Courtside 2013

Page 1

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COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services







by Torch Editorial Staff





by Kieran Lynch



THE DRIVE FOR FIVE by Kyle Fitzgerald




by Mitchell Petit-Frere



by Christopher Brito



by Stephen Zitolo




by Jon Perez

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Jon Perez

Mitchell Petit-Frere Kieran Lynch Managing Editor


Kyle Fitzgerald

Diana Colapietro

Jim Baumbach

Executive Editor Content Editor

Photography Editor

COPY EDITORS Natalie Hallak Jenny Chen


WRITERS Julia Quadrino Anthony Scianna Stephen Zitolo

Cover design by Paul Perez Contents page photo by Diana Colapietro COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services



Photograph by Diana Colapietro



hen Steve Lavin accepted the position as head coach of the seventh winningest program in college basketball, he knew there would be a rebuilding phase. A phase that required patience by its fan base in hopes that the Red Storm would bring glory back to Utopia parkway like the Red Men once did. However, this rebuilding phase would be a lot different than most projects. See, in most situations, the team is coming off a disappointing season and a head coach that has been around for just a little too long. Check and check. Norm Roberts’ time was limited after his overhaul of the 2007-08 season when he brought in a revamped freshmen class with names like Justin Burrell, Malik Boothe and Justin Brownlee. Roberts couldn’t quite tap the potential of his recruits and had to go. In this case, Lavin turned Norm’s nobodies into Big East contenders with four wins over top-10 teams and six over top-25 teams. The exclamation points came with statement wins over Duke and UConn in which the Johnnies ran them out of Madison Square Garden 9378 and 89-72 respectively. Duke was the 2010 national champions while UConn eventually went on a miraculous March run led by Kemba Walker to capture the national championship. St. John’s students and fans were spoiled by the great basketball they were witnessing. If Lavin could create a turnaround with a bunch of spare parts what could he do with his own players? Lavin was always known as a great recruiter – at UCLA he recruited the no. 1 recruiting class in the nation twice (1998 and 2001). While Lavin’s talent wasn’t as high as


the talent he carries around now-a-days, it was an experienced senior class that had been through the rigors of the Big East time and time again. Fresh faces like Moe Harkless, D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer had experienced good high school talent but nothing like playing against Syracuse or Louisville. Time was needed. As time progressed, St. John’s had a rotation of six scholarship players with their head coach on the shelf as he recovered from prostate cancer. The first year was a beneficial learning experience that helped on the court the year after, but there were still some holes to fill. Harkless and assistant coach Mike Dunlap went to the NBA. JaKarr Sampson stepped onto the court and D’Angelo Harrison separated himself as the best player on the team but was suspended and the team ultimately missed out on the dance. With this team comes a lot of hype. However, hype is only expectation. Expectation must be turned into reality to reach fulfillment. Fulfillment is the NCAA Tournament, which is an attainable goal. But let’s remember while this may be the most athletic team of the Lavin era, there are still a lot of questions surrounding this team. Will Harrison keep his head on straight and lead the team in a lot of offensive categories? How will Sampson perform in his second season after being crowned the Big East rookie of the year? Will newcomer Rysheed Jordan command this offense? Are the familiar faces of Max Hooper and Orlando Sanchez really that talented? Can Sir’Dominic Pointer live up to being the best defender? Will Chris Obekpa develop an offensive game? If every question above is answered with either a yes or positive answer this team can finish as high as second in the conference. If there is a no at every question, well, you do the math. This is

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a Jekyll and Hyde team that will have a surprising win every now and then and a very bad loss. This is a team that can make some noise in a very watered down Big East Conference. If last year’s conference was Friends this year’s conference is Joey. The hype may be real in some cases, but in reality this is a team that will be the best Lavin has coached here at St. John’s but is it enough to make the tournament? When you look back at games last year against Cincinnati, Notre Dame and UConn there is a real potential to the team. But let’s not forget bad losses to Rutgers, UNC Ashville and San Francisco. The truth is there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before seriously considering this team to make a SweetSixteen run. At the end of the day, St. John’s will need to address the questions above and will be a team fighting until the very end to get an at-large bid in this year’s tournament. Look for the Big East tournament to decide whether or not St. John’s gets into the tournament.

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he first three years of head coach Steve Lavin’s tenure at St. John’s have held a wide range of ups and downs, twists and turns, and varying levels of expectations. Year one went from a season of a changing of the guard to an NCAA tournament berth. Year two began with the excitement of a top recruiting class and ended with six scholarship players available to play and the team’s best player headed for the NBA. Last season started off with tempered expectations, but expectations nonetheless with returning players and a couple new Top 100 recruits. It ended with the team’s leader, then-sophomore D’Angelo Harrison, being suspended from the Red Storm amid other positives like a St. John’s player receiving the Big East Rookie of the Year award for the second-straight year and a win in the NIT. Now, the St. John’s core is a group of juniors who have been around the proverbial block. They have depth and experience, which has been stated repeatedly by Lavin and adds up to expectations of a deep March run. “[Having depth is] what we’ve been working towards over the last three plus years,” Lavin said. “To put our program in position where we now feel where we can be competitive because we have the artillery, the firepower to be on a more equal footing to the competition.” It’s a complete turnaround from when Harrison, Phil Greene and Sir’Dominic Pointer were freshmen and ate up virtually all of the minutes of their first season on the court. After that season, Lavin underwent treatment for prostate cancer and spent significant time away from the team during the 2011-12 campaign. With all of that in mind, this core has seen it all and now has the pieces around it to shoot for an NCAA tournament bid and


beyond. “We grew a lot,” Greene said. “We’ve been through a lot and we’ve overcame a lot [of adversity] and we stuck with it. This year is going to be totally different. We’re mature now, know what to expect and it’s a different team – higher level. Part of that maturity and difference comes from the return of Harrison following his suspension in March. He took time away from the program, attended former NBA point guard John Lucas’ Wellness and Aftercare program and earned his way back onto the team in time for the Red Storm’s European tour in August. “He came back a different person,” sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson said. “He came back a better person and a better basketball player.” Harrison returns to a team with more options than when he left and all the depth that was missing when he was a freshman. It comes from the clearance of senior forward Orlando Sanchez after a battle with the NCAA; the eligibility of sophomore guard Max Hooper after sitting out due to transfer rules and the arrival

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of Rysheed Jordan, Lavin’s highest ranked recruit at St. John’s and lone freshman. “For the first time since I’ve been to St. John’s, there’s good balance across the classes and also balance of size, strength, skill, quickness,” Lavin said. “A balance of an inside and outside attack and depth.”

