St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg envisions a complete college basketball season. Coach Mike Anderson believes it will be a good one for his Red Storm.
“You’re going to see a team that’s going to, I think, build off the momentum that we had right at the end of the year,” said Anderson, who piloted a largely inexperienced St. John’s team to a 17-15 mark in his first season before it was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cragg, who served on a Big East committee tasked with negotiating a return from the COVID-19 outbreak, said he remains optimistic about college campuses reopening and a return to athletics. He added that he foresees the Red Storm playing “a hybrid” of games at Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena while conceding that it might not look the same as usual.
“I anticipate we’ll have sports. I anticipate we’re going to have college basketball,” Cragg said on a web-based event for students, alumni and fans that included former St. John’s star Bill Wennington, who discussed his experience playing with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan as chronicled in “The Last Dance” documentary.
“It may look a little bit different than years past, but the bottom line is the kids want to play, we’re all anxious to play and we‘ve just got to figure it out,” Cragg said. “We’re always going to honor our priority of safety and health. And I believe we’re going to get to that point.”
Cragg said that while he is “encouraged every day that we’re getting to a better place,” he has participated in many meetings about the coming school year and “not everybody in every meeting has that same optimism.”
The course of the college football season and the changing landscape during the next three months, Cragg added, will be instructive.
St. John’s would like to have the basketball team back on campus for the summer session that begins next month. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will make a determination on schools and colleges before the end of the month.
Anderson spoke of leading scorer LJ Figueroa placing his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal, and though he didn’t say anything specific, it sounded as if he does not expect the senior swingman back.
Anderson pointed to the progress of players such as junior forward Josh Roberts, junior guard Greg Williams Jr., junior forward Marcellus Earlington and sophomore forward Julian Champagnie and said, “I’m excited about those guys coming back as well as a really good recruiting class.”
That class includes junior college transfers Isaih Moore and Vince Cole — “those guys will have to come in and impact our team right away,” Anderson said — along with local high school recruits Posh Alexander and Dylan Wusu and George Washington transfer Arnaldo Toro.
“It’s kind of like last year [when] we had question marks,” Anderson said, “but I think we’ve got more answers to those questions with the guys returning.”