The St. John’s men’s basketball team will officially kick off its 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday at Carnesecca Arena when it plays host to the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. with Dan Hellie and Casey Jacobsen on the call. The game will be part of BIG EAST Opening Night Tip-Off, as FS1 will provide whip-around coverage of seven BIG EAST non-conference games beginning at 6:30 p.m. Fans can watch the St. John’s contest in its entirety on the FOX Sports app.
John Minko and Vin Parise will narrate the St. John’s audio broadcast on XM radio channel 389 and via the SiriusXM app channel 979. Fans can also hear the game on The Varsity Network app, TuneIn Radio and RedStormSports.com.
Single-game and season tickets are available now by visiting RedStormTix.com or by calling 1-888-GO-STORM. Fans can also request information from a ticket representative by emailing RedStormSports@stjohns.edu.
St. John’s enters its third season under the direction of Head Coach Mike Anderson, the 2021 BIG EAST Coach of the Year who guided the Johnnies to a 16-11 record and a 10-9 league mark. That 10-9 league record, good enough for fourth in the final BIG EAST standings, was the Red Storm’s first .500 finish in conference play since 2014-15 and gave the Johnnies their highest BIG EAST Tournament seed since 2000.
In addition to Anderson’s coaching honor, two other Johnnies garnered recognition from the conference at the end of 2020-21. After leading the BIG EAST in scoring at 19.8 points per game, Julian Champagnie was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team and shared the league’s most improved player award. Fellow Brooklyn native Posh Alexander won both the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year award and shared the league’s defensive player of the year honor, becoming just the third player in conference history to win both accolades simultaneously. The other two, Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson, are Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers.
Champagnie, a unanimous Preseason First Team All-BIG EAST selection, has garnered his fair share of preseason recognition this fall, finding spots on the watch lists for the Naismith Trophy, the NABC Player of the Year Award and the Julius Erving Award.
Champagnie and Alexander are two of three returning scholarship players from last season alongside Dylan Addae-Wusu, who appeared in all 27 games and averaged 6.5 points per contest.
The Red Storm welcomes five transfers with Division I experience, three of whom are graduate students. Tareq Coburn comes to St. John’s from Hofstra, where he was a CoSIDA Academic All-American and scored 971 points in three seasons on 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Stef Smith played four seasons at Vermont and was a part of four regular season America East championships. He graduated 24th on the school’s all-time scoring list and shot 38.8 percent from deep for his Catamounts career. Aaron Wheeler played three seasons at Purdue, averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds for a team that made two NCAA Tournaments, including an Elite Eight run in 2019, with Wheeler on the roster.
The two remaining transfers both boast significant Division I credentials. Montez Mathis made 67 starts in three seasons at Rutgers, helping the Scarlet Knights reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than three decades this past March. A tenacious defender with an unrelenting motor, Mathis averaged 8.0 points per game over his career in Piscataway. Joel Soriano comes to St. John’s from Fordham, where he was a double-double machine for the Rams. In 14 opportunities last season, the Archbishop Stepinac product recorded eight double-doubles while averaging 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest and tallying the Atlantic 10’s fourth-best field goal percentage (54.5%).
In addition to those five transfers, Esahia Nyiwe will look to make his Division I debut against MVSU. The 6-foot-10 forward from Omaha, Neb., spent a brief period of time at Texas Tech following a standout junior college career at Clarendon College and Iowa Western.
Two scholarship freshmen, Rafael Pinzon and O’Mar Stanley, are also expected to make their St. John’s debuts. Pinzon comes to Queens following a standout high school career at Long Island Lutheran. In addition to his scholastic success, Pinzon also excelled on the international stage, most recently averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game for Puerto Rico at the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia. Stanley most recently spent a season at Link Year Prep in Branson, Mo. Prior to that he was an All-State selection at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park, Kan.
Mississippi Valley State is coming off a 2-22 effort in 2020-21.
The Delta Devils return their top two scorers from last season in Caleb Hunter and Terry Collins, each of whom averaged 12.3 points per outing. In an exhibition win over Tougaloo College on Nov. 5, freshman guard Devin Gordon tallied a game-high 27 points on 8-of-19 shooting, including a 5-for-13 showing from beyond the arc.
Mississippi Valley State is under the direction of third-year head coach Lindsey Hunter, a 17-year NBA veteran who came to the Delta Devils following one season as an assistant coach at Buffalo. Hunter, a two-time NBA Champion, was selected 10th in the 1993 NBA Draft following three years at Jackson State University, where he averaged 26.7 points per game as a senior.