Jordan, though the only freshman, has a support system that the players who came before him under Lavin didn’t really have, Lavin said. While the group that came in before Lavin’s second year had each other to rely on, Lavin said Jordan has the experience of his older teammates to get him through the rigors of his first Big East season. “When D’Angelo and Phil and that group came to St. John’s, there were no upper classmen to help them kind of help them through this first season and understand the rigors and demands of the highest level of college basketball,” Lavin said. “Just the increased workload and now these returning players, these experience players, more seasoned players can help a Rysheed on his journey that he’s now on.” Depth and experience aren’t the only

ler, Creighton and Xavier and leave behind the rebranded American Athletic Conference and start a new chapter of basketball history. “It’s going to be pretty interesting this year to see the new teams Creighton, Xavier and Butler come to this conference,” junior Jamal Branch said. “I’m looking forward to it. They bring a bit different [style], but we’ll see how they approach it this year.” The new conference also ushers in a new schedule format. Each team in the Big East will still play 18 conference games, but now will play every program twice – at home and on the road. “Ten teams is an ideal number for our conference in terms of fueling rivalries,” Lavin said during the conference’s media day in October. “Having a true league champion based on the home-and-home

two first place votes and finished fifth behind Marquette, Georgetown, Creighton and Villanova. Only Marquette and Creighton received first place votes in addition to the Johnnies. “Of course we finally get some recognition, but they still have us fifth,” Harrison said. “It’s good and bad. It’s good because we know we have a lot to prove or disprove. I think we’re going to be an unbelievable team. At the same time, it’s like really?” “I don’t blame them. We haven’t done anything,” he added. The Red Storm will have their chances to prove the naysayers wrong in time. Though they’ve dropped their opener to then-No. 20 Wisconsin already, they have one more major test against Syracuse in December before opening Big East play on New Year’s Eve. For now, St. John’s is looking at each game at a time and preparing to “do something special come March,” as Lavin says often, if the depth, experience and talent falls into place. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “By no means have we arrived.”

Photograph by Diana Colapietro

changes for the basketball program. The Red Storm have entered the culmination of what has been a tumultuous period of conference realignment. The seven Big East Catholic and basketball-focused schools, of which St. John’s is one, left the original conference and formed a new Big East. They added three new schools in But-

scheduling will eliminate an imbalanced schedule.” Between the team’s depth, experience and less teams in a new conference, the Red Storm are primed to rise to the top of the league – at least that’s what two coaches thought according to the preseason coaches’ poll. St. John’s received COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services


Photograph by Diana Colapietro


by Mitchell Petit-Frere 8

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hen the pre-game promo for the 2012/13 St. John’s men’s basketball team debuted on the Carnesecca Arena big screen at Tip-Off on Oct. 25, there was one scene in particular that brought the crowd to its feet. It wasn’t one of JaKarr Sampson’s emphatic dunks or a D’Angelo Harrison threepointer from way beyond the arc; it was a Chris Obekpa block. It was only one of Obekpa’s NCAAleading 133 blocks from last year, but it was the quintessential symbol of the Red Storm’s 2012/13 season. While the Johnnies fell toward the end of the year, one thing remained: Obekpa’s presence down low. And after a season where he crushed the St. John’s single season blocks record of 76, Obekpa is looking to break a record of a bit more significance: David Robinson’s 207 blocks in one season. When asked if he has an eye on erasing Robinson’s 28-yearold record, Obekpa answered with a cool, “That’s the goal.” Despite Obekpa’s prowess on the defensive side of the ball, he wasn’t a huge impact when it came to scoring the basketball last season. The Nigeria native only averaged 3.9 points per game in his freshman season and shot a dismal 39 percent from the charity stripe. He admitted that head coach Steve Lavin is expecting him to have a greater influence in more diverse aspects of the game. “He [Lavin] said other than just blocking shots, try and add more value to the team like rebounds, setting good screens and getting my teammates open,” Obekpa said. O-block-pa, as the Red Storm faithful often refer to him, also mentioned that he worked on a baby hook during the lead-up to this season – a perfect post move for his 7-foot5 wingspan. However, Obekpa always harkened back to his struggles at the foul line. “Working on the post, the ball is going to come to you more, and they’re going to foul you, so you have to finish the play with free throws,” he said. “I struggled with that last season.” While he attempts to fix his woes at the foul line, it’s safe to say that his presence down low will keep oppos-

ing players who are looking to draw fouls from driving the lane. “He makes you think twice when you go to the basket,” fellow Red Storm big man God’sgift Achiuwa said. “His timing is like something I’ve never seen before.”

Obekpa has a certain elegance to his game that is uncommon amongst players of his skillset. While his 6-foot-9 frame is equal to most big men in the country, he is leaner than a majority of players he’s matched up with night in and night out. His grace on the hardwood stems from his early days playing soccer in his native Nigeria. It was his first sport. Obekpa described himself as a striker, but admitted his love for defense. How fitting. Obekpa developed a relationship with basketball after watching his brother, Ofu Obekpa, on the court before he left to play at the University of Maine at Machias. “I didn’t play back then, I just watched,” Obekpa said. “I told him I loved it and he started teaching me stuff and I just loved the game from there.” His talents landed him on the U-16 Nigeria national team and a move to the United States where he spent his junior and senior years of high school on Long Island at Our Savior New American. Despite numerous scholarship offers, Obekpa chose to stay in New York and attend St. John’s. “It’s like my second home,” Obekpa said of New York. “Since I was already in New York, I stayed here. And I’ve known Lav and the coaching staff [for a while]. It’s like family at this school. It’s where I feel comfortable.” It’s easy to see just how comfortable Obekpa is at St. John’s. He’s known as the “jokester” on the team and his title was entirely apparent at St. John’s media day when he did his best rendition of special assistant Gene Keady. Jamal Branch immediately looked over after hearing Obekpa’s mimicking antics and cracked an unsurprised smile. How fitting it is that Obekpa mirrors his game after one of the NBA’s funnier characters: Dwight Howard. “That’s where I got the 12,” Obekpa said in reference to his and Howard’s jersey number. Don’t let Obekpa’s funny side fool you, though. He’s as serious as they come when game day hits. Instead of cracking jokes during pre-game, he meditates. “My other brother is into kung fu stuff and he taught me that when we were growing up,” Obekpa said. “It’s a way to empty yourself and just focus on one thing – and that’s the game.” “I just empty my head from every other distraction and just focus on the game,” he added.

