Friday, October 25, 2013

St. John's Tip-Off: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Rysheed Jordan made his long-awaited debut at St. John's during team's annual Tip-Off event, and left an indelible first impression. (Photo courtesy of Quinn Rochford)

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin on assessment of program entering his fourth season:
"Our goal is 20-plus wins, (to) make the NCAA Tournament, and (to) play our best basketball in March. We're probably right about where I'd hoped we'd be, maybe a year ahead of schedule on the recruiting front, but with the year I missed due to cancer, I'd say we're about where I thought we would be."

On senior forward Orlando Sanchez:
"It's very unusual to have a player his size with the skill set he possesses. If we had him last year, we're a different team, but we're grateful to have him this year."

On outlook for this season:
"I'd say the three keys are staying injury-free, learning to play as a cohesive unit, and how Rysheed Jordan develops. He'll be central to what we do. I like our pieces, I like our personnel. We haven't arrived by any means, but we've made progress. We feel we're on the cusp. We've got the firepower to do something special come March."

On how far St. John's has come since replacing Norm Roberts in 2010:
"The first year, we surprised people with the run we had, and we've been building for three-plus years to take that next step. We're finally at a point where we have thirteen players on scholarship, and we have a returning nucleus that went to the postseason last year. I look more at the composite: We're two, three deep at each position, I think we can absorb foul trouble, absorb an injury."

On freshman guard Rysheed Jordan:
"He has tremendous poise, he makes good judgments and choices on the court. He plays with a hard edge, which is an indication of his competitiveness. There's good synergy between our returning players and Rysheed. Like older brothers, they've taken him under their wing."

On Jordan's performance in St. John's intrasquad scrimmage:
"From a debut standpoint, he played well. He's made progress, and there's no reason why he can't continue."

On junior guard D'Angelo Harrison:
"He's come back with an eager approach to all aspects of his responsibilities as a student-athlete."

In general:
"I have guarded optimism, but I like where our team is now. The makeup of this team is one of its strengths. You'll see as we mix our lineups how well they play. They like to play together, they're sharing the ball, and you'll see that with JaKarr (Sampson) and Orlando (Sanchez) for instance."

Nuggets of Note:
- First and foremost, sophomore forward Chris Obekpa was suspended for breaking an undisclosed university policy, and will miss both of the Red Storm's two exhibition games before their November 8th opener against Wisconsin. Said Steve Lavin of Obekpa's transgression: "You try to teach your players that choices and judgments are an important part of life."

- When addressing a sellout crowd at Carnesecca Arena, many of whom were also in attendance for a performance by hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco, Lavin mentioned the Johnnies' new mantra: "Get it in." "Ron Artest spoke to our team, and that was his theme," Lavin said of the rally cry. "Life presents the most of opportunity, and you've got to take advantage of that."

- In his first playing time since being cleared by the NCAA last season, Orlando Sanchez was welcomed with open arms by the St. John's faithful, and put his skills on full display tonight. The Dominican big man was equal parts scorer, passer and shooter during the Red Storm's 12-minute intrasquad scrimmage, and has a deceptively strong outside shot in particular. In fact, Sanchez left a strong enough impression to where his inclusion in the starting lineup would not be out of the realm of possibility.

- St. John's has mounds of depth compared to their 2011-12 campaign in which Lavin and then-interim coach Mike Dunlap were forced to play a six-man rotation for most of the season en route to a 13-19 campaign, and its strength in numbers was at its best in the backcourt. Despite only playing together for just several months in summer workouts and practices, D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan look as though they have spent the last ten years as backcourt partners. The relationship between the two on the court suggests that despite their relative youth, Harrison and Jordan could end up being one of the better backcourts in the Big East this season.

- Finally, onto the freshman Jordan, who was the star of the night by all accounts. The Philadelphian lived up to his massive hype and NBA-ready potential well before his dunk over God'sgift Achiuwa in the team's slam dunk contest, displaying a floor vision that is better than that of any point guard that St. John's has seen since the Brian Mahoney era twenty years ago. In just twelve minutes, it seems that Jordan could very well be St. John's third consecutive Big East Rookie of the Year, and his battles with fellow freshman Brandon Austin of Providence will be must-see TV as the season plays out.

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