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St. John's recruits deliver the goods

St. Johns basketball player God'sgift Achiuwa.

St. Johns basketball player God'sgift Achiuwa. Credit: Alejandra Villa

For the first spin around the block, St. John's highly touted recruiting class could not have been much more impressive than it was in a 110-80 exhibition victory over C.W. Post Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena. Maybe that was to be expected against a Division II team with no players taller than 6-6, but the Pioneers are coming off a 21-10 season, showed some firepower on offense and equaled the Red Storm on the boards with 36 rebounds.

All six recruits scored in double figures and shot better than 50 percent, and while they have plenty of ability to break down opponents one-on-one, they did a great job sharing the ball with 24 assists. If they stay out of foul trouble, big men God'sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless could be a dynamic duo inside. Achiuwa made 10 of 13 shots with some athletic moves around the basket, had nine rebounds and ran the floor well.

As freshman guard Phil Greene said, "We call 'Gift a man-child. He runs up and down the floor like a guard. No big man in the country goes up and down like him."

Harkless had 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting and 14 rebounds despite playing only seven minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul. Assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who is running the team while Steve Lavin recovers from prostate cancer surgery, said Harkless' absence in the first half was one reason the Red Storm was even on the boards, but he admitted the overall lack of size will be a "liability all season."

At the same time, there's no denying the quickness and shooting ability of the Storm's perimeter players. Lindsey is a tremendous scorer because of his ability to drive to the rim. He's a better penetrator than anyone St. John's had the past two seasons. D'Angelo Harrison was only 2 of 7 from three-point range but showed the ability to adjust and hit the mid-range jumper, shooting 8 of 15 overall while collecting 20 points.

Veteran point guard Malik Stith started with Achiuwa, Harkless, Lindsey and Harrison. That leaves Greene and Sir'Dominic Pointer to come off the bench, and both were impressive in their roles. Pointer shot 6 of 8 for 12 close-range points, and he had two steals and blocked two shots to show his prowess on defense.

But the biggest eye-opener might be the play of Greene, who didn't come as highly touted as the other members of the class but scored 20 on 8 of 10 shooting, including 4 of 6 from three-point range.

"He's a pleasant surprise in a lot of areas," Dunlap said of Greene. "He and Pointer will continue to ascend as the season goes on. Phil is a surprise as far as how mature his game is. He'll get a lot of shots on the backside of the defense because he can go unnoticed at times because teams have to cover D'Angelo and Nuri creates his own problems.

"We have guys who can score. We have to take the group and convince them to buy in on defense."


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