Taylor Brisco
Photographs by Diana Colapietro
Torch: How does it feel to return this season after having so much success with going to the Sweet 16 last year? Mary Nwachukwu: It’s a good feeling knowing that we’ve laid down a strong foundation. We came in focused in trying to repeat that and go further. Coach Tartamella is really stressing the fact not to become complacent with the success that we had last year.” What is the one thing you wish you could change from last season? The one thing I wish I could change from last season would probably be just the fashion we lost to Duke. We were performing on a national stage and I was back in California. It just wasn’t the way that we wanted to exit the tournament. I feel that we are more talented than that. We really didn’t execute the game plan. We just want to prove that we are able to compete on that level and the next level. Were you surprised with the amount of playing time you received last season, even though you were redshirted? I was. It was my first year eligible to play again. My freshmen year at BC [Boston College], I didn’t play that much, then my sophomore year I sat out. So this is was my first real collegiate year of playing. We have great posts that are very talented. So I was a little apprehensive, but I was grateful that I was able to help out the team as much as I did. What has been the greatest battle that you have had to overcome at St. John’s?” The greatest battle so far has been the death of my father. He passed away November 21st of last year. It was also during the middle of the season, so it just added another factor that I had to deal with on and off the court.
comes into her second season at St. John’s after transferring from Boston College.
I would like to win the Big East conference and the Big East championship. I think that would be everyone’s dream year.
What adjustments have you had to make in order to improve for this season? Well, from last year we lost starting forward Da’Shena Stevens who was a huge piece to our puzzle. This year we are bringing in four talented freshmen. Hopefully between them and the returners, we can replace that gap. What areas have you personally improved on for this season? I’m trying to have a stronger post presence. I want to work on my rebounding and my defense as well. How is the team vibe with the new Head Coach, Joe Tartamella, and the new recruited players? I believe we have great team chemistry. Coach Tartamella has created a lighter and more fun environment than Coach Arico. I think we’re all excited to be playing under him and we have embraced the changes. Do you believe the team will achieve
as much success or more than last year? I do, I feel like we have a really talented core. Nadirah McKenith, Shenneika Smith, and Eugeneia McPherson I think are some of the most talented guards in the Big East. I also think that we have pieces added that will help us advance in the tournament.
What else do you plan to achieve in the rest of your career at St. John’s? I want to go back to the tournament. I would like to advance past the Sweet 16, possibly the Elite 8. I would also like to win the Big East conference and the Big East championship. I think that would be everyone’s dream year. What can fans expect to see from you this season? I think fans can expect to see a face-up post player who runs the floor, plays defense, and tries to support her teammates the best she can. COURTSIDE
FOLLOWING KBA’S LEAD
BARNES ARICO DEPARTED QUEENS AFTER BUILDING A POWERHOUSE. CAN LAV DO THE SAME WITH THE MEN?
n her 10 years at St. John’s, Kim Barnes Arico built up the women’s basketball team, brick by brick, from the depths of the Big East to national heights. Now she’s gone, passing the torch to longtime right-hand man Joe Tartamaella and departing for the greener pastures of Michigan. She leaves behind quite a legacy, bringing the Johnnies — who went 3-24 the year before she took over — to national prominence, making the NCAA Tournament four years, including three years in a row. The culmination of her work came last year, when the team reached the Sweet 16 in program legend Da’Shena Stevens’ final season. But her accomplishments went beyond her wins and losses. In her 10 years at St. John’s, she did much more than build a few good teams — she built one good program. Now, as Tartamella embarks on his first season at the helm, he does so as the head coach of a team rapidly ascending into the Big East’s elite. The No. 12 ranking the team went into the season with shows the respect that people around the game have for the Red Storm. His job is simple — take the baton from KBA and keep going. Don’t mess up the good thing she had. So far, so good. While the Johnnies stumbled in Tartamella’s debut (a tough one against Texas), the more important thing is that he brought in two top-100 recruits in the early signing period. The most important job a college basketball head coach has is to keep the cupboard full, and with three program standouts in Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Eugeneia McPherson leaving, making sure they’re replaced adequately is the best way to continue KBA’s legacy. KBA’s achievements have made St. John’s an easy sell to prospective recruits; she built the St. John’s brand as well as her own. Which brings me to Steve Lavin and the continued upward trajectory that the men’s team appears to be on. Lavin started from a much better place than Barnes Arico did, but St. John’s still was
