By Laura Amato
A pair of St. John’s basketball players are on their way out of Queens, the program announced last week.
Darien Williams and Malik Ellison both opted to transfer after the Red Storm wrapped up their season and have permission to immediately start speaking with other Division I programs, according to a release from the program.
“We want to thank Darien and Malik for their contributions to our basketball program over the past two years,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said in a statement. “We wish them much success in their future.”
Williams emerged on the St. John’s hoops scene this year, providing the Red Storm with a bit of much-needed size in the post throughout the team’s Big East schedule. The 6-foot-8 senior – who intends to pursue graduate transfer opportunities – will graduate from St. John’s with his bachelor’s degree this spring after averaging 12.4 minutes per game.
He averaged just 3.8 points, but Williams shot a consistent 54 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from the free throw line.
“St. John’s is a great place,” said Williams. “It has been an honor to be part of a program with such history and tradition. I want to thank Coach Mullin and the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to share some great memories and earn my degree from such a highly regarded University.”
Although Williams’ departure doesn’t come as much of a surprise, Ellison’s decision to transfer might have struck fans as confusing at first glance. After all, the red shirt sophomore played in all 33 games last season — 26 in the starting lineup — and averaged 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
The problem for Ellison was the future. Ellison would likely have seen his minutes cut next season with the arrival of Arizona transfer Justin Simon. And after the stellar freshman campaign from Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, Ellison would have found himself fighting for minutes at the bottom of St. John’s depth chart.
Ellison, per NCAAA transfer requirements, will be forced to sit out the 2017-18 season, but still boasts two years of eligibility.
“I would like to thank the coaching staff and administration for supplying a family atmosphere and allowing me to better myself as an individual,” said Ellison. “I also would like to thank all my teammates with whom I spent a great two years and developed strong bonds that I hope to continue in the future. Obviously, this was a difficult decision, but my family and I have decided it is best for me.”
St. John’s will also bring in Marvin Clark Jr., a transfer from Michigan State, and the Red Storm boast four available scholarships heading into next season. It’s entirely possible the team will fill all four spots during the off season, looking to fill its void in the post sooner rather than later.
LoVett, who mulled over the decision to go pro after St. John’s loss to Villanova in the second round of the Big East Tournament, announced his return on Twitter Sunday morning.
It’s just another step in the ever-evolving look of the Red Storm, determined to build off this past season as the team looks to move ahead toward its third year in the Mullin era.