If everything had gone to plan for Mike Anderson, this team would be loaded this season. Julian Champagnie, Posh Alexander, Andre Curbelo, David Jones, Joel Soriano, and O’Mar Stanley would all be holding down major roles for a team with real NCAA aspirations. Things didn’t all go to plan for Mike Anderson, though. He’s gone and so is most of the team he created. After back to back (or maybe back to back to back to back) disappoint seasons, St. John’s is once again starting over.
They have chosen to start over with Rick Pitino. Pitino is 71 years old and just seven years removed from extremely major scandal at Louisville. He’s maybe not the obvious choice to help rebuild a program that can’t quite get over the hump. He hasn’t won a tournament game since 2017, has been arrested for OVI, and has a long history of sexually related issues. He’s an interesting choice to shape young minds.
Those guys listed above are all gone. Posh Alexander played 75% of the available minutes. He wasn’t that great last year, but he was capable of going off for 20 at any given moment. He carried a ton of the load for the Johnnies. AJ Storr shot 40% behind the arc as a freshman. He’s gone. Andre Curbelo and his 4% steal rate are also gone. So is his penchant for taking shots. Basically, think of a SJU player from last year. He’s gone. I’m not joking either, Joel Soriano is the only one back. Beyond that, everyone is gone.
Joel Soriano. Ok. That was fun. Soriano is a good player who hammers the glass and is very efficient in the paint. He’s a good piece for any team. Like Desmond Claude, though, he’s surrounded by new faces. Drissa Traore is also back, but he stretches the definition of “key.”
Simeon Wilcher is a name X fans will recognize. He’s CJ’s extremely highly touted brother and is easing into the season with 17 minutes so far. Brady Dunlap is the only other freshman on the team. Glenn Taylor (Oregon St) is a 6-6 swing man who is excellent at the line but not behind the arc. Jordan Dingle (Penn) was a great scorer at a lower level but is limited elsewhere. Still, he adds a lot of punch. Chris Ledlum was a 6-6 center for Harvard (at least this team will be smart) who is now something of a swing. He’s a defensive menace.
Daniss Jenkins followed Pitino from Iona. Jenkins can score, but his primary value comes as a guy who keeps the offense moving. Cruz Davis and Sadiku Ibine Ayo also joined from Iona. Nahiem Alleyne left the national champs to join the Red Storm. He’s a competent offensive player, but his biggest strength is a three point shot that has been steadily getting worse. Finally, there is Zuby Ejiofor, who barely played for Kansas last year. He’s large, but what he brings beyond that remains to be seen.
Getting boat raced by Michigan isn’t a great start. This team is a collection of disparate parts. If Pitino can pull them together and if there is actually high major talent here, they could challenge for an NCAA spot. If you think a 71 year old with a sketchy past is the man for the job, you can see how this team can make it. If not, well, it’s not hard to see this going way off the rails.