The last time St. John’s started a season 11-1, there was no three-point line in college basketball, and the NCAA had just added the shot clock. Mark Jackson led the Lou Carnesecca’s Redmen to a 31-5 record during the 1985-86 season.
With the Johnnies off to their best start since Ed Koch was running the City, Steve Lavin knows that he has a solid team, yet not one specific player who would be team MVP.
With this group, it’s hard to separate, because it’s so many valuable contributors on different nights,” Lavin said after his team’s 82-57 win over Tulane at the Barclays Center on Saturday.
Sir’Dominic Pointer led the way against Tulane with 24 points and seven steals.
“He is definitely unique,” Lavin said of his senior forward who thought about redshirting this season. “He is the unicorn, the Halley’s Comet, one of the unique players in my career and that’s what makes him wonderful. He just is a joy to coach. His spirit, his competitiveness, his humility, his kindness, he’s fun loving, he’s one of those great teammates. As a coach, it’s a real pleasure to have him on your team.”
The Red Storm started 9-1 during the 2009-10 season, but finished with a 17-16 record. Norm Roberts was fired and Lavin was hired. With the current group of seniors, the team has gone from 13 wins freshmen year, to 17 wins sophomore year, to 20 wins junior year.
“I feel like as a team we’ve made a lot of leaps and we will be ready for the Big East,” Pointer said.
Shot blocking specialist Chris Obekpa spoke about the upperclassmen.
“This group of five has a bond, it’s not just a group of five,” he said after the Red Storm’s victory over Long Beach State. “We’ve been together for a while now, but we know each other a lot better.”
St. John’s has made its mark as a second-half team. This was never more apparent than during their win against St. Mary’s at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm trailed by 15 at halftime, but came back to win 53-47.
“Tonight was as dramatic of ‘a tale of two halves’ as I can recall in my coaching career,” Lavin said after the game. “As a result, we were fortunate enough to pull away with the win.”
The Johnnies are a ranked team for the first time since 2010-11, but it hasn’t gone to their heads.
“We try not to look at it that way,” said senior guard D’Angelo Harrison, after the Red Storm’s victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. “We looked at it as another game and another opportunity to get better.”
– David Russell