Before we ultimately put a lid on the 2012-13 season, Play For The Garden is evaluating the year of each member of the Big East.
Team: St. John’s Red Storm
Record: 17-16 overall / 8-10 in Big East
How did their season end: second round of the NIT
Leading scorer: D’Angelo Harrison with 17.8 PPG
Leading rebounder: Jakarr Sampson with 6.6 RPG
St. John’s was entering the season with an incredibly young squad. Of the 10 players that got normal playing time there were four freshman and six sophomores. No juniors and no seniors to contribute in any sort of way.
But their incoming recruiting class was solid, and more notably – they had their coach back. After predominantly sitting out the entire previous season recovering from cancer, Steve Lavin was back on the sideline and running the show. Lavin is regarded as one of the best in the business, but more importantly he brought stability after his team watched him go through a difficult time.
The 2012-13 season was choppy with a handful of good wins here and there (Cincinnati, Notre Dame and UConn), but the Red Storm really struggled down the stretch losing seven of their last nine regular season games after starting a promising 7-4 in the conference.
They were bounced immediately from the Big East tournament by Villanova, but the body of work over the course of the season was good enough for St. John’s to make the NIT.
The Johnnies beat St. Joseph’s before falling to Virginia in the second round, but it was a huge victory for this young team to experience the postseason.
Freshman Jakarr Sampson was phenomenal all season, accruing seven Big East Player of the Week awards and ultimately earning Big East Player of the Year honors. Sampson averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game (leading the team in both categories), and his presence was equally felt on the defensive end. His size, length and enthusiasm made him an ideal fit in their matchup zone.
Fellow freshman Chris Obekpa also put together a stellar freshman season, but his presence was mainly felt on the defensive end. Obekpa blocked 4.0 shots per game (best in the country) and had 133 total on the season. He should improve offensively allowing him to be on the floor more often next year giving the Johnnies one of the most dominant big men in the Big East.
Final Grade: B
After coming off a rough season that saw the Johnnies finish under .500, miss the postseason, while not having their coach, it was satisfying to see them bounce back. They were a young team that had to fight through some growing pains, but they are primed to get back to their successful ways. With the return of Sampson, Obekpa and D’Angelo Harrison and incoming top recruit Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s should be considered a serious contender in the Big East next year.