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Tons of Updates for St. John’s Men’s Basketball as the Team Gears up for the New Season

The Red Storm huddle. Photo by: Stacy Podelski/1495 Sports

More than seven months after the COVID-19 Pandemic stopped the 2019-20 season in its tracks, St. John’s has released a portion the men’s basketball schedule for the upcoming campaign.

Between Nov. 25 and the end of the calendar year, the Red Storm is scheduled to play six non-conference games and four BIG EAST contests. The Johnnies could potentially play one more non-league opponent during that stretch. In light of that possible addition and larger world events, the Red Storm’s schedule is subject to change. The remainder of the BIG EAST schedule, which will feature 20 games in total against league opponents, will be released at a later date.

A final decision on fan attendance for home games has not yet been reached. Please stay tuned to RedStormSports.com and the department’s social media channels for the latest information on attendance and ticketing.

Game times and television assignments will be released at a later date.

For two decades spanning the mid-70s and the mid-90s, The Lapchick Tournament was a staple of the New York City basketball scene, honoring the life of legendary head coach Joe Lapchick and often serving as the team’s season-opener at Alumni Hall. After a 25-year hiatus, St. John’s will resurrect The Lapchick Tournament in 2020 when the Red Storm welcomes a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Nov. 25. The Johnnies will then host La Salle on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) before the Explorers and the third team play one another on Nov. 27.

In addition to hosting a multi-team tournament on campus for the first time in 25 years, the men’s basketball program felt it appropriate to honor Lapchick for another reason, his unwavering commitment to racial equality and social justice in the world of basketball. Lapchick signed the first Black player in NBA history, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, as the head coach of the New York Knicks in 1950.

“With the renewed nationwide focus on racial equality, we couldn’t think of a better time to recognize the legacy of Coach Lapchick,” said Athletic Director Mike Cragg. “In addition to being one of the most successful head coaches in our program’s storied history, Coach Lapchick’s principled stands against racial discrimination still carry weight a half-century after his death. We are honored renew this long-time St. John’s tradition.”

St. John’s hosted The Lapchick Tournament for 21 consecutive seasons between 1975 and 1995, going 41-1 during that stretch with 20 tournament titles.

The Johnnies will take on La Salle, an historic Philadelphia Big 5 power, for just the seventh time and the first since the semifinals of the 1964 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm will hit the road for its next two games, beginning with a Nov. 30 date against former BIG EAST foe Boston College at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. BC, a founding member of the conference before leaving for the ACC in 2005, is the 10th most frequently played opponent in St. John’s history. The Red Storm is 45-27 all-time against the Eagles in a series that dates back to 1946, but is currently on a seven-game losing streak against its former conference foe.

The Johnnies will play their second high-major opponent in as many games on Dec. 3, traveling to Lubbock for a matchup with Texas Tech in the Big 12-BIG EAST Battle. St. John’s is 2-0 all-time against the Red Raiders, defeating Texas Tech in the opening round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament before emerging victorious again in the semifinals of the 2003 NIT at Madison Square Garden a decade later.

Last season, the BIG EAST went 8-2 in the first iteration of the scheduling alliance between the two conferences, including a 70-68 win for the Red Storm over previously undefeated West Virginia. Texas Tech lost in overtime at DePaul.

The Red Storm will return to Carnesecca Arena for the final two games of non-conference play beginning on Dec. 6 when the Johnnies host Sacred Heart. St. John’s is 4-0 all-time against the Pioneers with all four of those victories coming in Queens by a margin of at least 22 points.

Two days later on Dec. 8, the Red Storm will renew a longtime local rivalry when it welcomes Fordham to Queens. The Rams and the Red Storm will meet for the 89th time in the seventh most frequently played series in program history. St. John’s is 66-22 all-time against Fordham, including an 18-0 mark in games played at Carnesecca Arena/Alumni Hall. The teams, who first played in January of 1909, last met on Dec. 8, 2016, when Shamorie Ponds finished with 26 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals in a 90-62 St. John’s win.

After concluding non-conference play, St. John’s will welcome back a familiar foe to the BIG EAST ranks on Dec. 11, traveling to Storrs to face Connecticut in the Huskies’ first BIG EAST contest since 2013. Both founding members of the BIG EAST, the Johnnies and the Huskies played 61 times from 1980-2013 with the Red Storm holding a 34-27 advantage in those contests. Prior to leaving for the American Athletic Conference in the summer of 2013, the Huskies lost three of their final four contests against St. John’s with all three of the Red Storm’s wins coming at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm will remain on the road for its second conference contest, heading to Indianapolis for a Dec. 14 date with Butler. The Johnnies, who will look to snap a six-game losing streak inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, have split their regular season series with Butler in three of the last four campaigns.

