It was just the shot in the arm the St. John’s athletic department needed.
The crowd (3,315) was large, the music was loud and ESPN was in the house as the team showed fans what the future could be like at its annual Red Storm Tip-Off for the men's and women's basketball programs.
More importantly, the crowd seemed really fired up to see what the 2010-2011 St. John’s basketball teams will look like. And so far it’s all good. Steve Lavin, tabbed to improve on the solid foundation Norm Roberts built, acknowledged how important it was to have the student body and what seemed to be the entire city of New York on the same page.
“To me it’s a great opportunity to take a group of hard-working, experienced players and try and continue that climb so they can reach the goal they had from the first day they came to St. John’s which was to get to the NCAA Tournament,” Lavin said. “We can send them out, not with only a college degree, but with post season success.”
Everyone looks good on paper, during warm ups and in meaningless pickup games, but there are a couple of things to like about this team. First and foremost, there are nine scholarship seniors on the team. Most of those seniors have seen significant playing time the last three seasons. D.J. Kennedy, Paris Horne, Malik Boothe, Justin Burrell and Sean Evans, all starters from last season's 17-16 squad that earned an at-large NIT berth, all return.
Other key seniors include Dwight Hardy, Rob Thomas, Justin Brownlee and Dele Coker. You can't teach that type of experience.
Another thing to like is the energy Lavin brings to the table. Carnesecca Arena hasn’t seen that much juice in the preseason in a while.
Finally, newcomer Dwayne Polee Jr, a wiry 6-7 freshman from Los Angeles nearly brought the house down with a series of high-flying dunks. Again, everyone looks good on paper. But things could be different this time around for the Red Storm.
On a down note, Burrell hurt his left hand in practice earlier in the day. St. John’s will release further information on his status on Saturday.