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2013-14 Men’s Schedule Nov. 2


Nov. 4


Nov. 8 Nov. 15 Nov. 19 Nov. 22 Nov. 29 Nov. 30

vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs.

Dec. 7 Dec. 15 Dec. 18 Dec. 21

vs. vs. vs. vs.

Dec. 28 vs. Dec. 31 at Jan. 4 Jan. 11 Jan. 14 Jan. 16 Jan. 18 Jan. 23 Jan. 25 Jan. 28 Feb. 1 Feb. 4 Feb. 9 Feb. 13 Feb. 16 Feb. 18 Feb. 22 Feb. 25 Mar. 2 Mar 8. *MSG


at. vs. at vs. vs. vs. at at vs. at vs. at vs. vs. at vs. vs. at

San Francisco State (Exb.) Humboldt State (Exb.) Wisconsin Wagner Bucknell Monmouth Penn State # Championship/ Consolation # Fordham* Syracuse* San Francisco Youngstown State Columbia# Xavier Georgetown Villanova* DePaul Providence Dartmouth Seton Hall Butler Creighton Marquette* Providence Creighton* Seton Hall Georgetown* Butler* Villanova Xavier* DePaul Marquette # Barclays Center

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by Christopher Brito Fresh off a Big East Rookie of the Year award and talk of entering the NBA Draft last season, sophomore Jakarr Sampson is prepared to lead the Johnnies back to the NCAA tournament. This season’s expectations are rising for the 6-foot-9-inch combo forward from Akron, Ohio, who has a clear message for alumni, students and the St. John’s fan base. “It’s going to be a big year, so don’t miss it,” the buoyant forward said. Jakarr Jordan Sampson had a successful campaign as a freshman averaging 14.9 points and grabbing nearly seven rebounds per game. However, he didn’t want to immediately pursue the NBA like former Johnny and Orlando Magic swingman Moe Harkless did in 2012 when he was drafted 15th overall by the 76ers. Instead, “Karr” chose to stay in Queens because of his desire to get better as a player and be a part of a budding, special team this season. “I felt like I wasn’t satisfied where I was at,” he said. “I felt like I could take another year to get better and improve on some things I wasn’t good at last year.” Sampson, who’s known for getting his points by slashing to the rim and his midrange jump shot, said he addressed glaring deficiencies over the summer including his free-throw shooting (.640 FT percentage), ball-handing and most importantly, adding more range to his perimeter game. The team’s boundless potential and the chance to improve on their deceptive 1716 record last season was another selling point for Sampson to stay on campus. “I just felt like we weren’t a whole team last year, we had a lot of missing pieces we were supposed to have,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I came back.” The missing pieces he was referring to were: forward God’sgift Achiuwa, who redshirted last season, 3-point marksman Max Hooper, who couldn’t play due to NCAA transfer rules after coming from Harvard and forward Orlando Sanchez, who gained eligibility to return to the hardwood in February after initially being ruled out by NCAA. Hooper worked with him extensively during shooting drills and even participated in 3-point shooting competitions against Sampson in practices. “Jakarr made significant strides with his jump shooting,” Hooper said. “After last season he came up to me and just said I want to do whatever

you do as far as shooting workouts.” “I feel as if he made significant strides and he’ll be ready to demonstrate that when

the season begins,” he said. D’Angelo Harrison, the enigmatic guard and captain missed the last six games due to suspension, is clamoring over the adjustments Sampson has made. He said that Sampson’s battles with the 6-foot-9 inch Sanchez in practice forced him to learn new ways to score and play better defense. “You got a super scorer on one side and another unselfish player on the other,” Harrison said. “It’s going to be hard to guard JaKarr now.” Head coach Steve Lavin, who’s entering his 4th year leading the Red Storm, said that maturity and depth

characterize this squad. “It’s a more seasoned group. Having a core nucleus of upperclassman helps just in terms of extra coaches on the floor,” he said. “We’re deep at every position. We now feel we can be competitive and be at equal footing.” Lavin has known Sampson since he attended Lebron James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School and noticed the change in his lanky, big man, both physically and as a basketball player. “I think he has improved his strength and conditioning,” Lavin said. “I think his stamina will be at an elevated level.’ He adds that Sampson has become a more well-rounded basketball player as well as “having more of a voice” on the team. “He’s improved in a number of areas and we think leadership too,” he said. “I think he’s ready to have an outstanding year.” Prior to 2012-2013 season, Sampson spent a year in prep school at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire after being ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. At Brewster, he won the National Prep Championship and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament in 2012. Lavin recruited him when he was a junior in high school and later as a student in prep school, and now he has a player hearing whispers of NBA potential. Sampson, who models his game after his favorite NBA players Lebron James and Kevin Durant, still isn’t sure what will ultimately be the deciding factor in going pro after this upcoming season, saying “it’s too early to tell.” He consulted Harkless over the phone during the summer about the looming 2014 NBA Draft and how it’s like playing basketball as a professional. “He said it’s just different: It’s a lot of traveling and a lot of work,” he said. “I feel like it would be better that way anyway, just playing basketball for a living.” “I wouldn’t complain about it,” he joked. This upcoming season Sampson also looks forward to returning home to Ohio when St. John’s plays against Xavier on Dec. 31. “I’m excited about Xavier,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and family coming out.” As for now, Sampson a will stride toward helping St John’s earn its first NCAA tournament bid since 2011.

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THE JOHNNIES’ THREE-POINT SHARPSHOOTER TALKS ABOUT HIS FAMED JUMP SHOT AND TEAM EXPECTATIONS by Stephen Zitolo Torch: When did you first start playing basketball and when did you first realize you could play Division I basketball? Max Hooper: I first started playing basketball at the age of 4 and I first realized I could and wanted to play at the Division I level when I first started playing. It has always been a goal of mine to play at this level.

Why did you choose to leave Harvard and to transfer to St. John’s? First, my decision to transfer was based on feeling that Harvard personally was a not a good fit for me. I overall didn’t like being there on a day-to-day basis and I didn’t like the basketball program. My decision to come to St. John’s was based on a lot of factors but mainly to play for Steve Lavin, to play at such a storied program, to play in such a high-major conference like the BIG EAST, to play on national television, and to play at the Garden.

The best aspect of your game is the three pointer, how have you worked to make yourself a better shooter in the offseason? I am always working on all parts of my game. But I am always working on my shot because I know that’s basically my golden ticket and what my game is predicated on. I am always in the gym in the offseason and during the season, constantly getting up shots, working on different shots,


and getting as many reps as possible. That’s just part of my daily routine, being in the gym making shots on a daily basis.

