One more time, perhaps, for a trip to the NCAA Tournament?
St. John’s junior LJ Figueroa announced on Saturday that he intends to enter the NBA Draft. Red Storm coach Mike Anderson not only doesn’t see the 6-7 swingman as ready to make the jump, but also sees him as an integral part of a squad on the upswing for next season.
“LJ, this past year, was in a different role from what he was the previous year and I'm hoping that he could even look forward to a different role next year,” Anderson said Thursday in an interview on WFAN.
Asked for an assessment of his readiness for the NBA, Anderson said, “I think he’s a versatile player . . . I was surprised he didn’t have a triple-double. He's capable of scoring. He's capable of distributing the basketball. He’s a rebounder.
“But there are some things he's got to work on and I think he knows that and, in this assessment from the NBA, [it] will confirm some of that.”
Figueroa has not hired an agent, which would allow him to pull his name out after going through workouts and evaluations with NBA franchises. Shamorie Ponds declared for the draft and worked out for several NBA teams after his sophomore year before deciding to return for his junior season and helping St. John’s reach last season’s NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with LJ multiple times about what his intentions are,” Anderson said. “You want to find out his value at this point in time . . . to see where he is and get some feedback.”
With the departure of Ponds after last season and senior Mustapha Heron often injured, Figueroa became the Storm’s go-to player. He averaged 14.5 points and 1.9 steals and made 37 percent of his three-point attempts. The year before, his first season after transferring from Odessa JC, he averaged 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Anderson can’t be blamed for wanting Figueroa to return as St. John’s came together to play some of its best basketball at the end of the season. His play, combined with the development of freshman Julian Champagnie and sophomores Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington plus a solid recruiting class would give St. John’s a fine outlook for 2020-21.
St. John’s Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca believes that.
“After Coach Mike Anderson’s first year guiding the Red Storm, I am so excited for our team’s future,” the 95-year-old Carnesecca said in a dispatch to alumni that also said he is faring well during the pandemic. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with him, whether it be at practice, a game or a friendly conversation. In one year, he has demonstrated that he is building a program that we can be proud of and support.”
Carnesecca concluded his dispatch by saying “I look forward to seeing you all at a game next season. Remember ... WE ARE ST. JOHN’S!”