Mike Anderson knows how to recruit local guys to St. John’s. His latest get is sought-after transfer Andre Curbelo, who is leaving Illinois. Curbelo grew up in Puerto Rico but attended Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville, NY.
In two seasons with Illinois, Curbelo averaged 8.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. A concussion disrupted his sophomore season, but there is no denying his talent. He’s listed as the fifth-best recruit in the transfer portal by CBS.
With Julian Champagnie off to the NBA Draft, Anderson needed to add a big piece to the Red Storm roster. Curbelo will join Posh Alexander, a one-time Big East Defensive Player of the year, in the backcourt. This backcourt pairing might lack size, but it will be as fast as any group in the Big East.
While Curbelo and Alexander are both point guards, Anderson’s helter-skelter style of play can work with two primary ballhandlers. The quickness of both guards should come in handy when Anderson deploys his full-court press.
It feels like a make-or-break season for Anderson. Although the Johnnies have finished with a winning record in all three of his seasons, they have yet to make an NCAA Tournament. Furthermore, the Red Storm are 23-33 in Big East play during that same span.
How can Anderson position his team to make the NCAA Tournament? He can start by scheduling tougher non-conference opponents. The Red Storm’s best out-of-conference win in 2021-22 came against Saint Peter’s — which didn’t mean much before the NCAA Tournament.
St. John’s lost all three games against power conference opponents — Kansas, Indiana, and Pittsburgh. By scheduling a few more games against teams like Kansas or Indiana, they have a better chance at building an NCAA Tournament resume.
A tougher non-conference slate will kill two birds with one stone. The Johnnies can add marquee wins to their resume while preparing for the gauntlet that is the Big East.
If it’s another year where St. John’s finishes around .500 and makes the NIT, it will likely be Anderson’s last in Queens.