Who, if anyone, do you model your game after and why? I have a few. I look at guys like Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, and Steve Novak. I see what impact they have had on their teams and the impact shooting the ball can have. I’ll even go with a favorite of coach Lavin, Jason Kapono, who played for him at UCLA. I look at guys like that, shooters with size, that have the ability to do a variety of things on the court.

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What game are you most looking forward to this season? I’m honestly just happy to get back on the court after not being able to play for quite sometime. I’m looking forward to the first game we have and each one after that. How exited are you to be able to play in venues like Madison Square Garden and the Barclay’s Center? At the end of the day everything happens inbetween the lines for me. I’m happy to be back on the court. It’s going to be exciting to play in atmospheres like that. Hopefully we can perform well and get the crowd behind us. Ultimately I’m just excited for the lights to go on and be able to finally play.

How do you react to what your teammate JaKarr Sampson said to the NY Post earlier this year? “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen,’’ Sampson said. “I can say that without a doubt. When he misses [in practice] we’re surprised.’’ I appreciate him saying that. But I feel like it’s the truth. I’m not saying that without any work going into my shot. I feel like the hours I’ve put in on a daily basis and throughout my life on my shot is paying off. If that’s something he recognized than that’s how he feels. I just try and go out and be the best shooter and player that I can be.”

Do you have any pregame rituals or anything you do before each game? I have a basic shooting routine before each game that I go through and I also tie my shoes the same way before each game.

He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen. I can say that without a doubt. When he misses [in practice], we’re surprised.

- JaKarr Sampson What is the one aspect of your game that you are looking to improve upon this season? I would say I’m looking to improve my defense in all areas, on-ball defense and off-ball defense. I’m just trying to focus on my defense because I don’t want it to be a limiting factor for me. A lot of people are skeptical of what I can do defensively. But I think I’m going to surprise people defensively because of the way I can my smarts and not have to match players quickest on quickest, but instead use my mind to try and anticipate plays.

What do you hope to do after your collegiate basketball career is over? Do you plan on trying to go pro? Or trying to do something else? My goal is to play in the NBA for as long possible and when I retire I want to be a coach at the highest level possible.

If you were to have dinner with anyone in history, would who would these people be? I would say John Wooden because he is known as the “unofficial” title of being the greatest coach in basketball history and Michael Jordan because he has the “unofficial” title of being the greatest player in basketball history. The perspective that people like this could offer, I feel it would be valuable.

Is there a n y o n e that you have seen in practice that is not getting a lot of media attention but could have a big impact this season? I would say God’sgift [Achiuwa] because he played good his junior year, 2011-2012, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle of the big men due to the JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez buzz. But he has been playing really well the last few weeks and he played well throughout the summer, so I think God’sgift will surprise a lot of people.

How far do you think this team can go this season? I think the sky’s the limit for this team, I feel like if we listen to our coaches and we are all on the same page and don’t care who gets the credit as long as St. John’s gets the “W”, at the end of the day there is no limit on what this team can accomplish. Based on the work we put in and the great job Coach Lavin and the staff have done in assembling this roster, we could have a big year.”

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Photograph by Diana Colapietro 14

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ith eight s e c o n d s remaining on the clock, Providence’s Bryce Cotton was at the line with a chance to give his team a four point lead and seal the deal for the Friars’ eighth conference win. A win would push them just a little closer to an at large bid in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Cotton went to the line with his team already up 61-59 against a St. John’s team that was one game above the Friars in the standings. Cotton’s first free throw was nothing but net. Friars by three. The clock struck 9:57 p.m., but it might as well have struck midnight with a loss, St. John’s would not only have to beat No. 24 Notre Dame in South Bend, the Red Storm would also have to knock off No. 15 Marquette which, with a win, would take at least a share of Big East regular season crown. The crowd quieted for Cotton. The junior knew what was at stake if he sunk this shot. Cotton rared back and fired – brick. Sir’Dominic Pointer collected the rebound and the sand in the timer began to dissipate. With no timeouts left, St. John’s had to push. The ball found its way into the hands of seven-time Big East rookie of the week JaKarr Sampson. Sampson, with three ticks left on the clock, unleashed a three that would tie the game. As the ball sailed slowly toward the net, time stopped. This game was going into overtime, this shot was too good not to find the bottom of the net. Clank. That was it - the season’s pulse was fading and aspirations for an NCAA tournament bid were on life support. St. John’s needed to win out the rest of its schedule and go deep into the Big East tournament.

Let’s jump back 48 hours to where the first rumblings of the landslide began. In what seemed like just any other day for D’Angelo Harrison, he was summoned to head coach Steve Lavin’s office where he was told to hang up his kicks – his season was done. The next day it was announced that D’Angelo

Harrison was suspended for the rest of the season. What was the rub? Why now? There was a lot of confusion as to why the suspension was handed down. Up until Harrison’s departure from the team, the Johnnies were trying to right the ship and make the tournament for the second time in three

seasons, the first time with this core group of players. “I thought he was going to talk about something a coach and a player talk about,” Harrison said. “Obviously I was upset, confused. But he did it, and now looking at it in an older and mature way he helped me so I’m a better person than I was last year, so I credit him for that.” After Lavin was done talking to his star player, he had the unpleasant duty to address his team that already had a lot on their plate. Now they could add shock to the list. “I was surprised because of how late it was in the season,” Phil Greene said. “Coach just wanted to make a statement.” Transfer guard Jamal Branch felt a personal loss to the suspension. “It kind of hurt me bit because one of the main reasons why I came to this school was because of D’Angelo,” Branch said. “We had a history together back in Texas. When I was looking at school’s to transfer to, he played a big factor in my decision to come here and just to have him out last year it kind of hurt me a lot because we have such a great relationship. Just to have him not there was kind of hurtful.” Although Harrison and his teammates were shocked and confused as to why he was suspended at that particular time, Harrison had no intentions of going anywhere else to finish his college career. “After I got suspended there was a big question mark whether or not I’d come back,” Harrison paused. “I don’t think anybody knows this but as soon as Lav suspended me I told him I was coming back.” What happened to Harrison next would be life changing. He attended John Lucas’ wellness program in Houston. The

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program consisted of anger management courses and yoga; he even got to visit his brother, DeAndre, who is in prison serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated assault. “I did everything they asked me to do and more,” Harrison said. “It’s good to be back.” Harrison also saw a familiar face. The face was ex-Rutgers head coach Mike Rice who was fired on April 3 after video leaked to ESPN which showed the very boisterous coach verbally berating his players in practice by pelting basketballs at them and shouting homophobic slurs in their direction. It’s still unclear whether

the two attended yoga or anger management classes together but Harrison is a lot closer to Rice then he was a year ago. Harrison invited Rice to the Red Storm’s exhibition game against Humboldt State on Nov. 4 with John Lucas. The two sat behind the St. John’s bench. “Coach Rice is a good friend,” Harrison said. “He lives here and came to a game.” While Harrison was set to clean himself up in anger management in the summer, the season went on. After losing to Providence, St. John’s travelled to Purcell Pavilion on senior night to take on No. 24 Notre Dame.

