Newly minted St. John’s coach Rick Pitino said there was going to be quite a bit of turnover on the St. John’s roster as he assembles a team that he hopes will put the program back in the national spotlight. One person who isn’t going anywhere is 6-11 center Joel Soriano.
Pitino said there would be “six to eight” new players. Asked about current ones, he replied, “I asked everybody about the character on the basketball team. To be honest . . . I didn’t get glowing reports . . . but I did get a glowing report on Joel Soriano.”
Soriano averaged 15.1 points and 11.9 rebounds this season, posted 24 double-doubles, was selected to the all-Big East second team and was named the conference’s Most Improved Player. But he wasn’t happy at the idea of moving on from then-coach Mike Anderson and, when asked about that after the Storm’s season-ending Big East quarterfinal loss March 9, replied, “if there’s any chance of me coming back here and [Anderson] is not here, I’m not going to be here.”
Soriano dined with Pitino Monday night and they charted a path together.
“He wants to win and has this love for the game he can't even explain,” Soriano said Tuesday at the Garden. “He said if I had that passion for that game we would reach limits we never thought we could.”
Pitino told him “we're going to bring you to a level that even you don't think you can get to” and said Tuesday “I’ve got to build everything around him.”
Pitino suggested he’d also heard good things about forward Drissa Traore and wanted to talk to point guard Posh Alexander.
“I love St. John's,” Soriano said. “I know the fans here, the people here, the alumni here, the people that work at the school [and] how much love and support they always give me . . . I want to give something back to them. I want to be remembered as something here.”