This St. John Red Storm’s win over Syracuse could do wonders for the basketball program’sfuture.
By David Hong
It’s been a pretty slow start for St. John’s men’s basketball, as expected in Chris Mullin’s first year ever as head coach.
Prior to Sunday’s afternoon game versus former Big East foe Syracuse, St. Johns got off to a non-impressive 6-3 start.
They’ve had close wins over less formidable teams, and had blowout losses as well including an embarrassing 16 point loss to local rival Fordham.
However, St. John’s stunned the college world by upsetting longtime powerhouse Syracuse for the second straight season, this time at Madison Square Garden.
It was St. John’s first win over Syracuse at the Garden since 2007.
Granted Jim Boeheim was not on the Syracuse sideline due to him serving his nine-game suspension for his scandal, but this was still a big win for the Red Storm in a lot of ways.
Not only was this another win over a former conference rival that has dominated them for years until last season, but this win could benefit the future of St. Johns basketball in a huge way, especially Coach Mullin.
As he tries to build his reputation as a head coach and the basketball program, it will help him with future recruiting.
Watching St. John’s beat one of the best college programs in the nation early in the season already boosts Mullin’s resume, and should attract some top-high school talent looking at Mullin as a coach that they would want to play for.
We all know his prowess as a player, but not as a coach yet.
Sure his credibility as a player will factor in, but if he keeps getting big wins over good teams, it’s going to definitely boost his pedigree. Most of the top college players want to play for the top programs and a great coach at the same time.
You have seen that with basketball programs such as Kentucky (John Calipari), Duke (Coach K), North Carolina (Roy Williams), Louisville (Rick Pitino), Michigan State (Tom Izzo), etc.
All of these coaches have been great and successful at building respectable and prestigious basketball programs in the nation.
Mullin has a long way to go before accomplishing that. But an early win over a great team, especially with a squad under transition with most of its players bring freshmen, is a great start.
He already has been aggressive recruiting players right after he was introduced as St. John’s head coach. He already has ties to New York high schools, especially since he grew up in New York.
St. John’s has long been considered New York City’s college basketball team, but have fallen on hard times due to scandals and poor recruiting, especially of local area players.
Most of the players have gone elsewhere. So, St. John’s has lost respectability and attractiveness that they use to always hold.
Getting Mullin, the best player in St. John’s history, was a good start back to respectability in New York. His history with the school and his ties to the NY-area gives him instant credibility. Unfortunately, he doesn’t posses previous coaching experience to further validate him.
Coaching a new team full of first-year players is definitely going to take time, and few expect St. John’s to even stand a chance versus teams like Syracuse.
By beating ‘Cuse, it brought a message to the college basketball world that Mullin is an up and coming coach. It will definitely be a factor for him in recruiting future college stars, especially NYC standouts.
This win will also boost the confidence of this current St. John’s team with little experience. Expected to be a transitional year full of struggles and learning, this win definitely proves what this team is capable of doing in the future.
Freshman Federico Mussini scored 17 points, and was five of seven from three point range. That was very impressive against the Syracuse 2-3 zone which makes it very hard for opposing teams to hit perimeter shots.
Another freshman Kassoum Yakwe, who was recently brought back to the team from academic ineligibility, had 15 points. Yet another freshman, Yankuba Sima, had three blocks, while transfer Durand Johnson and sophomore Amar Alibegovic both also had 15 points apiece.
St. John’s, which is normally a poor shooting team, destroyed Syracuse from the perimeter by going 12 of 24 from 3-point range.
The Red Storm also played great defense, holding the Orangemen to only 5 for 26 from 3-point range.
St. John’s dominated from the start, and never looked back.
This is a St. John’s team that is showing early signs of its potential, something that was not to be expected until next season.
They already made a big splash by beating ‘Cuse. That will not only improve their play on the hardwood, but mentally as well.
With another freshmen in point guard Marcus Lovett expected to join the team next semester after completing his academic priorities, this team will be even more formidable.
This one big win on Sunday will help the program not only in their current team, but in the future too for Coach Mullin.
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