QUEENS, N.Y. -
The St. John's men's basketball team (5-2) looks to rebound on the road when the Red Storm heads into the Bronx to meet Fordham (4-4) -- one of the most-frequently played opponents in St. John's 103-year program history -- at Rose Hill Gym for the first time since 2002. First-year head coach Steve Lavin and his upperclass Red Storm team takes on another first-year coach in the Rams' Tom Pecora on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised in the New York area on the YES Network, with announcers Ryan Ruocco and Jim Spanarkel calling the action from courtside. The matchup can also be heard live on the official flagship of St. John's Basketball, Bloomberg Radio 1130-AM, and on RedStormSports.com (subscription), with John Minko and analyst Tarik Turner.
The Red Storm is 3-1 away from home in the young 2010-11 season, though the clash with Fordham -- 16 miles away from the STJ Queens campus -- marks St. John's second true road game of the year. Road warriors early this season, St. John's opened the year with a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area that covered 5,160 miles between Saturday, Nov. 12, and Tuesday evening, Nov. 16. The Red Storm arrived in NYC at approximately 9:35 p.m. E.S.T. on that Tuesday to prepare for Columbia. Following that matchup, on Monday, Nov. 22, St. John's flew to Anchorage, Alaska, via Seattle, and captured the championship of the 2010 Great Alaska Shootout. The Red Storm covered 12,860 miles via air prior to tip time against Wagner in Queens on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Last time out, senior Dwight Hardy scored a career-high 24 points and classmate Justin Brownlee added 14, but it was not enough as the St. John's men's basketball team had a five-game winning streak snapped by St. Bonaventure on Tuesday, 67-66. The Red Storm and Bonnies battled furiously back-and-forth throughout the contest - and even saw five lead changes in the game's final 91 seconds - but Hardy's final attempt from the corner fell short. STJ made 14 steals (29 over the past two games), caused 19 Bonnie turnovers and scored 21 points off of the miscues, but was plagued at the free throw line with a 10-of-20 (.500) effort. St. John's built double-digit leads in both halves, but could not hang on.
St. John's is 61-20 against Fordham all-time in a series that dates back to 1909. The Rams rank as STJ's eighth-most frequently played opponent. The Red Storm is 16-13 against the Rams on the road. Last season, STJ took a 73-56 win over Fordham on Dec. 13, 2009, in Carnesecca Arena. Brownlee (14 points, 14 rebounds) and D.J. Kennedy (13 points, 13 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles, while Paris Horne added 14 points and three steals. Fordham's Chris Gaston finished the contest with game-highs of 32 points and 15 boards.
St. John's has been doing an outstanding job taking care of the basketball in 2010-11. The Red Storm is currently ranked second among all NCAA Division I programs in turnovers (9.3 per game), seventh in turnover margin (+7.6) and 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.49).
In taking the 33rd Great Alaska Shootout title, the Red Storm became the fifth of six BIG EAST squads to capture a November tournament championship this season. No. 5/5 Pitt topped Maryland and No. 22 Texas to post a 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic victory, while Georgetown downed Coastal Carolina, Wofford and NC State to take the Charleston Classic title and UConn upended Wichita State, No. 2/2 Michigan State and No. 8/9 Kentucky to claim the EA Sports Maui Invitational title. Syracuse won the Legends Classic with victories over Detroit, William & Mary, Michigan and Georgia Tech, while Notre Dame earned the Old Spice Classic title with wins over Georgia, Cal and Wisconsin.
Of the 73 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams in major conferences, only six opened the season with a true road game (with none coming from the Big 12, SEC or ACC). The six squads were: Georgetown at ODU (Nov. 12); Seton Hall at Temple (Nov. 12); Northwestern at Northern Illinois (Nov. 12); Rutgers at Princeton (Nov. 15); St. John's at St. Mary's (Nov. 16) and Arizona State at New Mexico (Nov. 16).
St. John's earned win No. 1,700 in program history by defeating Notre Dame (69-68) on Feb. 14, 2010, won No. 1,701 with a victory at USF (74-58) on Feb. 20, captured No. 1,702 with its triple-overtime thriller over DePaul (90-82) on March 5, and knocked off UConn on March 9 for No. 1,703. Five wins in 2010-11 make 1,708.
