St. John's head coach Steve Lavin addresses class of 2012 during yesterday's commencement ceremony on Queens campus just days after officially welcoming six players into newest Red Storm recruiting class. (Photo courtesy of St. John's University)
Steve Lavin's commencement address was just the tip of the iceberg as far as St. John's University in the public eye this past month, as we check in with Jason Schott for yet another installment of the "Three-Point Schott," chronicling the recent happenings on and around Red Storm Nation.
St. John’s Notebook: Lavin speaks to grads, adds recruits to roster
By Jason Schott – St. John's beat writer – Twitter @JESchott19
This is the latest edition of the St. John’s Notebook, with news about Head Coach Steve Lavin giving the commencement address at graduation and new recruits joining the Red Storm.
Lavin Addresses Students at Graduation
St. John’s Men’s Basketball Head Coach Steve Lavin gave the commencement address at graduation this weekend. He spoke at the Staten Island campus’ graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 12th, and the Queens campus on Sunday, the 13th.
Said Lavin of speaking at graduation: “I consider it an honor and privilege to speak at the St. John’s commencement ceremonies. Since my arrival on campus, the St. John’s community; and particularly our students, have embraced me and have shown authentic devotion to our basketball program. It will be a pleasure to give back to them in this small way. Naturally, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this significant day with our students and their families.”
Six Student-Athletes Added to 2012-13 Roster
St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin announced that six players will be added to the roster, which has five returning players from last season. The highly regarded recruits are Felix Balamou, Marco Bourgault, Jamal Branch, Max Hooper, JaKarr Sampson, and Orlando Sanchez.
JaKarr Sampson is the most interesting of the recruits, having committed to St. John’s a year ago, but was unable to qualify for the 2011-12 season due to eligibility issues.
Sampson is a 6-8, 209-pound forward from Barberton, Ohio, and ranked as the 11th-best player at his position and the 31st overall prospect of the high school Class of 2011. He attended St. Vincent-St. Mary's in Akron, the same school LeBron James went to, and averaged 14.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a junior in 2009-10. He played summer basketball for the King James Shooting Stars, which used LeBron’s nickname.
Sampson moved on to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and had a very successful post-graduate year there in 2011-12. He led his team to a 31-3 record and had the No. 1 prep school ranking for 18 consecutive weeks, plus a top-five finish. Sampson was named the NEPSAC AAA Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the National Prep Championship. He averaged 18.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Brewster Coach Jason Smith said of Sampson, “JaKarr is a tremendous addition, not only to the St. John’s basketball program, but to the entire St. John’s community.” Lavin said of Sampson, “JaKarr is a skilled and athletically dynamic basketball player with the ability to influence the game at both ends of the floor.”
Orlando Sanchez is a 6-9, 205-pound forward from the Dominican Republic, who was an honorable mention JUCO All-American in 2010-11. Sanchez played for Monroe and led them to a fifth-place national finish as a sophomore to earn All-NJCAA all-tournament honors in 2011-12. He averaged 10.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. Sanchez played for the Dominican Republic national team, which was coached by John Calipari, who just last month guided Kentucky to the Wildcats' first national championship since 1998.
“Orlando is a versatile athlete who has a diverse skill set for a player his size. He can playmake, shot make, defend multiple positions, block shots, and rebound. Orlando is a selfless team player, with a quiet humility and competitive nature that can benefit our team,” said Lavin.
Felix Balamou hails from Conakry, the capital and largest city of the country of Guinea on the West Coast of Africa. He came to the United States in 2010 and played two seasons at Our Savior New American School in Centereach, Long Island, NY. Balamou is a 6-4, 185-pound guard who averaged 16.0 points a game and was the leading scorer of a team with eight NCAA Division I prospects. He also averaged 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game.
“Felix is an explosive athlete with a fierce will and determination to compete at the highest levels of basketball. His athleticism, slashing ability, and defensive prowess fit well with our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play. Felix has shown marked improvement over this past year. His best days of basketball are clearly ahead of him,” said Lavin.
Marco Bourgault, who hails from Saint-Malo, France, is a 6-6, 210-pound guard/forward. He played at Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY, in 2011-12 and averaged 10.8 points-per-game. Lavin said of Bourgault, “In addition to being an outstanding shooter, Marco is a multi-dimensional and fundamentally sound basketball player. He possesses a high basketball IQ and exhibits exceptional court sense. His skill set lends itself to both playmaking and shotmaking opportunities. Since recovering fully from a knee injury he sustained two years ago, Marco now has reclaimed his explosiveness and quickness.”
Jamal Branch is a transfer from Texas A&M who played against St. John’s in the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in November 2011. Shortly after that, Branch transferred to St. John’s in January, and will be eligible to join the team in games as early as December 16, 2012. Branch played in 11 games for Texas A&M and averaged 4.2 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. Against St. John’s on November 18th, he scored seven points with five rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. Branch was the best high school defender in the Class of 2011, according to Scout.com. He rated as high as the 47th overall prospect and the no. 8 point guard nationally.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Branch moved to Texas for his high school career. He played two years at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas before going to Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington. He earned four letters in basketball and two in football in his time in high school. Lavin said of Branch, “Jamal is an excellent lead guard and a welcome addition to our basketball family. His skill, court vision and quickness will give us backcourt depth for the 2012-13 season.”
Max Hooper is another transfer, coming to St. John’s from Harvard. The 6-6, 210-pound guard played two games as a member of Harvard’s 19-man roster that made the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he is not eligible to play for St. John’s until the 2013-14 season.
Hooper comes from Carmel Valley, California, and attended two high schools there before he excelled at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro. New Hampshire. At Brewster, Hooper averaged 10.0 points per game in his postgraduate year of 2010-11. Hooper is one of eight players from that Brewster team to move on to NCAA Division I programs, a list that includes fellow Big East guard Eli Carter; who just completed his freshman year at Rutgers, where he was the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer.
“Max is a high-percentage 3-point shooter with the size and skill to playmake over the top of defenses. A relentless worker, he seemingly lives in the gym, refining his shot and developing his overall game,” said Lavin.