Nov. 9, 2017
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QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's will tip off the 110th season in its storied men's basketball history on Friday night, as the Johnnies will square off with New Orleans at Carnesecca Arena. The first meeting between the Red Storm and Privateers will tip at 7 p.m. on the backend of an opening night doubleheader in Queens that also includes a St. John's women's basketball matchup against St. Francis Brooklyn at 4:30 p.m.
FOX College Sports Atlantic will carry the men's basketball telecast with Rich Ackerman and Sarah Kustok on the call. It can also be seen on DIRECTV channel 608 and DISH channel 453, as well as through FOX Sports GO. Fans can also catch the game on 570 AM WMCA and TuneIn Radio, as John Minko and Brian Mahoney will narrate the contest over the airwaves.
St. John's enters the long awaited 2017-18 campaign looking to take another step forward in its rebuilding process. With one of the youngest rosters in the nation last season in terms of Division I experience, the Red Storm had several notable accomplishments that set a foundation for the program's future successes. The Johnnies nearly doubled its overall win total from the previous year, tied for 10th largest increase in conference victories with six more BIG EAST wins, and advanced in the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 2011. Readied to take another stride under third year head coach Chris Mullin, St. John's has an exciting mixture of experienced returnees and skilled first year players set to represent the Red Storm on the hardwood this season.
Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett are the top returning scoring duo in the BIG EAST after breakout rookie campaigns last season. The lefty backcourt tandem averaged a combined 33.3 points per game, ranked among the conference leaders in numerous statistical categories and garnered a slew of accolades in 2016-17, including unanimous All-BIG EAST Freshman Team recognition.
This season, Ponds and LoVett will be joined by first year players Justin Simon and Bryan Trimble Jr., who are expected to play key roles bolstering the backcourt. A highly rated transfer, Simon played his freshman campaign at Arizona where he appeared in 24 games for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard will add a new dimension to the Red Storm lineup, along with Trimble Jr. who has a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame and was one of the top shooting guards in the Class of 2017.
The Red Storm also welcomes back the lone seniors on the roster, Bashir Ahmed and Amar Alibegovic. Ahmed finished third on the team in scoring and was 12th in the conference in rebounding a year ago. Alibegovic is the only four year Johnnie on the squad having made 82 career appearances at St. John's. In addition to Ahmed and Alibegovic, Marvin Clark II is expected to bring more versatility to the lineup this season after a successful two-year stint at Michigan State where he appeared in 69 games for the Spartans.
Reigning BIG EAST blocks leaders Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe are likely to again receive significant minutes on the floor this season. Owens, a transfer from Tennessee, swatted a 69 shots in his first year at St. John's, while also averaging 5.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Fellow junior forward Yakwe has blocked 60-plus shots in each of his two seasons in Queens and is coming off a campaign where he started 31 of 33 appearances.
New Orleans is led by seventh-year head coach Mark Slessinger, who owns a 77-98 record at the university. The Privateers are the reigning Southland Conference champions and a 2017 NCAA Tournament participant.
After taking on New Orleans, the Red Storm will continue its season opening four-game home stretch on Tuesday facing off with Central Connecticut at 6:30 p.m.