St. John's considers it a good thing that Ron Artest's name is being mentioned often. He was one of the school's best performers ever, so the fact that a current player reminds people of him is a positive. The challenge is to decide which current player reminds people of him.
Until now, the artist formerly known as Artest -- he recently officially changed his name to Metta World Peace -- has been invoked because 6-8 freshman Moe Harkless is the highest-ranked New York recruit signed by St. John's since Artest.
But during a breezy 82-59 win over Maryland-Baltimore County at Carnesecca Arena Sunday, Artest's legacy came up in a different context. Newcomer Nurideen Lindsey, a 6-3 sophomore guard from Philadelphia by way of Redlands Community College of El Reno, Okla., came within one assist of achieving the Storm's first triple-double since you-know-who on Jan. 9, 1999.
"I actually played with Ron this summer in Los Angeles. I played on the same team with him," Lindsey said of the current Los Angeles Laker. "Good guy, cool guy."
Lindsey looked good and cool Sunday with his 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. So he couldn't get one more assist to match what Artest did against Seton Hall? "I tried, man," he said.
It wasn't a totally Lindsey show. Harkless was the high scorer with 18 and had the most stunning play of the day, dunking to finish a court-long give-and-go with Sir'Dominic Pointer. All five starters scored in double figures (the first time for St. John's since Feb. 26, 2000, at Duke). Junior guard Malik Stith of Hempstead was especially strong, feeding the rout with all 11 of his points in the first 8:08 of the second half.
"He gives our team a huge lift-up. His offensive aggression transitioned over into defensive aggression," Lindsey said.
Still, the fact that Lindsey (who played for Overbrook, Wilt Chamberlain's old high school) had such a strong all-around game proves that Steve Lavin's vaunted recruiting class is more than just Harkless and a bunch of other guys.
"Harkless received the most publicity because he was the first signing and because he's a New Yorker," Lavin said. "But when we sat in our offices as a staff and evaluated our recruiting class, we didn't feel that one was dramatically better than the others."
Not that Sunday was the ultimate test. UMBC is coming off a 5-25 season (including two America East Conference losses to Stony Brook) and was playing without its high scorer, New Yorker Chris De La Rosa. The Storm's games start getting decidedly harder Thursday at the Garden against Arizona.
"Like a locomotive, we're just pulling out of the station," Lavin said. "Our hope is that with each practice, each game, we can get a little more steam."
Said Lindsey: "I think we're ready. We have three or four days, but we're doing a pretty good job of just getting better every day."