Before this season began, new St. John's coach Steve Lavin indicated his plans to feature Justin Brownlee and Dwight Hardy as his key players. Last season under Norm Roberts, they were just part of a rotation that went 10 or 11 players deep and revolved around D.J. Kennedy, Sean Evans and Justin Burrell.
Like so many of the judgments made by Lavin and his coaching staff, this one has proved to be right on. Hardy still has the occasional game, where his shot deserts him, but he's playing far more under control in terms of taking three-pointers when he's open and driving or hitting mid-range jumpers the rest of the time. His team-high 26-point effort one 9-of-13 shooting in St. John's 93-78 victory over No. 3 Duke today epitomized the changes he's made.
Brownlee has been little short of a revelation this season. His line against Duke included 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists and one steal and 7-of-13 shooting. Ble Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was suitably impressed.
"Brownlee is a difficult matchup," Krzyzewski said. "He's a four [power forward] or a five [center], but he plays like a three [small forward]. They can have a lot of ballhandlers. Hardy and Brownlee are their two best players, and they played like it."