For the second straight week, St. John's freshman Rysheed Jordan on Monday was named Big East rookie of the week. The sharp upward trajectory of the Philadelphia point guard has been a major factor driving the Red Storm's streak of eight wins in nine games to surge into contention for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Jordan scored a career-high 24 points in the Storm's 82-60 blowout of Georgetown Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, starting the game by scoring the first seven points and ending it with an emphatic dunk. That followed a one-point win over Seton Hall in which he scored 10 points and made the heady pass to Chris Obekpa that drew a foul under the basket in the final seconds, leading to the deciding free throw.
St. John's (17-9, 7-6 Big East) and Jordan return to the Garden stage Tuesday night against Butler (12-13, 2-11) hoping to keep the hot streak going. But the favorite to win St. John's third straight Big East rookie of the year award remains a bit of a mystery because coach Steve Lavin decided not to allow him to talk to the media as a freshman.
Originally, Lavin said Jordan would be available for interviews when Big East play began in January, but that changed. "Throughout my career, you make choices as a coach that you think are in the best interest of individual players and your team," Lavin said before the Georgetown game. "I want Rysheed's 100-percent focus to be on his studies and improving as a basketball player. Everything after that is secondary."
Of course, when Lavin and Jordan's teammates explain his emergence, the preferred attribute is "maturity." As junior Sir'Dominic Pointer said of Jordan's play against the Hoyas, "It's maturity. He's stepping up, coming into his own. At the beginning, he was a little hesitant, he was shaky. Now he's become the point guard we know he can be."
In the past nine games, Jordan is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, relieving some of the pressure on leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison. "He's an aggressive player," Harrison said. "You have to guard him. Now that his jump shot is falling, it's really hard to guard us."