St. John's University's Qadashah Hoppie talks to press during St....

St. John's University's Qadashah Hoppie talks to press during St. John's media day for men's and women's basketball at St. John's University in Queens. Oct. 26, 2017 Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Words matter with the St. John’s women’s basketball team.

Coach Joe Tartamella and his players don’t like being characterized as ‘rebuilding.’ However, he says, “we don’t mind being a dark horse.” Either could be applied after a preseason poll of Big East coaches tabbed the Red Storm for a seventh-place finish.

The poll results are a byproduct of graduating two of their three double-figure scorers, all-conference first-teamer Jade Walker and co-defensive player of the year and point guard Aaliyah Lewis. But they may not figure in the arrival of Qadashah Hoppie. The 5-7 combo guard is the highest-rated recruit joining the conference.

“She’s impressive. She carries herself like an upper classman,” Tartamella said. “She has great poise about her, a high IQ level and she’s really a great teammate. She’s been playing the best competition her whole life in AAU . . . I love how she shoots the ball.”

Hoppie headlines an infusion of talent. The Storm also adds 6-3 Kayla Charles and guard Tiana England, a top recruit a year ago who missed last season with a torn left ACL. They join a rotation that has four with starting experience: seniors Imani Littleton and Maya Singleton, junior Akina Wellere and sophomore Alisha Kebbe.

“People know what we lost,” Tartamella said. “They don’t see what we gained.”

Hoppie averaged 15.9 points at the Patrick School (N.J.), already is a candidate to take on scoring responsibilities and is undeterred by the expectations. “Expectations have always been there — in high school and AAU,” she said. “When you add pressure it messes things up. I know I am here to fill a big role and . . . (Tartamella) doesn’t believe that because you’re a freshman you can come in here and make things happen.”

“I don’t think, in what I see from Q, that she’ll be afraid of the moment if she has the opportunity and I don’t think our team would be afraid to put here in that opportunity,” Tartamella said of taking the critical shots. “Will she defer? I think Q will want to take the shot.”

Sophomore Shamachya Duncan — Hoppie’s sister — was asked about the poll and the ‘rebuild’ label and replied “I see a team that reloaded, improved the players we already had an added more really good ones.”

In his first five seasons, Tartamella’s program had been tabbed as low as sixth and never finished worse than fourth, making three NCAA Tournaments and two WNITs.

“You’ve got to figure out a way to use it as motivation,” he said. “You can feel ‘rebuilding’ as an insult or use it to add fuel to your fire. The way our team looks at it: We’re going to show everybody that we’re not.”


Akina Wellere, Jr. G/F

The Storm’s top returning scorer after averaging 11.3 points and a player that has to be respected on the three-point line after making a Big East-best 45.8 percent (49-for-107) in 33 games last season. At 5-11, scored in double figures 19 times.

Alisha Kebbe, So. G

Made 32 starts as a freshman, averaged 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds and was a Big East all-freshman selection. Made 37.9 percent on her three-point attempts (25-for-66). Averaged 9.0 points in the conference tournament and 8.8 points in the three WNIT games last season.

Qadashah Hoppie, Fr. G

Prospects Nation tabbed her as the No. 44 recruit in the country after she averaged 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists for The Patrick School (N.J.). The Staten Island product stands 5-7 and could play off the ball to maximize her shooting or run the point to utilize her athleticism.



10 St. Francis Brooklyn, 4:30

17 William & Mary, 7

24 Western Michigan, 11 a.m.

25Rutgers or South Carolina, TBA

26 TBD, TBA*

30 at Albany, 7


Sun. Dec. 3 at Miami, 1

Sat. Dec. 9 James Madison, 2

Tues. Dec. 12 Fordham, 7

Mon. Dec. 18 Kansas, 7

Thurs. Dec. 21 Buffalo, 11 a.m.

Thurs. Dec. 28: at Marquette, 8:30

Sat. Dec. 30: at DePaul, 8


Tues. Jan. 2: Providence, 7

Fri. Jan. 5: Creighton, 7

Sun. Jan. 7: at Xavier, 2

Wed. Jan. 10: at Butler, 7

Fri. Jan. 12: Georgetown, 7

Sun. Jan. 14: Villanova, 2

Sun. Jan. 21: at Seton Hall, 1

Fri. Jan. 26: at Creighton, 8

Sun. Jan. 28: at Providence, 1


Fri. Feb. 2: Butler, 7

Sun. Feb. 4: Xavier, 2

Fri. Feb. 9: at Villanova, 11 a.m.

Sun. Feb. 11: at Georgetown, 2

Fri. Feb. 16: Seton Hall, 7

Fri. Feb. 23: DePaul, 7

Sun. Feb. 25: Marquette, 2

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