Anthony Mason Jr. emerged in the doorway, his right leg wrapped tightly with ice. As he walked gingerly to the St. John's news conference table and took a seat, an array of tape recorders were arranged in front of him.
He may no longer be the Red Storm's go-to guy, but the 6-7, 210-pound forward finds himself in demand despite his new role - one that requires high energy and staunch defense above all else.
"It feels good," said Mason, who played in a home game for the first time since undergoing foot surgery early last season and suffering a hamstring injury this past fall. "Being back out there with the team was fun."
The redshirt senior scored eight points and had a game-high 10 rebounds in 18 minutes Sunday as St. John's earned its second Big East win of the season, building a 31-point lead before posting a 67-47 victory over DePaul in front of 4,317 at Carnesecca Arena.
"What he's really doing, that we really need, is rebounding," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said of Mason, who had his first double-digit rebounding performance since Jan. 21, 2007. "He's playing with energy, he moved his feet much better defensively in this game than he has, so he's getting his timing down.
"It's very tough because we had hoped to get him back a little sooner and that would get his timing against some lesser opponents, or some non-conference opponents. Now we're in the heat of the Big East, so it's going to be tough."
The Red Storm's next three games are against Top 25-ranked opponents, starting with a road contest against No. 15 Connecticut Wednesday night.
As for yesterday's game, Justin Burrell led the way offensively with 11 points, but it was the St. John's defense that stole the show. The Storm (12-5, 2-3) held DePaul (7-10, 0-5) to 16-for-50 shooting and outrebounded the Blue Demons 46-26. St. John's, which led 31-20 at halftime, shot 25-for-54 from the field.
DePaul's Tracy Webster, who was named interim coach Jan. 11, was impressed by St. John's defense.
"They're tough. They're quick. They have players where you can switch one through four [point guard through power forward], so that makes it a little tougher as well," he said. "I think they have some pretty good athleticism and they're long, so that could give some problems for teams as well. So overall, they're a decent defensive team."
St. John's began to pull away toward the end of the first half, scoring 10 straight points in a span of 3:36 for a 27-15 lead. After Justin Brownlee's layup produced a 19-15 lead with 6:59 left, D.J. Kennedy and Malik Boothe hit back-to-back jumpers. Mason then blocked a shot by DePaul guard Will Walker (14 points) to set up a fast-break jumper by Kennedy. Mason also created a basket when he stole the ball and passed to Kennedy, who found an open Brownlee for a layup on St. John's next possession. DePaul never got closer than seven after that.