first_img Comments Published on February 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jon: [email protected] By any opinion, the St. John’s men’s basketball team has had an event-filled 2011-12 season — both on and off the hardwood.The developments have hardly slowed even as the season reaches its stretch run. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin announced Feb. 8 that junior guard Malik Stith withdrew from the team effective immediately.‘For personal reasons I have chosen to step aside as a member of the St. John’s basketball team,’ Stith said in a statement released by the university. ‘Right now, I feel that I need to do what is best for my family. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me at St. John’s and pleased to be able to continue to make progress toward my degree. Coach Lavin and I have met and talked over the past couple days about my future and the interest I have in contributing to the team as a student.’Following Tuesday’s loss to Seton Hall (18-8, 7-7 Big East), St. John’s sits at 10-16 overall with a 4-10 conference record, putting the Red Storm in 14th in the Big East. The 94-64 loss to Seton Hall extends St. John’s losing streak to four games. The Red Storm plays UCLA (14-11, 7-6 Pac-12) at Madison Square Garden at 1 p.m. Saturday.Although Stith will remain with the team as a student assistant, his decision to withdraw from the playing roster dishes another blow to St. John’s. Lavin has been unable to coach in games as he recovers from prostate cancer, and the remaining coaching staff has had to try and cope with a limited roster full of mostly freshmen, proving experience as a gaping need.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStith, a 5-foot-11 guard from Hempstead, N.Y., was the lone returning letter winner with St. John’s this season. He was scoring 2.6 points per game off the bench but played fewer minutes as the season continued, averaging only 14.6 minutes per game.Stith’s decision to withdraw from the team leaves the Red Storm with just six scholarship players who see meaningful time. There’s also Jamal White, a junior guard and former walk-on who was given a scholarship this year and has played in only three games so far. Stith played in all 23 games and started five this season.  St. John’s is now using a six-man rotation — five freshmen and junior forward God’sgift Achiuwa, a transfer from Erie (N.Y) Community College. Of the 12 players on St. John’s roster, there are nine freshmen, two juniors and one senior — guard Boris Brakalov has played in one game for a total of two minutes. Lavin, in his second year, put together the country’s No. 3 recruiting class, a year after taking the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade. But highly recruited freshmen Amir Garrett, JaKarr Sampson and Norvel Pelle were all ruled academically ineligible, prohibiting the three from participating or being with the team in the beginning of the season.They all enrolled in prep schools while improving their academics, but Garrett is the only one who has joined the team thus far.Nurideen Lindsey, who averaged 11.8 points per game in the first nine games of the season for the Red Storm, transferred to Rider last month.And the players haven’t been the only ones getting in trouble off the court. St. John’s suspended a top athletics department official for allegedly reselling men’s basketball tickets acquired from the university and keeping the cash himself, the New York Daily News reported Friday.Brian Colleary, senior associate athletics director, is said to have taken tickets — including some for the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden and St. John’s win over Duke last season — and turned them around to benefit his own pocket, according to the New York Daily News.Throughout the season, Lavin — who led the Red Storm to a 21-12 overall record and 12-6 mark in conference play during his first season the job — has been forced off the bench while recovering from cancer. In his place stands assistant coach Mike Dunlap.With the sheer lack of players, the St. John’s coaching staff has been forced to play its inexperienced players — sometimes starting five freshmen.‘Since we’ve gone with the five freshmen — the fresh five, as I call them — we’ve been more productive in point production, but also in terms of closing the gap on our rebounding against opponents,’ Lavin said on the Big East coaches’ teleconference Feb. 2.But it hasn’t all been bad for St. John’s this season. Freshman forward Moe Harkless and freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison have emerged as stars on the team. Harkless is averaging 16 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game, while Harrison is leading the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game.Lavin said Harkless has all the skills and abilities he looks for in a basketball player, and his numbers this season speak for themselves.‘In terms of D’Angelo, when we recruited him, I felt he had the opportunity to be the best combo guard that I’d ever coached, and obviously, he still has a long way to go,’ Lavin said. ‘But just in terms of projecting based on potential, he would rate right there with the best combo guards that I’ve recruited.’Harrison and all the freshmen on the team are maturing right before the coaching staff’s eyes, Lavin said. As for how Lavin prepares to put five freshmen on the floor at the same time, he’s mindful that he needs to be patient with one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teams in the country. But he also knows it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride.‘And that’s the fine line that we’re walking as a staff right now because we know they’re young, but we don’t want to use that as a crutch or as an excuse for not winning now,’ Lavin said. ‘We know the future is bright, but we want to be competitive this year and not have to wait to the future.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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