#WTWW (What to Watch Wednesday) is a weekly BIGEAST.org feature designed to look at an up-and-coming storyline from around the BIG EAST.
By Mark A. Hodgkin
Twitter - @Mark_Hodgkin
Since head coach Steve Lavin’s first year at St. John’s, the Red Storm has been in constant flux.
In his first season, 2010-11, Lavin inherited a senior-laden squad that went to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, he replaced virtually his entire roster with young talent but missed the season recovering from cancer. This year, he returned a team mixed with young players who gained valuable experience in 2011-12 and talented freshmen counted on to contribute immediately.
“Youngest team I’ve ever coached,” Lavin said on the last BIG EAST media teleconference. “They’re learning college basketball 101 at the highest level.”
The results this year are what one might expect; tough moments like a December 21 home loss to UNC-Asheville but flashes of brilliance like a January 5 win at Cincinnati.
“I’m careful with this young group to not beat them up in a way that loses confidence. When you have a team that loses confidence you have real issues. This game comes down to players that have to make plays.”
Guard D’Angelo Harrison was named to the All-BIG EAST preseason second team after leading conference freshmen with a 17.0 points per game average a year ago. He has not missed a beat, and currently is scoring 19.6 points per game and 16.8 in conference.
Newcomer JaKarr Sampson has taken home BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors four times already this season and is averaging 11.5 points in conference play. Just before the BIG EAST season began, Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch became eligible and began running the point. The sophomore is also scoring in double digits since joining the team.
Sophomore Sir’Dominic Pointer leads the BIG EAST with a .750 shooting percentage and freshman pivot Chris Obekpa leads the nation with 4.83 blocks per game.
All but 26 of the points St. John’s has scored this season have come from freshmen and sophomores so as the team continues to mature even more success could come their way.
The Red Storm currently sit at 3-3 in the BIG EAST, part of a crowded middle of the pack. St. John’s visits Rutgers (also 3-3) Wednesday night (7pm, BIG EAST Network). The Scarlet Knights edged the Red Storm 58-56 on January 9 at Madison Square Garden.