The youngest men's basketball team in St. John's University's history just got a little more youthful after sophomore forward Dwayne Polee II, the only returning starter from last year's NCAA Tournament team, decided to return to Los Angeles to be closer to his family.
This is the first stumbling block for Steve Lavin's Red Storm after a wild ride into the NCAA's and completing the most highly-touted incoming class in the school's history. It also takes away the team's most experienced player.
Polee, the 2010 Los Angeles High School Player of the Year, did not specify the illness or the seriousness of it.
No one could be more understanding about family illnesses than Lavin. His father battled prostate cancer two decades ago and the head coach himself is currently going through a radical treatment to beat the same disease Lavin himself was diagnosed with at the beginning of last season. He withheld his illness from the public until the season was over.
"Dwayne is an outstanding individual with a bright future," said Lavin. "He has been a valued member of our basketball family. He leaves St. John's University in good standing and we wish him well."
The loss of Polee, who started 27 0f 33 games last season, leaves St. John's with one returning player, reserve-guard Malik Stith, and a lot of heralded, but green, college freshmen.
Lavin has his work cut out for 2011-12. He brings in a nine-man recruiting class which is the #2 rated group by Rivals.com. The head coach was counting on Polee to be the veteran leader and guiding force to one of the youngest men's NCAA basketball squads in over 100 years. The transition of going from an experienced Big East team to a group of highly anticipated newbies just got harder without the stability of a Polee on the court.
The 6-foot-7 Polee could play next season if the NCAA regards his situation a hardship transfer. If Polee doesn't sit out next year, he could possibly be going to San Diego State, UCLA or UC-Santa Barbara. Polee originally planned on attending USC before their head coach Tim Floyd was replaced.