The Johnnies will then wrap the 2020 portion of their BIG EAST schedule with a pair of home games beginning on Dec. 17 when the Red Storm welcomes a highly touted Creighton squad to Carnesecca Arena. Last season, the Johnnies played their final Carnesecca Arena game against the Bluejays on March 1, using a 3-point barrage to down the No. 10 Bluejays, 91-71. The win marked the first against a top-10 team on campus for St. John’s since a 1987 win over Pittsburgh. Greg Williams Jr. hit seven 3-pointers in the win, matching a St. John’s BIG EAST record.

Three days later, the Johnnies will take on a familiar opponent in an unfamiliar setting, welcoming Georgetown to Queens for the first time since January of 1981. The Hoyas and Red Storm met three times during the 2019-20 campaign. Georgetown swept the regular season series, but the Johnnies staged a thrilling comeback in the opening round of the BIG EAST Tournament, closing the game on a 23-0 run. The Hoyas are the second most frequently played opponent in program history, as the Johnnies enjoy 60-56 all-time edge over their rivals from D.C. in a series that dates back to 1909.

In addition the team discovered their seeding in the BIG EAST Conference as the Red Storm has been predicated to fish ninth in the preseasons vote of the leagues coaches. This is despite returning an experienced core from a team that won three of its final four games a season ago.  The announcement was made in conjunction with BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Media Day, which is being held virtually for the first time on Wednesday.

St. John’s finished the 2019-20 season with a record of 17-15 and was in line for a postseason berth before the campaign was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The season marked Mike Anderson’s 18th as the head coach of a Division I basketball program and his 18th with a winning percentage of .500 or better.  He is one of only four active Division I head coaches with 15 or more years of experience that can make that claim alongside Mark Few, Tom Izzo and Sean Miller.

The Red Storm closed the season by winning three of the four games that it played in March.  The month began with a 20-point victory over No. 10 Creighton at Carnesecca Arena, the first for the Johnnies against a top-10 opponent on campus since 1987.  Six days later, the Red Storm took down Marquette in the regular season finale at Madison Square Garden before using a second half surge to defeat Georgetown in the opening round of the BIG EAST Tournament.  The following day, the BIG EAST Tournament was canceled at halftime of the Johnnies’ quarterfinal matchup against top-seeded Creighton, a game that the Red Storm led by three, 38-35, at the break.

The Johnnies welcome back nearly 60 percent of their point production from last season and six players that averaged more than 14 minutes per appearance.

Redshirt senior Rasheem Dunn, the team’s leading returning scorer, averaged 11.9 points per game while topping the team and ranking ninth in the conference with 3.4 assists per contest.  Fellow Brooklyn native Julian Champagnie, who earned a place on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, will seek to continue a strong finish that saw him average 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds over his final 10 appearances.

The junior trio of Greg Williams Jr.Marcellus Earlington and Josh Roberts will look to build upon breakout sophomore seasons while David Caraher will once again figure to play a key role in Red Storm victories, as the Johnnies went 8-0 in games where Caraher scored eight or more points a season ago.

A crop of talented newcomers will join those six returners when the season starts in Queens on Nov. 25.  Local products Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu, high school teammates at Our Saviour Lutheran in the Bronx, will look to make their marks as freshmen while former junior college All-Americans Vince Cole and Isaih Moore will look to make a seamless transition to the Division I game.  The Johnnies will also enjoy a boost up front from Arnaldo Toro, a graduate transfer from George Washington who can rebound in bunches.  Toro, who has extensive international experience playing with the Puerto Rican Youth National Team, led the Colonials with 7.0 rebounds per game while also chipping in 6.1 points per outing in 2019-20.  John McGriff, an explosive point guard who missed the entirety of his freshman season with injury, will also suit up in red and white for the first time in 2020-21.

For the sixth time in the last seven years, Villanova had been predicted to win the BIG EAST by the league’s coaches.  The Wildcats (99 points) received nine out of a possible 10 first-place votes.  Creighton (91 points) received the other first-place vote and comfortably came in second.  The Bluejays boast the Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year in junior guard Marcus Zegarowski.  Providence (79 points) was picked to finish third, 10 points ahead of Connecticut (69 points) in its first season back in the BIG EAST after a seven-year stint in the American Athletic Conference.  Seton Hall (67 points) rounds out the top five followed by Marquette (50 points) and Xavier (47 points). Eighth place Butler (37 points) was four points clear of the Johnnies (33), who finished ahead of DePaul (20 points) and Georgetown (13 points).

Marquette Dawson Garcia, a former McDonald’s All-American, was tabbed as the league’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.

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