Tuesday, January 10, 2012

St. John's Solidifies Future With A&M Transfer

Opponents just two months ago, Jamal Branch and God'sgift Achiuwa will now be teammates following Texas A&M guard's decision to transfer to St. John's.  (Photo courtesy of Sweet, Sweet Lavin's Kieran Lynch)

He may not take the court for another eleven months, but St. John's has found their point guard of the future.

One month removed from the shocking decision of Nurideen Lindsey to transfer last month, the Red Storm secured a long-term commitment at the floor general position when Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch announced his intentions to take his talents to Queens via Twitter yesterday shortly after New York Daily News writer Roger Rubin broke the revelation.  Eleven games into his freshman season; the 6-3 freshman averaged 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game for the Aggies, with a career-high ten points against Mississippi State in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden in November.  The following day, Branch posted seven points and five rebounds in 24 minutes against the Red Storm team he now gets to call his own.

Branch chose the Red Storm over the University of Maryland and coach Mark Turgeon, who recruited the Kansas City product prior to leaving College Station for the opportunity to replace the legendary Gary Williams.  After spending the first part of the season backing up senior starter Dash Harris, (who he outplayed on several occasions) Branch became available for St. John's coach Steve Lavin about two weeks ago.  If he enrolls at St. John's for the spring semester, (which starts next week) he will be eligible to play sometime around Christmas.

Branch's presence in the lineup will enable combo guard Phil Greene to return to his natural position off the ball alongside D'Angelo Harrison, and will add yet another dimension of speed and excitement to the Red Storm transition game and press defense.  Moreover, his height will create mismatches in St. John's favor during the Big East schedule against smaller point guards the likes of UConn's Shabazz Napier (6-1) and Providence's Vincent Council (6-2) among others.  

For those looking for a player comparison, Branch is somewhat like former Johnny Malik Boothe, only with a few inches taller and a greater scoring talent.  He won't set the box score on fire; but Branch will win the vast St. John's fan base over with his rapidly developing complete game that is already an upgrade over the rather one-dimensional nature of Lindsey, who excelled at driving inside and attacking the basket.  This kid can do it all; and in less than a year's time, he'll be doing it under the bright lights of the largest city in the country and "World's Most Famous Arena."

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