St. John's women's basketball coach Joe Tartamella speaks during media day...

St. John's women's basketball coach Joe Tartamella speaks during media day on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. Credit: Errol Anderson

The 2022-23 women’s basketball season stands as Joe Tartamella’s greatest accomplishment. The 12th year St. John’s coach took a Red Storm unit coming off a pair of sub-.500 seasons and turned it into an NCAA Tournament team. For this, the St. James product and Massapequa resident was named the Big East’s Coach of the Year.

Now he's getting to work on an encore.

St. John’s, 23-9 last season, returns a small group including starting 6-2 power forward Jillian Archer and 5-7 guard Unique Drake, voted the conference’s Sixth Woman of the year last season. There are a pair of key transfers in 6-foot Amber Brown from Pittsburgh and Ber’Nyah Mayo from UMass, and a high-ceiling freshman in Julie Bahati.

The team opens at home against LIU on Nov. 6

“There probably won't be a more important award personally,” Tartamella said of the conference honor. “When you look at our league, the coaches that are in the league, just the arc of my time here. I was ecstatic. . . . it's a testament really to the kids that were in the locker room and the work that my staff did.”

One critical part of last season’s success was the passion the players had. As Tartamella said, “Many of them were veterans and ready to win and I saw it right away with the ferociousness in their first game.”

It will be on Archer and Drake to help carry that culture over to this season.

“They're the most vital because they've been with us,” Tartamella said. “They know what our demands are, what I'm expecting of them. And they also have to take a stronger role.”

Drake averaged 8.6 points and Archer averaged 7.2 points and 7.7 rebounds last season. Drake will take a position in the starting lineup and Tartamella said Archer has improved her game “to where she can be more of a focal point.”

"I would say our approach is the same as last year," Archer said. "It's really just coming out every day to compete. The biggest thing is effort at the end of the day. That's something . . . that is part of our culture at this point."

Brown started 110 games in four seasons at Pitt and averaged 9.6 points last season. Mayo averaged 12.6 points, four rebounds and four assists for UMass. Both are likely starters.

“Every team has its own personality, but I do think we have what it takes to replicate some of what we had last season,” Tartamella said. “I’m optimistic about what this group can do.”

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