As they faced a home stretch with three games left in the season, the Big East Tournament and prospects of making the NCAA tournament, shutting down the lead scorer and team captain might not have been expected.
But St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin announced Friday, March 1 he was suspending guard D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season and any playoff appearances, citing “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to news sources.
Lavin added the suspension was not from one single issue or incident, but rather a culmination of things over time.
The news came as a surprise to some St. John’s students and fans, but the decision, Lavin said in a statement, would only help Harrison in the long run.
“I had a productive meeting with D’Angelo yesterday,” Lavin said. “He has a bright future in basketball and I’m optimistic his time away from our team will be of value.”
Lavin told reporters that Harrison, who had a breakout premier season last year, had to talk to his parents over the weekend but intended to come back next season and finish his degree at St. John’s.
“He was sincere and had conviction about wanting to finish his career here,” Lavin said. “Even though he’s suspended from the team, you can’t forget the positive contributions he’s made. But again, it’s just a coach’s decision that it’s in his best interest at this juncture to take a time out, get some distance from basketball, and he can earn his way back on to this team by having a good stretch of good behavior, good conduct and all the things that are very basic that we expect at St. John’s.”
The Red Storm will now have to step up in Harrison’s absence as they’ll be without their lead scorer, who averaged 17 points per game. In its game against the Providence Friars the following evening, the game was close but the Johnnies ultimately fell 62-59.
At a pregame press conference, Sir’Dominic Pointer said although the team was saddened by the news, he and his teammates would have to go the extra mile to keep the Johnnies’ momentum in full force.
“I was sad to hear that but we love him to death and we wish him well and we want him to come back soon,” he said. “But we’re in the middle of the season. We’ve got to keep playing. And other people need to step up and take minutes.”
Some students were shocked by the news but are hopeful it doesn’t hurt the team’s chances in the Big East.
“I don’t really know what to say, I was shocked,” said St. John’s sophomore Tyrell Hester. “I don’t understand why they did it. They didn’t really give us a reason, so it doesn’t make much sense to me. It really hurts our chances, especially so close to the tournament.”
Junior Elpido Camilo shared the same sentiment.
“It’s a tough loss and it hurts our chances, but what can you do?” he said. “Hopefully they don’t use it as an excuse.
They need to play with more effort now. They need to step up. It’s a team sport anyway.”
–With additional reporting by Anthony O’Reilly
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