The Johnnies already beat the Fighting Irish on Jan. 15, where Harrison had eight points. But what would happen in South Bend, would give the world a glimpse of the attitude in the locker room. With 1:24 remaining in the second half and St. John’s already down 66-40, Notre Dame called time out to honor one of their hard working seniors Jack Cooley when it happened. The horn sounded, Cooley was summoned to the bench by head coach Mike Brey, when on the left corner of the television was Sir’Dominic Pointer and Cam Beidscheid tangled in a

fracas. It seemed that the locker room was lost. St. John’s would then go on to lose their regular season finale against Marquette on an overtime buzzer-beater and to Villanova in the first round of the Big East tournament. Meanwhile back in Houston, Harrison was making progress and kept an open dialogue with Lavin during his sessions with Lucas. St. John’s would have to settle for an NIT berth. With its locker room in shambles and the team’s best player out of the loop, the question must be asked: would this team had made the tournament had

D’ANGELO THROUGH THE YEARS Junior Freshman Sophomore

D’Angelo Harrison made a name for himself as a freshman in 2011-12 before

issues that led to his suspension at the end of 2012-13. Now, players see him as a “different person” heading into junior year.


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Harrison not been suspended? “I’m not sure,” Greene said. “We’d have a better chance.” Hindsight is 20/20, and it is tough to forecast whether or not the team would’ve reached the NCAA tournament, but Harrison isn’t one to dwell on the past. He’s turned negatives into positives. “You can definitely say that,” Harrison said. “But if [the suspension] didn’t happen then we wouldn’t be the team we are today. So, yes and no.” When the summer session began, St. John’s had scheduled a two week tour to Europe where the team would play European professional teams. Harrison

said that he wasn’t sure if he’d even be allowed to participate in the trip. When he was given the nod by Lavin, he took the tour by storm. (No pun intended). Harrison averaged 15.8 points per game. He even had a couple of outbursts with 27 points and 21 points, respectively. While the numbers showed that Harrison was ready to compete on the court, the trip also helped the team develop chemistry. “When we was in Europe it was us all day every day,” Harrison said. “Airports, buses, eating. Nobody spoke English so it was good and I liked it. We didn’t need it but it definitely benefitted us more than it hurt

us. We acted completely different, nobody goes anywhere by themselves, if one person is going out, half the team is going out. That’s good I like it.” The beneficial summer proved large for Harrison - who is the Pedro Cerrano of this team - and his confidants are taking note. “This year he’s been doing really well - working hard, responding to what coaches have to say, not catching any attitudes,” Branch said. “Dee has his head screwed on right, and looking forward to this year.” “He came back like a new guy. He doesn’t let certain things bother him like he used to,” Greene said. “He has his anger

under control, he’s just better he’s a better teammate so he just came back completely different and it helped his game a lot.” It’s not hard to see Harrison these days with his changed demeanor; he smiles more than in the past. Whether it’s cracking jokes with his teammates or challenging them to video games, Harrison seems to be in a better place and he says he can’t wait for this deep team. “Every position is loaded with three guys, point guard spots is loaded,” Harrison said. “Small forward spots are loaded. And our front line is unbelievable. It’s definitely going to be a great season for us, I can feel it.”

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Who’s going to be the X-Factor for the team? Sir’Dominic Pointer is probably the team’s best all-around player. There were games last season where he just took over. If he can get going on both ends of the floor, he can will this team to victory.

I’m going with Sir’Dominic Pointer. You know what you’re going to get out of Harrison and Sampson, but Pointer fuels the defense and can set the Johnnies up to run - which is something they do well.

I’m thinking God’sgift Achiuwa. He’ll be third in the big man depth chart behind Chris Obekpa and Orlando Sanchez, but he’s a solid body with a will to win and a good head on his shoulders.

Will the new conference help or hurt the Red Storm? The new conference will help the Johnnies. Not having to play teams like Louisville and Pitt can really make things easier. The question is: Will it hurt RPI? Time will tell, but this year’s team shouldn’t worry.

If the old conference is ‘Friends’ then this conference is ‘Joey’. The Red Storm will still have to play Syracuse, but they won’t have to play Louisville, Pitt or UConn. So they can fatten up their record.

Swapping the likes of Louisville and Pittsburgh with Butler and Xavier can only give the Johnnies a clearer road to the NCAA tournament. Big East play won’t be easier, but it’ll be a lot more manageable.

If you had to spend 24 hours with a player what would both of you do? My pick would be D’Angelo Harrison. He seems to be one of the most relaxed guys on the squad. I’ve always wanted to school a good basketball player at 2K and who’d be a better choice than Harrison?

Jamal Branch. Based on social media, Branch seems to be an avid gamer. So I would expect a lot of video games will be played and I would give him a run for his money in NBA 2K14.

I’d really like to get a cooking lesson from Sir’Dom, but I think I’d choose Chris Obekpa. I’d buy a plane ticket to his home country of Nigeria for him and myself and we’d play a bunch of soccer.

Where do the Johnnies finish? How far in the tournament do they go? The Red Storm will make the Sweet 16 before being bounced by a team that shoots 900 percent more 3-pointers than them. It’ll be a fitting culmination to an otherwise exciting season.

I’m still not buying the program to be much better. They have depth but a lot of questions. I think they’ll win 20 games and have to win games in the conference tourney to secure their bid.One and done.

First off, Kieran’s nuts. This Steve Lavincoached Red Storm team won’t be bounced out in the Sweet 16; they’ll be lifting a trophy come late March... the NIT trophy. I’ll bet my right knee on it.

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Joe Tartamella

plans during a timeout at Carnesecca Arena.

