In baseball, they say the best trades are the ones you don't make. The same could be said for an idea St. John's coach Steve Lavin floated last spring when he suggested to Sir'Dominic Pointer that he think about redshirting this season. In Lavin's view, Pointer regressed last season and needed to improve his "mind-set."
Whether Pointer is responding to a motivational ploy or to increased playing time as a starter, there's little question he has been St. John's most valuable player this season. As usual, he filled up the boxscore in all the places that measure hustle Sunday in an 82-57 victory over Tulane at Barclays Center, but Pointer also had a career-high 24 points to go with seven steals, four rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
"I can't imagine where we'd be without him," said D'Angelo Harrison, who added 21 points. "Dom makes the game easier for me. When he plays how he was today, you have to guard him."
Asked what he said to Pointer on the redshirt issue, Harrison said, "I was like, 'Dom, I don't want you to do that.' "
The 17th-ranked Red Storm (11-1) has depth issues, as it is a reliable veteran group that goes only six deep. But Pointer has been the catalyst at both ends all season, and when he dialed up his aggressiveness on offense against Tulane (9-3), it showed. He had 15 of his points and six of his seven steals in the first half, including five points in a 14-0 run that gave St. John's a 47-22 halftime lead.
Tulane never got closer than 21 points in the second half and shot only 37.9 percent for the game and 24.0 percent from three-point range. The Red Storm converted 50.8 percent of its field-goal attempts and controlled the paint with help from Chris Obekpa (eight rebounds, four blocks).
After the game, Pointer admitted he briefly considered redshirting and staying in school an extra year to get a master's degree, but he said: "It wasn't worth it. I decided it was time to finish with my brothers."
Pointer was referring to the senior core of Harrison, Phil Greene and Jamal Branch. Sophomore Rysheed Jordan, who scored 12 points off the bench, also is a possibility to leave school for the NBA after this season, so the time for this team is now. St. John's opens Big East play at noon Wednesday at Seton Hall, and the Red Storm will have a chance to prove its national ranking is justified.
"We'll come out ready," Pointer said. "As a team, we've made a lot of leaps."
None more important than Pointer's growth into a vital leader.
"Dom is like a microcosm of the team," Lavin said. "Dom so often spearheads our defensive effort. He comes out of the shadows to take charges, he comes from behind to slap the ball. Then his speed, when he starts to rip and run with the ball, is a sight to behold. The choices he's making is what's most impressive. Last year, he flatlined. Now he's taking off."
And the Red Storm is soaring with him.