Following the most unorthodox offseason imaginable, the 2020-21 St. John’s Men’s Basketball season is set to finally tip off on Wednesday night when the Red Storm welcomes Saint Peter’s to Carnesecca Arena.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on FS2 and AM 970 The Answer. Pat O’Keefe and Tarik Turner will handle the broadcast duties on television while John Minko and Brian Mahoney will call the action live from Carnesecca Arena over the airwaves. Fans can also catch the Learfield-IMG College Red Storm Sports Network radio broadcast via TuneIn Radio and SiriusXM.
The game will serve as the opener of The Lapchick Tournament, which will be brought back to Queens following a 25-year hiatus. St. John’s hosted the tournament in honor the late great Joe Lapchick from 1975-1995 with the Red Storm turning in a 41-1 record all-time and winning 20 titles. After playing Saint Peter’s, the Red Storm will take on La Salle at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day before the Explorers and the Peacocks square off on Friday at 4 p.m. inside Carnesecca Arena.
Entering year two of the Mike Anderson Era, the Red Storm will look to carry over March’s momentum to the new season. Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world on March 12, the Red Storm had won three of its final four games, including a victory over Georgetown in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament that featured a 23-0 run to end the evening. During the month of March, the Johnnies also boasted home triumphs over No. 10 Creighton and Marquette. When the BIG EAST Tournament was canceled at halftime of the Johnnies’ quarterfinal matchup with Creighton, St. John’s led the top-seeded Bluejays, 38-35.
Anchoring the Red Storm’s strong finish was Julian Champagnie, who earned a spot on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team after averaging 9.9 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds during his debut campaign in Queens. On the year, Champagnie ranked in the top three among BIG EAST freshmen in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks. Over his final 10 games, the Bishop Loughlin product poured in 13.6 points and pulled down 7.6 rebounds per game with a pair of 20-point performances. In the regular season finale against Marquette, the Brooklyn native finished with 21 points and a season-high 12 boards.
Another Kings County product, Rasheem Dunn, is the team’s leading returner scorer from 2019-20, having poured in 11.9 points per game in 29 appearances, 15 of which were starts. Dunn, a fifth-year senior, also led the Johnnies in assists per outing (3.4) and ranked eighth in the BIG EAST in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8-to-1).
Champagnie and Dunn lead a contingent of six returning Johnnies that averaged 14 or more minutes per game in 2019-20. Like Champagnie, Greg Williams Jr. also had a strong finish to his sophomore campaign, averaging 12.8 points on 48.9 percent shooting over his final five games. In the Red Storm’s upset win over No. 10 Creighton at Carnesecca Arena, Williams tallied 21 points on seven 3-pointers, tying a St. John’s single-game BIG EAST record in that category.
Williams headlines a talented junior class of returners that also features Marcellus Earlington, Josh Roberts and David Caraher. Earlington made the most of his time on the court a season ago, averaging 9.0 points despite playing just 18.2 minutes per game. Earlington, who ranked in the top 10 of the conference in offensive rebounding last season, provided the heroics in the Red Storm’s come-from-behind BIG EAST win against Georgetown, scoring 10 straight points on the 23-0 run that sank the Hoyas. Before being slowed by injury toward the end of the year, Roberts was a force inside, averaging nearly six boards per game ranking fourth in the BIG EAST with 1.5 blocks per outing. Caraher, a former Southland Conference Freshman of the Year at Houston Baptist, played the role of catalyst last season off the bench; during games Caraher scored eight or more points, the Johnnies went 8-0.
Eight players are set to make their St. John’s debut on Wednesday night, including a pair of former Junior College All-Americans in Vince Cole and Isaih Moore. Cole earned a spot on the NJCAA All-America First Team after averaging 21.4 points per game for USC Salkehatchie. The two-time Region X Player of the Year shot 51.8 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from three-point range and 90.1 percent from the free throw line. Moore, a Third Team All-American last season, led Pearl River Community College to a 28-0 record and the top seed in the NJCAA Tournament before the season was canceled in March. Moore averaged a near double-double, posting 15.9 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting to go along with 9.1 boards per outing.
Graduate transfer Arnaldo Toro comes to St. John’s after playing 99 games over four years at George Washington University. A bruising 6-foot-8 power forward with extensive international experience playing for his native Puerto Rico, Toro led the Colonials in rebounding last season with 7.0 boards per game, including an Atlantic 10 record 24 rebounds against American in November.
Freshmen Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu will look to make an immediate impact for the Johnnies after starring together at Our Saviour Lutheran in the Bronx. A pair of ultra-athletic guards that love to push the pace, Alexander and Addae-Wusu each registered a game of 50-plus points last season at OSL and appear to be tailor-made for Anderson’s preferred style of basketball.
Two walk-ons from Long Island also joined the St. John’s roster in junior Jalen Rosemond and freshman Artemios Gavalas. Both enjoyed stellar high school careers, as Rosemond was a two-time all-conference selection at Sanford C. Calhoun while Gavalas was a two-year team captain for Southampton High School.
Saint Peter’s enters its third season under the direction of Head Coach Shaheen Holloway in 2020-21. Holloway, a former star player and assistant coach at Seton Hall, led the Peacocks to an 18-12 record a year ago, including a 14-6 mark in MAAC action that was good enough for second in the league behind Siena.
Last season, the Peacocks went deep into the rotation, as 14 players logged nine or more minutes per game. Junior forward KC Ndefo, a local product from Elmont and Abraham Lincoln High School, led the Peacocks in both scoring and rebounding in 2019-20, averaging 8.5 and 5.3, respectively. In total, Saint Peter’s returns three of its top four scorers from a year ago.
Wednesday will mark the second time in as many seasons that the Red Storm and the Peacocks will square off on the hardwood. Last December, St. John’s opened a huge lead on Saint Peter’s, moving ahead by as many as 25 with eight minutes to play before the Peacocks used a 19-2 to pull within six in the final minute of the game. Champagnie logged the first double-double of his St. John’s career in that contest, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Last season marked the first meeting between the local programs since 1976 and just the second since 1951. Overall, St. John’s is 18-0 all-time against the Peacocks in a series that dates back to 1910. The Red Storm’s current 18-game winning streak is the longest against a single opponent in program history.
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