St. John's played its share of close battles last season with 11 of its 16 losses coming by 10 or fewer points. The Red Storm held leads in the second half in seven of its 12 BIG EAST defeats in 2009-10, and led at halftime in six of those losses, including three against ranked opponents. Attaining, playing with and keeping leads -- particularly on the road -- have been major points of emphasis in the 2010-11 preseason.
Kennedy, Horne And The 1,000-Point Plateau
Red Storm swingman D.J. Kennedy became the 44th St. John's player in history to reach the 1,000-point plateau on Feb. 2, 2010, hitting the mark dead-on at 1,000. He now totals 1,247 career points (27th), now in the top 30 and only 11 points from surpassing recent scoring dynamo Daryll Hill (26th, 1,257, 2004-07. Kennedy is actually only 329 points away from cracking St. John's all-time top 10 (1,576), a feat he may accomplish toward the end of his senior season.
The next Red Storm player to join the elite group should be senior Paris Horne. His 989 career points makes him the most-likely candidate to become St. John's 46th member of the 1,000-point club.
2010 grad Anthony Mason Jr. became the 45th player all-time, finishing his career with 1,059 career points (40th). He is now playing in the NBA Developmental League.
Fordham is 4-4 on the season and averaging 64.6 points per game. Opponents have averaged 65.4 points and benefited from the Rams giving up 15.3 turnovers per contest. The Rams have been effective from 3-point range, shooting 33.8 percent as a team, but they have had a rough go at the free-throw line, converting just 59.8 percent on foul shots. Fordham is averaging 41.0 rebounds per game, which is tied for the best mark in the Atlantic 10.
Sophomore forward Chris Gaston has been Fordham's most dynamic threat, averaging 15.5 points and an Atlantic 10-leading 12.9 rebounds per game. Gaston is one of the best rebounders in the nation and ranked third among all Division I players when he averaged 13.6 boards per game prior to the Rams' win over Manhattan (Dec. 8). Fifth-year senior and team captain Brenton Butler has been a major offensive catalyst for Fordham this season, averaging team highs of 16.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. Butler has been hot from the field over the past week, averaging 23.0 points and 4.5 assists in the Rams' wins over Lehigh (Dec. 4) and Manhattan. Junior guard Alberto Estwick is enjoying a breakout junior campaign, nearly doubling his scoring output from last year at 13.5 points per game. Estwick is also the team's top 3-point threat, shooting 41.7 percent (20-of-48) from long range. Freshman guard Branden Frazier has made an immediate impact for the Rams, averaging 11.1 points and shooting 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from beyond the arc.
The Rams have already doubled their wins from last season, when they went 2-26 and 0-15 on the road. Fordham finished 14th in the Atlantic 10 after going 0-16 in conference play. This year the Rams returned eight letterwinners, including four starters, from 2009-10.
Fordham head coach Tom Pecora is in his first season leading the team and owns a 159-130 record over 10 seasons as a head coach. As Hofstra's head coach from 2001-2010, he directed the Pride to four 20-win seasons. Pecora owns a 3-4 career head coaching record against St. John's, including a 72-60 St. John's win over Pecora's Hofstra team last season on Dec. 20, 2009 at Carnesecca Arena. Then-juniors D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy led the Red Storm with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Fordham is coming off back-to-back wins over Lehigh (Dec. 4) and Manhattan (Dec. 8). The Rams' 73-59 win over the Jaspers was their second-largest margin of victory of the season. Junior forward Kervin Bristol posted career highs of 11 points and 16 rebounds in the win.
St. John's is 9-0 in its last nine games against opponents from the five New York boroughs. The last local team to defeat the Red Storm was Hofstra on Dec. 29, 2006. The Pride, then coached by current Fordham coach Pecora, took a 63-51 win in the title game of the 2006 Holiday Festival.