MIKE CUNNIFF EXECUTIVE EDITOR
a Big East bottom-feeder until he took over. It’s been rocky, but he has the Red Storm on pace to be one of the big boys in the newlook Big East — as long as his recruits stay eligible. But I’m not sure that the perception of the St. John’s men’s basketball program in general has followed suit quite yet. Lavin is building up the Red Storm on the strength of his brand, not the school or the program’s. Sure, St. John’s has brought in top recruiting classes in the past two years, including earning the commitment of JaKarr Sampson twice. They may make a run at the NCAA Tournament this year and will almost certainly be tipped to be dancing next year. But what if Lav left tomorrow? What if Lavinwood shut up shop for good, and the man in the St. John’s gear visiting top recruits didn’t come equipped with heavy doses of California charisma? Would this year’s version of Sampson, or D’Angelo Harrison or Chris Obekpa even listen to that coach’s sales pitch? I say probably not — St. John’s isn’t established as a power yet, and a hypothetical new coach would almost certainly not have Lav’s track record of preparing players for the NBA. That’s where the program is right now —
heavily dependent on Lavin for its forward momentum. There’s nothing wrong with that. Building (or in this case, rebuilding) a powerhouse college basketball program takes time, and St. John’s has made tremendous strides in the past three years. We barely even remember the dark days of the Norm Roberts era, because even when the team loses, there’s no real similarities between now and four years ago. Tartamella and Lavin have two different jobs. Tartamella has been handed the keys to a brand-new Cadillac — his job is to keep it in great shape. Lavin, on the other hand, has a used ’62 Corvette — he’s got something that used to be great, and can be again, but needs a lot of work. Both men seemed perfectly suited for their respective jobs. Lavin is reaching for the stars (and successfully recruiting them more often than not), while Tartamella is keeping what worked for Barnes Arico, while adding his own personality to the team. They are two different coaches for two different roles. The example that Lavin and the men’s team are trying to emulate, it seems, is the women’s team. If Barnes Arico had left four years ago, Tartamella wouldn’t have inherited a Big East power. If she had left in 2009, Tartamella wouldn’t have signed two top100 recruits in his first season. But each year that the team succeeds; each time a St. John’s player makes the jump to the NBA and each time hears its name called on Selection Sunday, the stature of the program rises a little. Every time something good happens, the program becomes less dependent on Lavin for its success and more self-sustaining. That’s what happened to the women’s team, and if things stay on the same course, that’s what’ll happen to the men’s team. Lavin can build a program that eventually won’t need him, should he end up leaving for whatever reason. And if Lavin is as successful with the men as Barnes Arico was with the women, St. John’s will truly be New York City’s team once more.
TEN TO WATCH Connecticut Huskies Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma added a gold medal to his impressive resume over the summer and hopes to continue that success with an eighth National Championship for the Huskies. UConn looks to build on a Final Four finish from a season ago and is led by Preseason AllBig East guard Bria Hartley and forwards Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who was last year’s Freshman and Sixth Man of the Year. Connecticut also boast Breanna Stewart, the highly touted recruit from Syracuse, NY and the unanimous preseason All-Big East Freshman of the Year. The preseason coaches’ poll has UConn atop the Big East.
PRESEASON AWARDS 2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame 2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year Breanna Stewart, Connecticut 2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Baylor Bears The Cardinal hope to build on their Final Four finish from a season ago where they lost to eventual champion Baylor. They will be led by junior Chiney Ogwumike, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Ogwumike played in every game for the Cardinal last season and averaged a double-double, one of just five Stanford players to ever do so. But she’ll be the focus of even more attention next year, as she must help fill the void left by her sister Nnemkadi Ogwumike, a three-time All-American.
