St. John’s will see a familiar face on Friday night when it plays its first true road game against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers’ leading scorer is Quinn Slazinski and, for a short time, it looked like he might be the Red Storm’s starting power forward. The 6-9 Slazinski played two seasons for Rick Pitino and when the Hall of Fame coach made the move to St. John’s he decided to follow. He signed with the Storm in April.
“They had a huge hole at their power forward position, so I looked at it as an opportunity,” Slazinski said Thursday.
Things changed in July when St. John’s signed Chris Ledlum, who is now its starting power forward. Slazinski opted to re-enter the NCAA transfer portal and ultimately signed with West Virginia (3-3), where he now averages 16.3 points.
Slazinski has had Friday night’s game against the Storm (4-2) circled on his schedule ever since, but on Thursday he wanted to make clear that while he will “be more amped up,” he has no animus toward St. John’s or Pitino. They made a decision and when the landscape for his final season of college basketball changed, he made a decision.
“He’s going to do what's best for his team — which is get another good player, which is what anyone would do — so now it was my decision to accept the fact that my senior season’s (outlook changed).”
“It's very hard to play under a man like that and split minutes with someone,” he added. “For my mental health, it was really important (to transfer) . . . .At the end of the day, I'm going to do what's best for my career.”
He said he spoke with the Mountaineers’ coaching staff and told them, “I'm not here to play a one on one versus Rick Pitino. I’m here to play West Virginia versus St. John’s.”
Pitino said Slazinski “would have played half the amount of time” and added, “He probably, for Quinn Slazinski, made the right move . . . He's getting the minutes he wants. He wants to be a professional basketball player overseas and this is going to propel him to get that offer.
“I’m very happy for him that he’s doing so well.”
Slazinski said he is looking forward to seeing Daniss Jenkins, Cruz Davis and Sadiku Ibine Ayo who all played at Iona with him. But he added “(Friday) I hope they all shoot terribly.”
And while he admits this holds the pressure of a big game for the Mountaineers, he is not taking a mindset that he has something to prove to the Storm or its coach.
“Someone asked me about the pressure of the game and I was like ‘funny you said that,’ ” Slazinski said. “The greatest thing Pitino taught me was that pressure is the greatest gift an athlete can have. It’s life calling upon you to step up in the moment. And I’m using his words to help me play against him tomorrow night.
“The fire I'm going to play with tomorrow is my competitive edge. It's not a ‘you did me wrong’ kind of thing because that just wasn't the case.”