By Joseph Staszewski
Adonis Delarosa’s commitment appears to be the start of a good thing at St. John’s University.
The Christ the King center was the first player to say he was headed to the school next season after two weeks of Red Storm player exits from the men’s basketball team. The tide now appears to be turning back in SJU’s favor at an important juncture for the program with Delarosa’s signing.
This news has been encouraging since former Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson announced he was leaving last month to enter the NBA draft, shooter Max Hooper said he planned to depart to seek his master’s degree elsewhere after graduating this spring and shot-blocking center Chris Obekpa was granted his release to pursue transfer options.
But, it will not be a mass exodus from the Red Storm.
Last week, junior guard Phil Greene IV announced that he would be returning to the team. Classmate D’Angelo Harrison and star freshman guard Rysheed Jordan have been quiet about their situations, leading one to believe they will be back. And Obekpa is even contemplating returning to St. John’s, according to recent published reports.
Lavin said that after Sampson’s departure the Johnnies could play a more guard-oriented style, like the one Villanova uses, if it could not replace the graduating forwards God’sgift Achiuwa and Orlando Sanchez. It would be imperative, then, for Harrison and Jordan to stick around. Add in Jamal Branch and Greene and you could be OK.
To Lavin’s credit, he isn’t settling for that. He and his staff appear to be hitting the recruiting trail harder to fill the team’s needs after not getting a commitment from a single player during the early signing period.
St. John’s is reportedly interested in 6-foot-8 Monroe Community College forward Keith Thomas, who averaged 15.3 points and 15.7 rebounds last season, and Orr High School’s 6-foot-8 big man Marlon Jones. The pair and Delarosa could be enough to make up for the team’s losses at forward, especially if Obekpa ends up returning.
Next season is one of the most important in Lavin’s tenure, especially after last year’s disappointing campaign, if the Red Storm hopes to land star 2015 recruits like Isaiah Briscoe (Rosedale Catholic) and Cheick Diallo (Our Savior New American).
Lavin is entering his fifth season of a six-year deal and his only NCAA tournament appearance came in his first season with former Coach Norm Robert’s players.
Lavin has made St. John’s a desirable destination for high-level recruits, but the results and development of those players has not come to fruition. Another year outside the NCAA tournament could take some of the luster off the program.
St. John’s, despite the loss of Sampson and its seniors, could be a more talented team this coming season than the ones of years past if their targeted recruits head to Queens.
The exits appear to be over, but the arrivals need to keep coming.