Stefanie Dolson Connecticut C, Junior, 6’ 5” Bria Hartley, Connecticut G, Junior, 5’ 7” Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connectiuct F, Sophomore, 6’ 0” Anna Martin DePaul G Senior, 5’ 9”
Duke Blue Devils The Blue Devils will try to make it four regular season ACC titles in a row this season after being ranked the preseason favorites, edging out Maryland. After an Elite Eight finish last year Duke returns four of five starters which accounted for 88.7% of their scoring. Leading the team will be two All-Americans in sophomore Elizabeth Williams and junior Chelsea Gray. Also important for Duke will be two incoming freshman who received McDonald’s All-American honors in Sierra Moore and Alexis Jones.
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown G, Senior, 5’ 11” Shoni Schimmel, Louisville G, Junior, 5’ 9” Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame G, Senior, 5’ 9” Monique Oliver, Rutgers F/C, Senior, 6’ 2” Nadirah McKenith, St. John’s G, Senior, 5’ 7”
Stanford Cardinal The Cardinal hope to build on their Final Four finish from a season ago where they lost to eventual champion Baylor. They will be led by junior Chiney Ogwumike, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Ogwumike played in every game for the Cardinal last season and averaged a double-double, one of just five Stanford players to ever do so. Chiney must help fill the void left by her sister Nnemkadi, a three time AllAmerican and lead a team with only five upperclassman.
Shenneika Smith, St. John’s G, Senior, 6’ 1” Kayla Alexander, Syracuse C, Senior, 6’ 4” 2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention Monique Reid, Louisville, F, Senior, 6’ 1”
Maryland Terrapins After an Elite Eight finish a year ago the Terps bring back immense talent, but also question marks. With the ACL tear to point guard Brene Mosley Maryland will have to find a new offensive director. Whomever they choose will have plenty to pass to however with first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas headlining a group of four returners, along with freshman Malina Howard, who was rated number one post player in her senior year of high school.
Laura Sweeney, Villanova F, Senior, 6’ 2”
2011-12 STANDINGS Team
TEN TO WATCH Kentucky Wildcats After winning their first SEC title in almost 30 years the Wildcats are preseason favorites to repeat their inner conference success. Following a season that saw an Elite Eight appearance Kentucky has its eyes set on the Final Four. Talent will not be an issue again for the Wildcats as returning for her senior season is A’dia Mathies, last year’s SEC Player of the Year and preseason honoree for the same title. Joining Mathies will be 6’3” Cal transfer Danesha Stallworth and point guards Janee Thompson and Jennifer O’Neill, all McDonalds All-Americans.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish The defending regular season Big East Champion and National Title runner-up Notre Dame squad looks to finish where they left off a year ago. Preseason Big East player of the year and three time All-American Skylar Diggins leads a team that set a program record with 35 wins last season. The Fighting Irish will be without three starters from the previous season but hope to fill the void with the number three incoming freshman class in the nation.
Penn State Nittany Lions The Nittany Lions return four starters after a Sweet Sixteen appearance a year ago, one of which is preseason Big 10 co-player of the year, Alex Bentley. Bentley averaged 14.1 ppg last season, leading Penn State to a Big 10 regular season title, which they are picked to win again in the preseason polls. Bentley’s ppg was actually second to Maggie Lewis who averaged 19.5, respectively. Helping them will be Maryland transfer Dara Taylor, an assists machine two years ago as a freshman.
Louisville Cardinals After a second round loss in the NCAA tournament last year Louisville looks to rebound in a big way. Returning All Big-East selection Shoni Schimmel returns for her junior season boasting 14.3 PPG from a year ago. Joining her will be Monique Reid who suffered a knee injury last season but averaged 15.5 ppg in 2010-2011, respectively. If Reid can return to form she could provide a huge boost for the team that will need her in a very competitive Big East.
Georgie Bulldogs Georgia looks to build off a season that ended disappointingly in the first round last season and seem to have the pieces to do so. The Bulldogs will return four starters including two preseason All SEC players in Ann Marie Armstrong and Jasmine Hassell to pair with a recruiting class that Head Coach Andy Landers has publicly praised. Georgia was picked number two in the SEC and figures to compete with Kentucky for the conference title.