QUEENS, N.Y. -
Head coach Steve Lavin's new-look St. John's basketball team (4-4) stays on the road in its final contest before breaking for 11 days for exams, taking on the Detroit Titans (3-6, 0-2 Horizon League) on Monday at 7 p.m. The second-ever matchup between the Red Storm and University of Detroit will air live nationally on ESPN2, with John Saunders and Fran Fraschilla calling the action from courtside. The matchup can be heard live on the official radio flagship of St. John's Basketball, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, Sirius Channel 94, XM Channel 190, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with veteran announcer John Minko and "The Coach" Tim O'Toole as the analyst.
Following successful surgery to treat prostate cancer on Oct. 6, Lavin continues to follow a modified schedule with regard to his coaching duties. He will not be on the sidelines against Detroit, but will call into the broadcast on ESPN2. Lavin's former ESPN colleague Dick Vitale will be honored in a pregame ceremony as the Titans announced plans to name their court at Calihan Hall after their former coach, now a broadcasting legend for "The Worldwide Leader in Sports." Vitale called St. John's games vs. then No. 15/16 Arizona (Nov. 17) at Madison Square Garden and No. 1/1 Kentucky (Dec. 1) in Lexington, Ky.
Playing against the country's No. 1-ranked team in its first road game of the season last Thursday, St. John's, which played three Top 25 teams in its past five games, was defeated by Kentucky, 81-59, at Rupp Arena. God'sgift Achiuwa and Moe Harkless each collected their first-career double doubles. Achiuwa had 18 points and 10 boards, while Harkless scored 16 and also pulled down 10 boards to give the Red Storm a pair of double doubles for the first time since Justin Brownlee (10 points, 13 boards) and D.J. Kennedy (19 points, 15 rebounds) accomplished the feat in a 72-60 win against Hofstra on Dec. 20, 2009. Sir'Dominic Pointer added nine points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Red Storm, which shot 19-of-27 (70.4) from the line and was outrebounded by only five (48-43).
St. John's is in search of its first road victory of the 2011-12 season (0-1 road, 0-2 neutral). The Red Storm went 9-9 away from home in 2010-11, including five true road wins and four at neutral sites.
St. John's matchup with the Titans marks a homecoming for freshman guard/forward Pointer, who was born in metro Detroit before moving with his family -- including twin sister Miz'Unique Pointer -- to Fraser, Mich., as a junior high schooler. Pointer attended Roseville High School, playing for the Panthers his freshman and sophomore seasons. Pointer wrapped up his prep career at Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Rated as high as the nation's No. 38 prospect overall and the No. 10 small forward by recruiting services, Queens'-own Moe Harkless is a complete basketball player and a skilled 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. Harkless' scoring average of 14.4 points per game ranks 20th among all BIG EAST players, his team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game currently ranks tied for ninth, his 2.0 blocked shots rates tied for fifth and his 2.0 steals are tied for sixth.
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 at 22.3 points per game, 10th in rebounding with 11.7 boards and 17th in blocks with 2.2 rejections per contest. He is fourth on the squad in scoring (12.1 ppg), his 7.0 rpg rank tied for 11th in the BIG EAST, and his 53.4 percent shooting from the floor is second on the squad.
At 6-3, 182-pounds, Nurideen Lindsey is a formidably-built floor general with outstanding ballhandling, playmaking and scoring ability. His propensity to get to the rim as a lead guard is evident, as he threatened the legendary Wilt Chamberlain's scoring totals as a prep player at Philadelphia's Overbrook High School. He averaged 22.3 ppg, 5.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals at Redlands C.C. in 2010-11. He is third on St. John's in scoring at 12.8 ppg -- 31st in the league -- and paces the squad in assists (3.3). He averages 1.8 spg (T-13th in the BIG EAST) to go along with 4.6 rpg and a 47.2 percent mark from the field across his first eight games.
Local 5-11, 187-pound junior guard Malik Stith is the only returning varsity letterwinner on the 2011-12 Red Storm roster. He has seen time at the one and the two in his first three seasons and came within two points of his career high with 11 vs. UMBC (Nov. 13).
Rookie guard D'Angelo Harrison, a 6-3, 202-pound athlete from Missouri City, Texas, known both for his deadly accuracy and ability to get to the rim, 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 13.1 ppg -- 28th among BIG EAST players -- as one of four Red Storm players in double-figures this season, while connecting on 79.5 percent of his free throws. He registered a career-high 21 points, which included four 3-pointers, vs. St. Francis (N.Y.) (Nov. 22).
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. He averaged 10.5 ppg in St. John's exhibition games and tied for the team lead in steals. He is averaging 7.6 ppg and 5.0 rpg in the last five contests.
A smooth, deft ballhandler ranked as high as the No. 41 shooting guard in his recruiting class, 6-2, 180-pound Chicago native Phil Greene scored 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 perimeter players. He has averaged 7.8 ppg over the last five games, shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from long-distance.
The Red Storm returns to The Garden on Saturday, Dec. 17, as the MSG Holiday Classic takes new shape in the form of a one-day event featuring matchups between local squads. Stony Brook and Rutgers tip things off at noon, followed by St. John's and Fordham at 2:30 p.m. Both games will air on the MSG Network.
Scouting The Titans
Detroit Mercy returns all five starters from a 2010-11 squad that went 17-16 and finished fifth in the Horizon League. The Titans were picked to finish second at the Horizon League's preseason media day. Detroit was just 15 points behind two-time national runner-up Butler for top honors.
The Titans are led by sophomore guard Ray McCallum, who was named the Preseason Horizon League Player of the Year, as well as named to the Wooden and Naismith Award Watch Lists. McCallum became the first sophomore to be named Preseason Horizon League Player of the Year in conference history. So far this season, McCallum has scored in double figures in all but one game.
Joining McCallum on the Preseason All-Horizon League First Team were senior guard Chase Simon and senior center Eli Holman. Simon is leading the team with a 16.1 point per game scoring average, and has four 20-point performances this season.
Detroit is averaging a 3.7 point scoring advantage, a 2.4 rebounding advantage and a 0.6 turnover advantage over their opponents through nine games this season.
During the matchup with the Red Storm, the Titans will be dedicating their court to former head coach and athletic director, Dick Vitale. For the special ceremony, Detroit will wear throwback uniforms, reminiscent of the jerseys worn during Vitale's tenure with the program. The jerseys will be auctioned after the game, with the proceeds benefitting the V Foundation for cancer research.
The Red Storm is 0-1 against the Titans, with a 64-66 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 13, 1998. Before the University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit merged in 1990, the Red Storm beat University of Detroit 44-31 on Dec. 18, 1943 at Madison Square Garden.