QUEENS, N.Y. - Head coach Steve Lavin's young St. John's basketball team (11-16, 4-10 BIG EAST) and its lone senior, former student-manager turned practice performer turned walk-on sharpshooter Boris Brakalov, meet fellow Catholic, Vincentian, Metropolitan squad DePaul (11-15, 2-12 BIG EAST) on Monday. The Red Storm hosts its final game of the regular season on campus at Carnesecca Arena, playing its second contest in a three-day span for the second-consecutive week. The 9 p.m. matchup airs nationally on ESPNU and via ESPN3, with Carter Blackburn and Tim Welsh calling the action. The meeting can be heard live on the official radio flagship of St. John's Basketball -- Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM -- and on Sirius Channel 92, XM Channel 190 and RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran play-by-play announcer John Minko and "The Coach" Tim O'Toole.
The St. John's coaching staff is participating in this week's ON THE LINE nationwide "Statement Week," wearing blue bow ties to help raise awareness for prostate cancer. Following successful surgery to treat prostate cancer on Oct. 6, Lavin continues to follow a modified schedule with regard to his coaching duties. Lavin has coached in four games this season (2-2) including two games at Madison Square Garden against ranked competition as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer on Nov. 17 and 18. He continues to perform coast-to-coast and local recruiting, media and other head coaching responsibilities. Lavin's efforts helped land former Texas A&M freshman point guard, former Top 50 Class of 2011 prospect and the No. 8 prep point guard in the nation, Jamal Branch, who began practice with the team last week and will be eligible to suit up for the Red Storm in December of 2012.
St. John's "Fresh Five" starting lineup is 3-4 after its 78-62 win over West Virginia (Jan. 25), a riveting 22-point near-comeback against Duke (Jan. 28), an 87-81 BIG EAST road win over DePaul, a 76-54 loss to Cincinnati (Feb. 8), a hotly-contested 71-61 loss at then-No. 12/11 Georgetown (Feb. 12), a loss at Seton Hall (Feb. 14) and Saturday's 66-63 win over UCLA (Feb. 18). A five freshman starting lineup is believed to be a first for the St. John's program since 1927-28, when three original "Wonder Five" members Mac Kinsbrunner, Jack "Rip" Gerson and Max Posnack first took the floor for legendary St. John's coach and Naismith Hall of Famer James "Buck" Freeman.
St. John's is 9-6 at home in 2011-12, and 6-1 on campus this season. Now in its 51st season, St. John's is 427-81 (.841) in 508 games and 50-plus years at Carnesecca Arena.
The Red Storm and Blue Demons are tied 14-14 in a series that dates to 1923, and STJ holds a 6-3 advantage since DePaul joined the BIG EAST. The Johnnies have won five-straight in the series, including an 87-81 road matchup on Feb. 1 behind seven 3-pointers from freshman guard D'Angelo Harrison, while junior forward God'sgift Achiuwa added 15 points and freshman guard Phil Greenehad 14 in a homecoming game for the Chicago native.
Rated as high as the nation's No. 38 prospect overall and the No. 10 small forward by recruiting services, Queens'-own Moe Harklessis a complete basketball player and elite local talent. The 6-8, 208-pound swingman spent his 2010-11 senior season at South Kent School (Conn.). An athletic, rangy shooter with great length on defense, he was the 2009-10 Daily News Queens High School Player of the Year and was a member of the Daily News' and NY Post's all-metro teams in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The freshman's scoring average of 16.3 points per game in conference play is tied for seventh among all BIG EAST players, his 8.6 rebounds per game in league play is tied for fifth, his 1.4 blocked shots rates tied for seventh in conference play and his 1.5 steals per BIG EAST contest is 14th. Harkless is sixth nationally and second among all BIG EAST freshmen in scoring (15.7 ppg), he is the top rebounding BIG EAST rookie (8.7 rpg) and his ten double-doubles rank third among all BIG EAST players this season.
Rookie guard D'Angelo Harrison, a 6-3, 202-pound athlete from Missouri City, Texas, finished his prep tenure rated as high as the nation's No. 9 shooting guard and No. 40 overall prospect by recruiting services. The two-time all-state selection averaged 31.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals as a senior at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, and is renowned for his explosive first step, long-range game and his ability to fill up the stat sheet. He is averaging 18.4 ppg in league play, third among BIG EAST players, with the sixth-best 3-point field goal percentage in league play (.409) and the third-best 3-point field goals per game rate (2.7). His 81.1 percent clip from the free throw line in league contests ranks 11th and his 1.6 steals is tied for 11th. Harrison is currently the BIG EAST's leading freshman scorer at 16.9 ppg and ranks fourth nationally. He has scored 20 or more points in nine of the last 17 games and is averaging 20.6 ppg in the eight games of the "Fresh Five" while drilling 46.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Junior big man God'sgift Achiuwa, a 6-8, 236-pound bruising athlete with an 87-inch wingspan from Port Harcourt, River States, Nigeria via Erie Community College (N.Y.), is a 2011 first team NJCAA All-America and a two-time JUCO All-America selection overall. He ranked ninth in the NJCAA in scoring last season (22.3 ppg), 10th in rebounding (11.7 rpg) and 17th in blocks (2.2 bpg). He is third on the squad in scoring (9.4 ppg), his 5.7 rpg rank tied for 19th in the BIG EAST and his team-best 53.8 percent shooting from the floor is seventh among all league players. He went 7-for-7 at DePaul (Feb. 1) for 15 points.
