CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Of all the players who have worn a St. John's uniform in the five-year Steve Lavin era, no one moved the needle the way D'Angelo Harrison did.
As a freshman, he was a sidekick to Maurice Harkless, who opted out after the 13-win 2011-12 season as a first-round NBA draft pick. As a sophomore, Harrison was suspended by Lavin for the final four regular-season games and two NIT games, falling into a "dark place" but committing to stay the course. As a senior, he became the third player in school history to reach the 2,000- point plateau, trailing only Chris Mullin and Malik Sealy.
When he fouled out with a minute left in St. John's NCAA second-round loss to San Diego State Friday night and was thanked by chanting Red Storm fans, it hit Harrison that his wild college ride was over.
Speaking of classmates Phil Greene, Sir'Dominic Pointer and Jamal Branch, Harrison said, "We've probably been through the craziest four years you can go through with the guys we had, suspensions, all types of stuff. It was tough, but it's time to move forward now."
Harrison admitted he didn't sleep much and said the ending "hurts, for sure."
Making their first NCAA appearance without 6-10 shot-blocker Chris Obekpa, who was suspended for two weeks for violating team rules and school policy, was only the latest obstacle faced by the seniors.
"I always felt like it was us against the world," Greene said. "I reminded my teammates of that a lot. It was all odds against us every time. I tried to use that as motivation."
Greene said Obekpa texted his teammates before the game and told them to play hard and said he'd always be there for them. Except he wasn't there when they needed his talents the most.
Asked if he was upset with Obekpa, Greene said, "Not upset. Disappointed. Chris is my brother. He made a mistake, and hopefully he'll learn from it."
Harrison acknowledged his dismay that Obekpa's actions affected so many people, especially the seniors who worked so hard to hold things together through all the travails.
"I mean, it affected the whole program," Harrison said. Referring to his own suspension two years earlier, he added, "But hey, I've been down that road. I'll probably grab lunch with him as soon as we get back and tell him, 'Hey, man, you've got to get it together. You don't want your image to go out like this. You have to make sure you leave on the right note, or fix it.' ''
Harrison noted that he told Lavin within 10 minutes of his suspension that he was committed to making things right. "I stuck with it," Harrison said. "I've been through some tough valleys. I was sticking with my guys, Dom, Phil. I'm not just going to leave them. And I'm sticking with my coach as well."
Harrison and Greene expressed affection for Lavin, who has one year remaining on his contract and whose job status for next season is under review, according to a school official. Both players said the team could have used more size and depth and said this season might have ended better if big men Adonis De La Rosa and Keith Thomas had not failed to qualify academically.
But Harrison appreciates how Lavin stuck by him and always instilled confidence. Greene said, "For me, he's genuine, he's real, nothing's fake about him. He's a good visionary and a great motivator. I love Coach. He's like a father figure to me. He brought St. John's back, so I think he should still be here."
Harrison, Green, Pointer and Branch all did the hard work to make St. John's respectable again, but their time is up.