St. John's head coach Steve Lavin and Fordham head coach Pecora have faced each other once before as coaches on opposing benches, though Pecora was not yet a head coach. As the head coach of UCLA, Lavin directed the Bruins to a 61-48 win over Hofstra, which then featured Pecora as an assistant coach, on March 15, 2001, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Dynamic senior swingman D.J. Kennedy paced the Red Storm in scoring (15.1 ppg), rebounding (202, 6.1 rpg), assists (102, 3.1 apg), steals (38, 1.2 spg), free throw percentage (.756), 3-point field goal percentage (T-1st, .383) and minutes played (31.4 per game) in 2009-10, and was listed second among St. John's leaders in blocked shots (22). Kennedy -- whose scoring (19th) and rebounding (21st) averages ranked him among conference leaders -- was a six-time BIG EAST Honor Roll member last season and is a two-time first team All-Met selection from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers' Association (2008-09, 2009-10). He is 27th on STJ's all-time scoring list with 1,247 career points, and if he matches last season's point total (497), Kennedy will finish his career in the Top 10 among St. John's all-time scorers -- a list that includes legends Chris Mullin (first, 2,440), Malik Sealy (second, 2,402), Felipe Lopez (third, 1,927) and Tony Jackson (ninth, 1,603).
New York City playground legend Dwight Hardy made quite an impression as a prolific scorer in 2009-10, finishing second on the squad with a 15.1 ppg average, pacing the team with 54 made 3-pointers (1.9 3FGs per game ranked 15th among all BIG EAST players) and tying Kennedy for the team mark by hitting at a .383 clip from long distance. A starter in the first seven games in 2010-11, he actually averaged 22.2 minutes per game in his inaugural season (fifth on the squad) despite making only two starts.
Lightning-quick and Queens-tough, senior Malik Boothe returns as the incumbent floor general. He currently ranks ninth among all BIG EAST players with a 4.1 assists per game average, and his 2.9 assist to turnover ratio (29 assists, 10 turnovers on the year) ranks second among league leaders. His efforts have helped the Red Storm to rank second nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.3).
Great Alaska Shootout MOP Justin Brownlee was a key contributor for the Red Storm in his first season, ranking fifth on the team in scoring (6.8 ppg), fourth in rebounding (4.5 rpg), tied for second in blocks (22) and third in free throw percentage (.742). After three starts last season, he has been in the starting line-up for five games in 2010-11.
Rookie forward Dwayne Polee II -- the 2010 Los Angeles City Section and MaxPreps State of California High School Player of the Year -- impressed in the preseason and has made an immediate impact in the first seven games. The athletic newcomer with the 40-inch vertical averaged 20.9 ppg and 9.8 rpg in leading Westchester High School to the 2010 California state title as a senior.
Senior guard Paris Horne -- noted as one of STJ's toughest perimeter defenders -- is also on-pace to leave his mark in the Red Storm's offensive career record books. With 127 career 3-point field goals made, Horne currently is third all-time and is only 27 treys short of moving into first place. His 989 career points makes him the most-likely candidate to become St. John's 46th member of the 1,000-point club.
Senior forward Justin Burrell is back in action after missing four weeks with a fractured metacarpal (hand). The big man averaged 6.6 ppg last season and owns nine career double-doubles.
Bruising forward Sean Evans established himself among the Red Storm's most consistent performers in 2009-10. Evans' 10 career double-doubles include a 19-point, 10-rebound effort against UConn in the BIG EAST Tournament. He averaged 15.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg while shooting .765 from the field and 1.000 at the free throw line (5-for-5) in last year's end-of-year conference event.
Imposing big man Dele Coker returns to the post after leading the squad in field goal percentage (.629) and rejections (24, 0.9 bpg, Top 20 in the BIG EAST). He scored a bucket vs. St. Bonaventure (Dec. 7).
Local guard Malik Stith has seen time at the one and the two after dealing 37 assists and only 22 turnovers as a freshman. Redshirt sophomore Quincy Roberts is also back after being sidelined last season to injury.
After taking a break for exams, STJ participates in its 45th Holiday Festival on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 20 and 21. The Red Storm looks to capture its second regular-season tournament of the year.