Freshman swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer, a 6-5, 196-pound native of Detroit, Mich., was rated as high as the No. 8 small forward in his class and the No. 24 prospect overall by recruiting services. He keyed Quality Education Academy to a 25-4 record as a senior in 2010-11. His 2.0 steals per game across 14 league contests currently rank seventh among all BIG EAST players and is first among conference rookies.
A smooth, deft ballhandler ranked as high as the No. 41 shooting guard in his recruiting class, 6-2, 180-pound Chicago native Phil Greenescored 24.5 points per game with 6.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals to lead IMG Academy. The combo guard has the ability to get into the lane and pull up, or dish and create for others. A hard-nosed defender, Greene adds length and speed to "Chicago toughness" which gives him the ability to guard any perimeter player. He has averaged 10.8 ppg over the last eight games, shooting 39.1 percent from the field and dishing 32 assists (4.0 per game) with only 14 turnovers.
St. John's received an early Christmas present on Dec. 21 as rookie forward and Top 100 prospect Amir Garrettwas declared eligible and joined the squad. Garrett, who was selected by the Cincinnati Reds for his 96 m.p.h. southpaw fastball, is averaging 8.4 ppg over the last eight contests while shooting 47.1 percent from the field with 4.4 rebounds.
The Red Storm welcomes Notre Dame to The Garden on Saturday, Feb. 25, for a noon tilt on ESPN.
St. John's Freshmen Leading The Way
STJ freshmen are tearing it up among the rookie leaders in the BIG EAST conference.
D'Angelo Harrison leads all rookies in scoring (16.9), while Moe Harkless is second (15.7) and Phil Greeneis 16th (7.7). In BIG EAST games, Harrison is first (18.4), Harkless second (16.3), and Greene 14th (8.5).
Harkless is leading BIG EAST freshman in rebounding (8.7), while Sir'Dominic Pointer is eighth (4.6), Harrison is 13th (3.7), and Amir Garrettis 14th (3.5). In conference games, Harkless leads the league (8.6), Pointer seventh (4.7), Garrett 11th (3.6), Harrison 12th (3.3) and Greene tied for 15th (3.0).
Among freshmen who have at least 200 field goal attempts, Harkless is seventh in field goal percentage (.443).
From behind the arc, Harrison is second in 3-point field goal percentage (.378) among freshmen with at least 100 attempts.
Greene is sixth among BIG EAST rookies in assists (3.0), while Harrison is 12th (2.1) and Pointer is 14th (1.5). In league contests, Greene is third (3.9), Harrison is tied for seventh (2.6) and Pointer is tied for 11th (2.0).
All five St. John's freshmen are ranked among the top 15 rookies in steals with Harkless leading the way (1.7), Pointer third (1.59), Harrison fifth (1.56), Green 9th (1.3) and Garrett tied for 12th (1.1). During conference tilts, Pointer leads all freshman (2.0), Harrison is second (1.6), Harkless is third (1.5), Greene is eighth (1.2) and Garrett is 12th (1.1).
Harkless is third in blocks among rookies (1.5) and Pointer ranks seventh (1.0). In conference play, Harkless is second (1.4) and Pointer third (1.2).
Harrison ranks fifth in free throw percentage (.816) and is first among freshmen with at least 100 attempts from the charity stripe. However in conference-only games, Greene is sixth overall (.813) and Harrison is seventh (.811).
In unofficial statistics, Pointer is leading all freshmen in ESPN Sportscenter Top-10 highlights.
DePaul comes into the game at 11-15 (2-12, 15th in the BIG EAST). In their last game on Saturday, the Blue Demons nearly topped then-No. 19/18 Louisville, falling 90-82 in overtime. DePaul has the 182nd-ranked RPI and the 121st strongest schedule in the nation, and captured a win over a team inside the RPI top-100 (Jan. 5 vs. Pittsburgh).
Sophomore forward Cleveland Melvin (17.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Brandon Young (14.8) lead the Blue Demons in scoring, while Melvin grabs 6.8 rebounds per game to lead the squad, and Young dishes out a team-high 4.8 assists per game. Melvin's scoring average is fourth-best in the BIG EAST, while Young is ninth in the conference in assists.
As a team, the Blue Demons are third in the league in scoring (74.1 ppg), the 50th-best average in the country. Their team assist total of 15.2 helpers per game is fourth in the conference and 35th in the country.
Head coach Oliver Purnell is in his second year at the helm at DePaul, with an 18-39 record to date. Known as a rebuilding expert, Purnell has already exceeded the win total from 2010-11 and helped lead Melvin to the 2011 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year award.