Photographs by Diana Colapietro Photographs by Kristen Farmer




by Kyle Fitzgerald he students were stunned. An emphatic Dayton band played on following its team’s double overtime 96-90 victory over a resilient foe that had rallied off 13 points in the final minutes of regulation This first round loss of the NCAA Women’s Tournament served as a microcosm of the year: a season laced with drama, triumph, turmoil, and not only the agony of defeat, but to lose in heartbreaking fashion one final time. Yet as the season officially ended, deep questions loomed for the Johnnies. Perhaps the two biggest stars that ever played for the women’s team, Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith, were drafted to the WNBA and left a void that had to be filled. Amidst the scoring gap, head coach Joe Tartamella will embrace the return of red-shirt senior Eugeneia McPherson. The forward admits to not being the same player she was prior to the Hartford game on Nov. 25 that sidelined her last season with a torn ACL. “It’s not where I was last year,” McPherson said. “I think


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once I turn that corner and get back to where I was, I’ll be even better than I was before.” However, sitting on the sidelines last year allowed the veteran to look at the game through a new lens that will help her adapt to her new leadership role on the court. “I saw things that I’ve never seen while playing,” she said. “I saw so many things in a different perspective from the sidelines so I hope I can transition that onto the court.” McPherson is only a select player, though, who has matured through the tribulations of last year’s season. With a team that once sat at 10-10, an above .500 record seemed like a reach, let alone the castle in the sky that was the NCAA tournament. Yet St. John’s relit the once-dim light, along with head coach Joe Tartamella, and grew into a sweltering squad that seemed to finally understand their potential. The Johnnies won eight of their final 10 games to receive that critical at-large bid. “I think it showed a lot of grit,” Tartamella said. “It showed a lot of fight and showed that toughness our kids had. I think they knew our backs were against the wall and they responded.”

Among the players that experienced the journey from last year, sophomore Aliyyah Handford is the apparent choice to be the general on the floor this year. Handford brings poise under pressure that her team feeds off of. “She’s a quiet warrior. She has that quiet confidence about her and she makes things look easy,” Tartamella said. “She’s even becoming somewhat of a quiet leader for us,” Tartamella said. Playing beside Handford will be sophomore Ashley Perez. A shooting guard, who does her best work from beyond the arch, she was the spark that sent last March’s NCAA Tournament game into overtime. Although it may have taken her a bit longer to get adjusted to the system during game time, Perez entered her freshman year enabling the upperclassmen to improve their own game. Although dangerous from midrange and from the perimeter, Perez embodies a never-say-never attitude that fuels her drive for excellence. Now in her second year, Perez looks to channel that energy onto the court.

Amber Thompson takes a shot against St. Francis in midNovember.

“You get a little rattled as a freshman,” senior Briana Brown said. “Now that [Ashley’s] got the flow of everything, I think she’ll do really well.” Next, there is junior Amber Thompson, who relieved Nwachukwu at the post position last year. Finding her form late in the season, Thompson was able to craft her own formula for success that turned her into a dominant force in the paint. “Honestly, I just felt like I was thinking too much,” Thompson said. “Sometimes you just have to do what you can and not think so hard.” Alongside the returners, Tartamella has brought in two dynamic freshmen. Standing at 5’5”, and the shortest player on a team averaging five-foot-ten, is point guard Aaliyah Lewis. The frisky point guard makes up for her diminutive stature with a tenacity and grit that encapsulates what the already-existing squad is comprised of. “People look at her thinking she’s too small but she’s got the heart of a lion,” Tartamella said. The other underclassman, Jade Walker, serves as a versatile post player that can challenge Thompson for that very position. “Jade plays the post and brings a swing, she’s really good and gives me someone to compete against and make me better at my own position,” Thompson said. Leading all of these players on the floor is Briana Brown. Given the privilege as the team’s captain, Brown brings humility into her newly-given role focusing on the inclusion and growth of the newlyintroduced talent. “I want to be that leader for them and get them to do what they should be doing right away instead of figuring it out until their junior year like I had to,” Brown said. With all the new components to the team this year, it is fitting that they find themselves in a new Big East. No longer living in the shadows of Connecticut or Notre Dame, Joe Tartamella and the Johnnies want to make an immediate impact and be the new benchmark for the conference. Their main goal this year is simple: win the Big East. The journey, though, will be much more sophisticated. Sitting at no. 3 in the preseason poll, St. John’s will be challenging new opponents in new locations. Returners will have to get adjusted to their new roles and the new players need to familiarize themselves with the system, not to mention questions surrounding the scoring void that has to be filled and McPherson’s level of play this year. Yet, beyond the fog of uncertainty that lies ahead, Tartamella is making it clear where his team will go. “This program has become a place where we want to get to the postseason. That has always been a goal. We want to stay there. No matter that the faces change, the goals stay the same.” COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services


as a versatile post player that can challenge Thompson for The journey, though, will be much more sophisticated. that very position. Sitting at no. 3 in the preseason poll, St. John’s will be “Jade plays the post and brings a swing, she’s really good challenging new opponents in new locations. Returners will and gives me someone to compete against and make me better have to get adjusted to their new roles and the new players at my own position,” Thompson said. need to familiarize themselves with the system, not to mention Leading all of these players on the floor is Briana Brown. questions surrounding the scoring void that has to be filled Given the privilege as the team’s captain, Brown brings and McPherson’s level of play this year. humility into her newly-given role focusing on the inclusion Yet, beyond the fog of uncertainty that lies ahead, and growth of the newly-introduced talent. Tartamella is making it clear where his team will go. “I want to be that leader for them and get them to do what “This program has become a place where we want to get they should be doing right away instead of figuring it out until to the postseason. That has always been a goal. We want to their junior year like I had to,” Brown said. stay there. No matter that the faces change, the goals stay the With all the new components to the team this year, it is same.” fitting that they find themselves in a new Big East. No longer living in the shadows of Connecticut or Notre Dame, Joe Tartamella and the Johnnies want to make an immediate impact and be the new benchmark for the lines up for a free throw conference. during her senior year. Their main goal this year is simple: win the Big East.

