By Tony Mangia
ST. JOHN'S LANDS ANOTHER TOP RECRUIT
St. John's coach Steve Lavin continues to lure talented high school basketball players to New York. Lavin scored his third major recruiting coup when D'Angelo Harrison of Fort Bend, Texas picked the Red Storm over Marquette, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Harrison, a 6-foot 3 shooter will join forwards Jakarr Sampson and Maurice Harkless in what is shaping up to be one of the best recruiting classes in the country.
When Lavin took over as head coach of the Johnnies, many experts considered his chances of luring top name players to St. John's a long shot. NCAA sanctions, penalties and middling teams had the program in a downward spiral for nearly a decade. Lavin had no east coast connections, was away from coaching too long and the west coast was Lavin's only hard-wood harvesting grounds, the cynics cried.
The former UCLA coach has surprised everyone by making the Queens campus a hot destination. He came to New York City with a reputation as a good recruiter for any player west of Vegas. He used the glamor of UCLA as enticement. He had about as much of a chance to lure prospects to Queens as getting a cab on a rainy Madison Avenue rush-hour said the skeptics. Lavin has now surprised everyone by displaying this much success so quickly with recruits from every section of the country.
Lavin seems bent on a recruiting mission and said he hoped to have three more commitments by the end of this week. He is prohibited from commenting on specific recruits until the university receives a letter of intent from the players.
The team has seven remaining scholarships and is looking to get a big-time point guard. The Johnnies are on the inside track to sign scoring guard Nurideen Lindsay of Philadelphia, have the possibility of getting small forward Amir Garrett and center Norvel Pelle of California and North Carolina small forward Dominique Pointer.
Harrison is the ninth-ranked shooting guard in the nation according to Rivals.com. Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for the website, said if St. John's gets all the players just named, it would be one of the great recruiting coups of all time. "They're all top 50 players," said Bossi. Harrison and Lindsay would give the Red Storm one of the most versatile and dynamic backcourts in the nation.
CORN-FED COMB OVER
St John's will announce the hiring of one of college basketball's greatest coaching professors and possessor of one of the scariest stares in all of sports, Gene Keady. Suddenly, comb overs may become vogue in New York basketball circles this winter.
The long-time coach is one of Steve Lavin's mentors. He gave Lavin his start as a Purdue assistant coach in 1988. Keady's role will be of a non-coaching position. He assist the Red Storm coaches with strategy, analyzing game film and as an all-around ambassador for the school.
The ex-Pittsburgh Steeler draftee casts quite a shadow on the court. His career spans decades coaching at the collegiate, international and professional levels. He is regarded as a spectacular tactician and will help bring fundamentally-sound basketball back to Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden.
Lavin and Keady---old school and new wave hoops peppered with blue-chippers. The yin and yang of Lavin's poofed- up Hollywood hair and flair complimenting Keady's peculiar hair-do and Midwestern stoicism.
Lavin says his former boss gives the team that "grandfather presence." "He's the most influential person in my coaching style," praised the pupil of his teacher.
Keady won't be sitting on the bench but it would be nice to see his icy stares and slightly askew coif on the sidelines. His intimidating gaze would be worth the admission alone. I'd like to see U Conn's head coach, Jim Calhoun, out-glare the grizzled ex-coach with over 800 career victories.
Lavin may be paying back the man who gave him his first college coaching position. St. John's new head coach has made great strides in recruiting and it looks like the future of Red Storm basketball could be on a major upswing. Its nice that Lavin didn't forget his roots and will take his trusted sage Keady with him.