D'Angelo Harrison has continued tradition of professional success among St. John's alumni, and has learned to expand his game since graduating in 2015. (Photo by the New York Daily News)
BROOKLYN -- The colors on the jersey are different and the beard has come with age. The swagger, however, remains timeless and ever-present.
Then again, nothing less could be expected of D'Angelo Harrison, the charismatic St. John's legend who always wore his heart and his emotions firmly on his sleeve for all the world to see. The third-leading scorer in Red Storm history -- and the program's most prolific three-point shooter -- is as much a part of the tapestry on the corner of Union and Utopia as the current head coach of his alma mater, and upon his introduction in the starting lineup at The Basketball Tournament this past weekend, appreciation accompanied his arrival.
Suiting up in TBT -- which has seen fellow St. John's alums D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne claim three consecutive tournament championships as part of powerhouse Overseas Elite, an outfit their college teammate, Justin Burrell, joined last year -- has afforded Harrison the same taste of post-collegiate success in an arena where his earliest, and most ardent, supporters are able to give back as he continues the latest success story forged in Queens.
"It just shows the kind of program we are," Harrison said of the professional careers that he and several other St. John's players have continued to enjoy over the past decade, both before and during TBT. "St. John's is a tough place to play, whether you know it or not, and it produces guys. I think all of them -- since D.J.'s class to my class -- I think everybody's still playing, except one (Amir Garrett, who has gone on to an equally fruitful baseball career as a member of the Cincinnati Reds). When it comes to the program, our guys make players, and we continue to just be great."
And so it goes for Harrison, whose basketball journey has taken him to Turkey and Israel since graduating in 2015, and will next bring him to Russia, where he has signed a two-year contract (the team and league cannot be announced at this time due to contractual obligations and legal reasons). In that time, the sharpshooting Texan -- known first and foremost as a marksman from three-point range -- has learned to not only bury teams from long distance, but also to do the little things to augment his game as he makes a living on the hardwood.
"You've got to learn your niche on the team," he said of his biggest takeaway as a professional. "In my four years here at St. John's, I was just a scorer. I didn't necessarily do what I needed to do to win the game until I became a senior. I've learned that over the years, to do whatever the team asks me to do."
"I don't need to be a 2,000-point scorer. I need to get rebounds, make shots, play defense, be the best player, dive on the floor, call timeouts. Basically, what Dom (Sir'Dominic Pointer) did for us, I'm doing for these guys. You just learn how to do anything you've got to do to win the game."
Survival has always been a primal instinct for Harrison, who overcame a childhood marked by his mother's drug abuse and the imprisonment of his brother, DeAndre, for armed robbery (D'Angelo revealed that Dre will be eligible for parole soon, hopefully as early as December). Therefore, it comes as no surprise to see his will to further develop become as strong as it currently stands, a vibrant basketball career that is still in its formative years.
In much the same vein as Harrison, his alma mater is in a similar position to where it was in 2014-15, his senior year. During that season, St. John's returned to the NCAA Tournament for the second time under then-head coach Steve Lavin, with Harrison and Pointer becoming first team All-Big East Conference selections, the latter cementing that honor with the conference's Most Improved Player award and the Haggerty Award as the best player in the metropolitan area before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. When asked about the Red Storm's prospects this season, the ebullient smile Harrison displayed for four years grew even wider when discussing how far St. John's can go behind junior guard Shamorie Ponds, the favorite for Preseason Player of the Year honors in the Big East.
"I was back there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (last week), and I got to play with the guys," he proclaimed. "They're going to be special this year, I have a feeling. If Mustapha (Heron) gets cleared and they can figure it out, I think they have a dangerous group with Shamorie coming back, and Justin (Simon) and Marv (Marvin Clark II)."