Keylantra Langley

Aalyah Lewis


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Briana Brown Photographs by Diana Colapietro

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he Red Storm controlled their own destiny last season, limping into March Madness with one missing piece to their puzzle. An early season injury to veteran playmaker Eugeneia McPherson denied the Red Storm any type of continuity for a poised run in the postseason. McPherson’s absence was clearly felt as the Red Storm were ousted by Dayton in a double overtime thriller during the first round of the NCAA tournament. McPherson’s season was cut short after only five games due to a torn ACL. In turn, questions and speculation quickly arose about McPherson’s future. Would this injury end her illustrious career at St. John’s? Showing no hesitation, McPherson promised to return for her fifth and final season with the Red Storm. However, standing in her way was a long road to recovery. “Obviously it’s a tough injury to recover from and I’m one of the slower cases, but I did turn the corner around a couple months ago. It’s been a rough injury but I’ve had my teammates, coaches and family behind me so that’s made it a little easier,” said McPherson. “I like where I am right now, I’ll definitely be ready for Big East play and I’m just looking forward to starting the season.” McPherson returns as a trusted leader of the Red Storm

with a collegiate experience that runs deep, making her a role model for incoming freshman sensations such as Jade Walker and Aaliyah Lewis. Embracing the role of a mentor, McPherson leads by example and lets her play do the talking. “Ever since my sophomore year, I was expected to take on a leadership role. I don’t see myself as a verbal leader, I’m more of a leader by example,” McPherson said. “I think I have grown to accept my role. I’m just glad I can come back healthy for my last season with a great group of players.” When it comes to her play, McPherson can best be described as a versatile combo guard who anchors the Red Storm attack. She provides an inside and outside threat. At times she proves deadly from long range while also slashing to the basket for easy buckets. Her excellent court vision also shines through with her ability to get others involved, resulting in 151 career assists. Her reliability has gained endless praise from head coach Joe Tartamella. The newly-appointed coach enters his second season with the Red Storm and stresses just how much McPherson means to his squad. “I’ve always called her our ‘glue player’,” Tartamella said. “Gina has the ability to make a play or be the player who can get you through tough times during the year, during the week,

Eugeneia McPherson

missed most of last year with an ACL tear.

Photograph by Diana Colapietro


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during the day and most importantly during the game.” Defensively, McPherson never takes a play off. She leads the Red Storm with 128 career steals and her 5-8 frame proves deceptive as she totaled 248 career rebounds in her first three years with the Johnnies. “Sometimes what she does goes unsung. I think during her three years here she has had no problem doing what her job was and being that kid, being that warrior and that competitor,” noted Tartamella. McPherson’s already impressive resume speaks for itself. Currently en route to becoming one of St. John’s 1,000-point scorers, she enters the 2013-14 season with 839 career points. Likely to break the historic barrier later this year, McPherson says she was unaware but honored. “It would mean a lot to me to be in the 1,000-point club,” McPherson said. “But to be honest I haven’t really thought about it. I didn’t know I was that close to such a great milestone.” Points seem to come easy for McPherson as she scored in double figures 41 times over her three-year career. In addition, she has recorded seven 20-point performances to cement her place in St. John’s women’s basketball history. And if that wasn’t enough, in the 104 games that McPherson has appeared in, the team holds an impressive 75-29 record with a winning percentage of .721 and three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. As a junior, McPherson was a catalyst in the historic NCAA Sweet Sixteen run showcased by the Red Storm. She finished 25th in the Big East in scoring that year and 8th in minutes played, averaging 34.0 per game. A three-time Big East weekly honor roll recipient, McPherson had a year to remember and yearns to get back to that level of excellence. Having lost key players from last year’s squad such as Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith to the WNBA, McPherson now becomes the go-to option for the Red Storm. She looks to evolve her game with the help of returning sophomore guard Aliyyah Handford and already established junior forward Amber Thompson. Reflecting on her already prolific career, McPherson speaks on her most memorable moments at St. John’s. “My favorite memory has to be beating Connecticut and breaking their 99 home game win streak. That has to be my favorite,” McPherson said. “Also playing Notre Dame has always been special for me. I love competition and to be able to play and beat those teams means a lot to this program and me as well.” The team is picked to finish third in the refurbished Big East Conference this season, and McPherson just might be that final piece to the puzzle that Coach Tartamella has been searching for. One thing is for sure, McPherson looks to return with a vengeance, claiming unfinished business and promising to – in her own words - “go out with a bang.” COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services



assionate, instructive, loyal. These are the merits head coach Joe Tartamella instills in the minds of his newest players. A year removed from his first season, Tartamella has reached far and wide for recruits and transfers to contribute to the Johnnies’ 2013-14 campaign for a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament. Fresh out of high school, Tartamella says the highly talented recruit Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker provide an exciting vision for this season. “They’ve been great,” Tartamella said. “I’ve been really happy with the energy, focus, and also understanding of the last seven practices. They’ve competed great.” Lewis, a Staten Island native, thrived in Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. Lewis developed into, according to ESPN’s Hoopgurlz, the 18th best point guard in her class. Standing a mere 5’5 from the ground, Lewis is an established leader on the court who doesn’t shy away from pressure. This notion was made evident on March 1, 2012 during the final seconds of the Brooklyn/Queens Division I semi-finals game against Archbishop Molloy, when


LAST YEAR, JOE TARTAMELLA WA THIS YEAR HE’S THE LEADER. By Julia Quadrino she beat the buzzer to send her team to its first ever title game. “I knew when I caught the ball, I wanted the ball, I called for the ball,” Lewis said. “So just coming down, I had that in my mind just, ‘Aaliyah, get to the basket and score, you have to make this shot.’”

Joe Tartamella’s,

familiarity with his team has been a positive reinforcement in the locker room.


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Tartamella has already picked up on that fervent, competitive step to Lewis’s play and will be a vital component in filling the hole at point Nadirah McKenith left behind. “I’m impressed with the fact that she’s not afraid to speak [as a freshman], she’s not afraid to lead out there, she’s not someone who gets caught up in the moment,” Tartamella said. “I’m finding she’s a kid who can deal with pressure.” Tartamella was a constant presence in Lewis’ high school career. “Since I was a freshman, he’s been recruiting me,” Lewis said of her new coach, “I saw the loyalty and the trust he had, and that had a big impact on me coming here. I see he has a bright future for me. He sees a lot in me.” When Coach Tartamella sees something in a player, he doesn’t let them go. That is what the arrival of Jade Walker to the St. John’s program has proven. Tartamella has been watching Walker play for the last half-decade, dating all the way back to when she played in middle school. “I loved watching her play when she was younger, we always thought she was going to be really good,” Tartamella said. “So to be able to bring her here now has been really fun for us. We were watching her grow.” The admiration was mutual and, although sought out by 10 Division I

Photographs by Diana Colapietro


A WAS THE NEW GUY, Joe Tartamella’s,

familiarity with his team has been a positive reinforcement in the locker room.

