In one short year, Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico found out what it takes to compete in the BIG EAST. Since her arrival at St. John's University in May 2002, she has had a mission- to take the Red Storm back to the top of the BIG EAST. Knowing it wouldn't happen overnight, Barnes Arico recruited some of the nation's top players and started to put the pieces in place for a successful future.
The 2003-04 season is the beginning of that future. After more than doubling the win column from the previous season, she saw the potential in her team and realized what was needed to continue making impressive strides this season. She brought with her to St. John's a coaching staff that reflects her intense work ethic, and in her first class of recruits, brought in six players that reflect the same drive.
This year, the Red Storm brings back seven solid players, led by a core of six returning seniors. Shemika Stevens, who is back for her third and final season with the Red Storm, returns as the team's top scorer, having averaged 13.4 points per game last year. Stevens' athleticism and assertiveness on the court helped lift the Red Storm at several points throughout the season, including a key three pointer in a win over Texas-Arlington and a double-double contribution in the Red Storm's first BIG EAST win, a 67-62 victory over Providence.
"Shemika provides our team with some needed leadership and experience for the upcoming season," Barnes Arico stated about her leading returning scorer. "She is deceptively quick off the dribble and will be a calming presence at the point."
The guard positions are filled with talent in 2003-04. In addition to Stevens, seniors Reka Szavuly, Nora Gyuris, and Sherri Brown and sophomore Dana Petersen all return in the Red Storm backcourt. Szavuly, who missed the 2001-02 season with an ACL injury, averaged 7.4 points and was second on the team with 44 assists last season. In addition to excellent ball control, Szavuly makes herself a constant threat on the court with the ability to shoot from the outside and create her own shot off of the dribble.
"After a solid first season with us, Reka returned this summer with improved confidence and a great attitude to improve her game," the head coach said of her 5-7 combo guard. "As one of the best shooters on the team, along with her ability to penetrate, she will contribute at both positions in our backcourt."
Gyuris is back for her fourth season and brings veteran leadership to the squad. Last season she served as a role player and averaged 16.9 minutes per game for St. John's. She has the most experience on the team and will be relied on to score from the outside this season.
"Nora is a tremendous team player and will provide leadership on and off the court for the upcoming season. Her ability to run the floor well and fill many roles on the court will help us off the bench and give us a spark late in games."
One of the most influential players on the team, Brown returns for her senior season with the Red Storm. Last season, she returned to the court, playing over nine minutes a game, from a season-long absence after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She has shown her teammates how to overcome challenges and serves as an inspirational leader both on and off the court for St. John's.
"Sherri is a model of what a leader should be," Barnes Arico said of her senior guard. "After battling through tough times over the last two years, she has returned with a new outlook in regard to basketball. Sherri is a winner both on and off the court, never quitting even when times get tough. With five newcomers on the roster, Sherri has already been a vocal leader with them, providing an example for all to follow."
Petersen, who served as a role player last year as a freshman, provided the Red Storm with a spark off the bench. She averaged 13.0 minutes per contest and chipped in 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in that time.
"One of the hardest workers in the program, Dana is the type of player that every coach needs on their roster," Barnes Arico said. "Even as a sophomore, she is a leader by example on the court."
After sitting out last season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements, Kim MacMillan returns to the hardwood as a graduate student for her final season of eligibility. After averaging 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game at LIU, MacMillan opted to transfer to St. John's and sat out during her senior season. She has proven herself to be one of the top long-range shooters in the country and holds the NCAA Division I record for consecutive games with a three-point field goal at 60 games. Her constant effort and non-stop hard work in practice last season is an example of what Barnes Arico expects of her players.
"I have been looking forward to Kim taking the court as a member of the Red Storm since the day she arrived on campus last year," expressed Barnes Arico about the LIU transfer. "Kim is relentless with her work-ethic, conveying a passion for the game that will make her successful regardless of the level of competition which she plays."
The forward and center positions for St. John's are shaped by seniors Crystal Andrews and Kati Kurtosi. Andrews, a strong and aggressive forward averaged 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds for the Red Storm last season, while Kurtosi, the tallest player on the roster at 6-3, chipped in 4.0 points and 3.9 rebounds. Both players bring valued experience to the team and should play significant roles in 2003-04.
"Both Kati and Crystal worked extremely hard in the off-season on their conditioning and overall game," Barnes Arico said. "The pair will contribute solid minutes in the frontcourt this season."
In her first season at Division I, Barnes Arico, put together a top-notch recruiting class, including two transfers, a junior college transfer and one of the most highly touted women's basketball players from New York, Copaigue's Angie Clark. A First Team All-State selection, Clark averaged a double-double with 23.3 points and 15.6 rebounds, while also chipping in 2.0 assists, 4.3 steals and 3.3 blocks per game. Clark was the unanimous choice for the 2002 Charles H. Clark Award, presented to the best girls basketball player in Suffolk County. Clark has the ability to score from anywhere on the court and has outstanding leaping ability on the inside.
"We are extremely excited to have Angie wearing St. John's across her uniform this season," said Barnes Arico. "A physically gifted athlete, she should be able to contribute immediately in the frontcourt for us. With her height and great leaping ability, Angie will give us a dominant inside presence and a solid rebounder that we lacked last season."
In addition to the freshman Clark, junior college transfer Secrett Stubblefield will join the Red Storm and is expected to provide depth in the St. John's backcourt. She enters St. John's as a junior after transferring from Okaloosa-Walton Community College, where she averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season. She was a 2002-03 All-Panhandle selection, where she led the team to the FCCAA/NJCAA Region VIII Finals.
"One of the quickest players on the floor, Secrett has the ability to beat anyone off the dribble or pull up and hit the three point shot," Barnes Arico said. "Secrett is a true competitor who will bring a winning attitude and a high level of intensity on and off the floor."
Also entering their first season with St. John's are Danielle Chambers and Mercedes Dukes. Chambers transferred in from George Mason University, where she appeared in 31 games in 2001-02, averaging 2.9 points and 3.1 rebounds. She brings additional size to the frontcourt and should see significant time for the Red Storm this season.
"Danielle should help us a tremendous amount in the post, as she is one of our strongest and toughest players," Barnes Arico spoke of the 6-0 transfer. "She battles everyday in practice, providing the team with much needed tenacity and intensity."
Dukes is a sophomore playing in her first season with the Red Storm. As a senior at Msgr. Scanlon, she averaged 15 points, four rebounds and four steals en route to earning Daily News All-CHSAA NY/Bronx honors. She has the ability to hit long-range shots and will add depth to the Red Storm's guard positions this season.
"Mercedes is another intense player who we added to the team this season," Barnes Arico said. "She is a great athlete who has the ability to disrupt opponent's defense and beat people off the dribble."
Greeba Barlow, a 5-10 guard, will sit out the 2003-04 season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. Barlow, who is currently a junior academically, averaged five points and 1.6 rebounds as a sophomore at George Washington University.
The 2003-04 schedule, which includes 11 non-conference contests and 13 home games, is highlighted by the February 29, 2004 game being played at Madison Square Garden. For the first time in St. John's women's basketball history, the Red Storm will play at Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena in a BIG EAST regular season match-up against Seton Hall University.
In addition to the perennially challenging BIG EAST regular season schedule, 2003-04 will feature 11 non-conference match-ups, including tournaments at Rhode Island and Ohio State, where the Red Storm will take on the nationally ranked Buckeyes in the first round on December 20.
A total of nine 2003-04 Red Storm opponents competed in the 2003 NCAA Championship Tournament. In addition to the seven BIG EAST rivals, both Holy Cross and Ohio State competed in the postseason.