The first job for new St. John’s basketball coach Mike Anderson is convincing two key players to remain with the team. But two weeks into his tenure, Anderson has no commitment from LJ Figueroa or Mustapha Heron.
With Marvin Clark II set to graduate and Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon declaring for the NBA Draft, Anderson can ill afford to lose either player.
“The most important task for me is to come in and recruit the guys that are here,’’ Anderson said Thursday at Citi Field, where he threw out the first pitch before the Mets’ 1-0 win over the Reds. “Obviously, this thing will keep moving forward, and so that’s been my task. It continues to be a daily task.’’
Anderson, 59, replaces Chris Mullin, who stepped down with two years remaining on his contract. St. John’s did not release details on Anderson’s pact, but he said he was given a six-year deal.
Heron, a 6-5 guard who was granted a hardship waiver when he transferred from Auburn, has been working out with the team, but Anderson said Figueroa, who placed his name in the transfer portal last month, has not.
“Actually, LJ, he hadn’t lately,’’ the coach said, adding, “I’m sure that’s a decision he will make and probably make it at the appropriate time.”
The 6-6 wing averaged 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his only season after transferring from Odessa Junior College in Texas.
As for Heron, who averaged 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, Anderson said, “He’s been working out and I hope he’ll be elite for this team.
Anderson said of the uncertainty, “I think as the year unfolds, a lot of those things will kind of work themselves out. And so right now our guys finish up working out and so now they are trying to finish the finals and get to the summer. We’ll see who’s there when all’s said and done. Right now, the guys that are there, they’re coming, they’re working hard each and every day, and whether the guys [Figueroa and Heron] will be here, we’ll know real soon.’’
Anderson said he is searching for additional assistants. He hired his nephew, T.J. Cleveland, as associate head coach. “We’re in the process of hopefully adding more guys,’’ Anderson said. “I’d had the chance to sit down with quite a few guys. I just want to make sure we get the right people on our staff and build a team. It’s a work in progress right now. It could be any day, it could be next week.’’
Anderson said he is not awed by the apparent rebuild that awaits him. “I know the task at hand,’’ he said, “and I’ve had the chance to do it at multiple places.’’