programs, Walker chose Tartamella and the Red Storm. “I was surprised when he became head coach,” Walker recounted. “So I thought that was a plus because I’ve known him for so long and I knew what they were looking for and what he was looking for in players to come to St. John’s, so it was really cool when I found out when he was head coach.” “She’s a really charismatic young lady who I think has got a lot of drive, a lot of competitiveness in her,” Tartamella stated. Walker comes from Maplewood New Jersey where she played for DePaul Catholic. Before her senior season, she was just 45 points shy of 1,000 for her high school career. Currently sidelined from practice after surgery to repair a radio meniscus tear, both Tartamella and Walker’s hopes of recovery before the start of the season were put on hold. In addition to the freshmen, transfers Selina Archer and Danaejah Grant left life in the ACC to join the Red Storm. “[Selina] and Danaejah both have a chance to infuse themselves in different positions that we need and give us depth,” Tartamella said of his new players. Archer, a senior transfer from Miami, has watched the past two seasons from the sidelines due to redshirt and NCAA transfer rules, and will not be eligible to play until December. Despite this,

Archer has worked to fit into her role on the team “Whatever he tells me to do, that’s what I’m going to do, because everything he has told me to do has been for my benefit and it’s worked out so far,” Archer said. “He gave me a great deal of confidence. Coming here, he pretty much told me what my role was, and to just get it done, and that’s all I’ve been doing. He just makes me want to play. It’s fun to play here.” As a freshman with Miami, Archer led the team in blocked shots in five games on the year and recorded a career-best three steals versus Clemson (1/14/11), the former home of her new teammate, Danaejah Grant. Grant was honored as the Piscataway Girl’s Basketball all-time leading scorer after finishing out her high school career with 2,565 points. She was her team’s leading scorer in her seven games as a Tiger before transferring. “She can flat out score and has strength in size to be a really physical guard and obviously, a very heralded player coming out of high school,” Tartamella said. Due to NCAA transfer rules, she will also be ineligible to play in a game for the Red Storm until the conclusion of the fall 2013 semester. In the meantime, Grant is focusing to adjusting to Tartamella’s system. “She’s working on her defensive side

of the ball,” Tartamella said. “I think her IQ and a lot of the stuff that she’s doing, she’s getting more comfortable.” Although injuries and technicalities will keep some of these players off the court for the near future, the impact their coach’s trust and passion has had on them as players is already visible.

I saw the loyalty and trust he had, and that had a big impact on me coming here. I see he has a bright future for me. He sees a lot in me.

Archer summed up her coach simply by saying, “He pushes you. He puts us higher.”

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THE SECOND YEAR GUARD TALKS ABOUT HER OFF-SEASON WORKOUTS, GOALS, AND BEING IN THE ZONE. by Kyle Fitzgerald Torch: How was your first year and how you well do you think you played coming off the bench? I think I started off shaky at the beginning of the year when the coach gave me a few minutes and I didn’t really do exactly what I was supposed to, but towards the end I think I really got a good concept of what he wanted me to do and I think I did really well with that in the last game. So it got better and hopefully that follows into this year.

What is your leadership role on the team this year? For me I just like to encourage everyone and get the energy up. That’s just the kind of person I am. Eugeneia McPherson returns this year after recovering from a torn ACL. What does she bring to your team being the veteran player? She brings experience for one, definitely. And just leadership on the floor, she’s always working really hard. She always does the best that she can and I think she’s really smart and she brings her experience into practice and hopefully in games.

How does playing basketball in college compare to high school basketball? It’s completely different and I still am feeling the differences now. The speed and just the level of smartness, I guess. You need a much higher basketball I.Q. in order to be successful.

What are some flaws that you worked on during the offseason? Definitely my ball handling. Just certain things that I should do in certain situations, and making better decisions in the game.

Your standout game last year was against Dayton in the NCAA tournament. Can you tell me what it’s like when you’re in ‘the zone’? Honestly, I don’t know if I can explain what it’s like to be in the zone. It’s exciting and that’s where all the passion comes from. Moments like that, that’s what I’m passionate about. And that’s what I really live for.

on the floor. They know that I work hard and that I’m there to step up for all of us together.

How will you take command on the floor when the game is on the line? Basically just carrying over, doing the same things that gave me a little more confidence. So I don’t have a problem with leading the girls and they understand that even though I may not be the best player

Your team’s two biggest scorers from last year have graduated. What are some challenges that come with losing those two? I think we have a scoring void with those three leaving, but I’m working really hard to fill that. All of us together, I think we can make it happen.


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Are there any other tricks you picked up this offseason you would like to share? You’re going to have to wait and see on that one. Joe Tartamella completed his first year as head coach for your team. How do you think he did given all the circumstances? I think he did well for his first year. I don’t know how a coach is really supposed to do for his first year, but we definitely didn’t have a losing season so that’s definitely a good thing.

You did a fair amount of community outreach when you played for high school. How have you been continuing that at St. John’s? Yeah. As a team we have to do community service so we definitely try to make a difference here in college. What does that mean to you and your team? It means a lot because we have that boost in the community to reach out to a lot of people who don’t have this opportunity like we have, so I think it’s important to do that. I think people feel better and I like getting involved in the community. What do this year’s freshmen bring to the team? Aliyyah brings speed, definitely. In practice she gets us going and makes us run up and down the court. And Jade brings strength. She’s very strong in the post position so I think they bring two traits that we’re really going to need this season.

I don’t know if I can explain what it’s like to be in the zone. It’s exciting and that’s where all the passion comes from.

One of the biggest storylines this year is the new Big East conference. What are some new challenges and opportunities that brings? Well for one I think we have a good chance this season to be Big East champions. It’s obviously going to be tough but I think it’s something that we can overcome. I would just say that the biggest challenge would be filling the void of the three players that left us last season.

Is it a relief to not be in the same conference as UConn or Notre Dame? I don’t know actually. I really enjoyed those games. I know last year I didn’t play much but those are the games I like to play, against the tough teams. Unfortunately we weren’t able to win a Big East championship last year or the years before but I really like that competition. What are some of the tougher opponents this year that you’re looking forward to? Creighton I believe. I think every game is going to be tough but as long as we worry about what we need to do we’re going to be okay. With these new teams you will be traveling to further places like Nebraska. How does your team stay fresh during the long road trips? I’m not really sure. This year we’re actually going really far. I don’t know if I’m excited about it but I think we’ll find a way to make it work. What are your personal goals for the season? I just am never really content with how I play; I always try to perform better. So I just want to go out there and give the team a boost on the floor, be a leader on and off the floor and just help the team whenever I can. COURTSIDE Presented by Campus Dining Services


Photograph by Diana Colapietro 34

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