Team preview: St. John's Red Storm
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2011-12 season, exclusively on Insider
(Information in this team report is as of Oct. 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
It's never easy making a fresh start but, all things considered, Steve Lavin's debut season at St. John's had to be considered a rousing success -- if not better. There were 21 victories, a tie for third place in the Big East Conference, the electrification of Madison Square Garden, an undefeated February in conference games, a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and lots of good karma for college basketball in the Big Apple again.
So what does Lavin do for an encore? Well, with nine new players, it's pretty difficult to predict a final record or a spot in the Big East standings for the Red Storm. This much is obvious: Lavin is starting over again, and this time it's with a talented crop of newcomers searching for a direction and identity of their own.
"If it's not unprecedented, it's got to be pretty close to being unprecedented," Lavin said of the transition St. John's has faced in his first two seasons. "It's a situation where you had the unknown with the group you inherit [last season]. And now we have the unknown with the group we signed."
Keep in mind this new group is exceptionally talented -- the consensus No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. The recruiting effort was highly considered with superb wingmen such as Sir'Dominic Pointer and Maurice Harkless. Add junior college transfers such as forward God'sgift Achiuwa and Nurideen Lindsey and the future simply got that much brighter. The immediate question is how quickly these talented newcomers can pick up the system and carry on. A drop-off would be only natural, but that's a word that might be missing from Lavin's vocabulary.
"The seniors raised the bar and left a strong legacy behind for our future teams to live up to," Lavin said. "The goal is to continue in a very deliberate or methodical way. It's a similar situation but a different type of transition. Last year was the marriage of a new style of play with a group of experienced players. And by February it came together and led to that [six-game] run [in February]."