QUEENS, NY -Friday's Red Storm Tip-Off, signified the official start of the college basketball season. In front of a packed house, men's and women's teams were introduced. A vibrant and energetic men's head coach Steve Lavin was welcomed by both the team and the fans.
"Great energy in the house tonight," Lavin said as the crowd cheered him throughout his introduction. Recuperating from cancer, Lavin spent the majority of the senior off the court and in recruiting mode. Looking refreshed, Lavin will be at the helm for the upcoming season.
Sitting behind the Red Storm bench, most notably, were top recruits Jermaine Lawrence (who was in an arm brace) and 6'9" sophomore Jessie Govan in addition to others. It was rumored that junior shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead might make an appearance but that would not be the case.
With recruits that represent the future, St. John's also had three transitional players who were significant in jumpstarting the Lavin era during his first year; Malik Boothe, Sean Evans and Paris Horne.
In addition to festivities that included, music and contests for the fans, the Red Storm engaged scrimmage as well a slam dunk and shooting competition. Jakarr Sampson would win easily as he executed a show stopping alley-opp reverse dunk off a kick, catch pass from teammate Christian Jones. Felix Balamou and Amir Garrett also participated aerial show.
During the scrimmage, fans got a chance to see the five returning players as well as the eight newcomers. While only a scrimmage, there were some clear standouts.
Marco Bourgault put his perimeter sharpshooting on display, nailing shots from deep.
Chris Obekpa was also impressive as a defensive stopper. The freshman even blocked his teammate Max Hooper during the scrimmage as he was attempting a trey.
D'Angelo Harrison, one of the Red Storm's returning players, appeared to be the de facto leader of the team, even though on paper its leadership by the committee of Harrison, Phil Greene and Garrett. Harrison's reputation as a long range assassin seems to be in tact as he buried a three-ball from another zip code.
The Red Storm is once again a young team, probably the youngest in the Big East, but this season they clearly have more depth and versatility at every position. They also have genuine camaraderie which goes a long way to possibly having a successful season.