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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Steve Lavin, in keeping with his agenda to cultivate the basketball talent in New York City, landed his first big recruit of the Class of 2011. Maurice Harkless, the 6’6″ star swingman who averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last season at Forest Hills High School (NY) will be wearing St. John’s red and white in 2011 after spending this season in prep school, at South Kent (CT).

“It’s a situation where I call it the St. John’s Noah’s Ark,” Lavin said in a phone interview with SNY.tv earlier this year. “We’re going to need two of every position.”

It looks that Harkless will be the first to step aboard, giving St. John’s two talented, uber-athletic swingmen when paired with Class of 2010 recruit Dwayne Polee Jr. “I always wanted to look into St. John’s but they weren’t that good in the past few years and with a new coach I feel like it’s a brand new opportunity and the coaches are hungry,” Harkless told SNY.tv after his announcement. “I’m in New York. I can represent my city in my city.”

By the sound of it, it looks like St. John’s has completely revamped its national image by bringing Coach Lavin to Queens.  A close advisor to Harkless, Nate Blue, speaking to Johnnyjungle.com, said, “[Former head coach] Norm [Roberts] would take people in New York City to make my people happy. Lavin appeals to kids from New York City to California. Its national.” Name recognition can go a long way. The key to scoring high-level recruits can sometimes be as simple as getting a foot in the door, and that is what Lavin’s resume at UCLA allows. Once that happens, a strong business proposal can make all the difference, which Lavin also seems to do well, according to Blue. “When we met with Norm last year, it was more of a desperation thing. When we’ve sat down with Lavin, he was calm and had a plan.”

Harkless is ranked in both the ESPN Top 100 and the Rivals Top 50 of recruits for the Class of 2011. NBE Basketball Report raves of his ability to use his size and length to get to the basket, likening him to former West Virginia forward and current Los Angeles Laker Devin Ebanks.

Expected to sign during the early signing period in November, will Harkless be able to do some recruiting of his own and bring other top players along with him? It was a factor in his decision, according to Blue, speaking to Johnnyjungle.com, “We got a threat from a Big East coach yesterday that if Mo committed to SJU, he would be double and triple teamed on a team of nobodies.” Clearly, there is a sense of confidence in this decision, confidence that other integral pieces will be added, either through the work of Lavin or Harkless himself, to build a contender.

Said Blue in closing, “There’s going to be a lot of help coming to SJU in the next few weeks. I won’t tip my hat, but there’s more coming soon.”

-Dan Martin

@Dan_MartinWSJU

Special thanks to Johnnyjungle.com for quotes and updates

@JohnnyJungleSTJ

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There’s something to be said about the importance of name recognition. It most certainly isn’t everything, but, at the same time, it is nearly impossible to ignore.

With St. John’s basketball in the middle of a nearly 10 year doldrums, it seemed time to turn to a coach with just that: notoriety and the ability to draw positive national attention. Though he is years removed from the slick, greased-haired, comparably young man who graced the sidelines at UCLA, Steve Lavin’s name still demands respect in the ranks of college basketball. Where former Red Storm coach Norm Roberts failed to dig in his heels and attract big-time recruits, early indications are that Lavin can finally turn the tide.

During Robert’s reign, the philosophy was, use Roberts’ ties to Queens and the New York area to keep the fruits of the Big Apple in the city to star in the lights of Madison Square Garden. Though blue-chip players like Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Indiana Pacers draft pick Lance Stephenson seriously considered St. John’s for a time, they ultimately decided to take their talents elsewhere, adding to the disappointment that has plagued the last six seasons in Queens.

Now, notice the stark contrast in the words of Lavin. At his introductory press conference, he expressed the importance of not only recruiting in the New York area, but reaching across the country to find the best players for the system and the program as a whole. And it seems that this was not just lip service. Just five weeks into his time at St. John’s, Lavin went out and got a commitment from supremely athletic forward and (might it be mentioned) Los Angeles High School Player of the Year Dwayne Polee Jr. of West Chester High School (CA). Not a small job, especially considering the fact he was able to draw him all the way from the West Coast in just over a month.

The big test, though, will be whether Lavin can recruit strongly within the Class of 2011. With nine open scholarships to work with, he is essentially building his own team from scratch. Luckily for St. John’s fans, early indications are that the right man stepped in at just the right time. As of August 28th, ESPN Insider Recruiting lists 8 players in the ESPN Top 100 of the Class of 2011 as being interested in the Red Storm.  In the dreary recent history of recruiting for the Johnnies, to have this many quality players even be considering coming to Queens is more than bright news.

A great deal of this success can be chalked up to the fact that Steve Lavin’s prior success gets St. John’s foot in the door when it comes to recruits. The previous strategy was to have a coach (Roberts) who represented the city, a man who grew up there and could speak from experience. But, on a countrywide scale, it failed. Many high school players see the Division I college stage as an audition for the next level. They want a coach and style that will propel them into the national spotlight and, hopefully, gain the attention of scouts. What richer resume than Lavin’s? Having recruited and coached successful NBA players like Baron Davis, Trevor Ariza, and Earl Watson, among others, he has gained national respect among many circles.

But Lavin won’t be alone. He smartly hired a qualified and respected staff to play the recruiting field. His first hire was Bronx native and former Drexel assistant Tony Chiles, a man who understands and can play the politics of New York City basketball. Alongside Chiles, Lavin also brought in his first player recruit at UCLA, Rico Hines, and a man with NBA assistant coaching experience, Mike Dunlap, rounding out a solid cast of coaches to move forward into what has become a tougher and more competitive recruiting field than ever.

Granted, this is the honeymoon period for Lavin. His team has yet to step on the floor this season and it will take far more than one quality recruit to lead the Johnnies back to the NCAA Tournament. But, things are very much so on the mend at the corner of Union and Utopia, and it will be very interesting to see how Year One unfolds.

– Dan Martin

@Dan_MartinWSJU

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“Is the sun going to come up tomorrow?”

This is the question most Mets fans are asking themselves after team owner Fred Wilpon gave his clear vote of confidence towards Omar Minaya’s future with the team.  How are Met fans supposed to feel when it seems clear that ownerships main goals don’t seem to be centered on the 2011 season? How can they be? This front office has seen mild success, and catastrophic failure.  For Fred Wilpon to come out and say that the G.M. position is not under review in a year that the Mets are looking at not making the playoffs for the 4th straight season is an utter embarrassment.  What has Omar done (other than the Santana deal) that would allow him a free pass. NOTHING. And this is a concern

The Problem – 700 million dollars.  That is the alleged sum of money that the Wilpon family watched spiral down the drain in the Bernie Madoff scandal.  I don’t know about you, but if I lost that kind of money, I would be hesitant on wasting any more money i.e. Oliver Perez.  Other than eating the 12 million owed to Ollie this season, the Mets have decided to essentially play with a 24-man roster and let him rot in the bullpen. A decision based entirely on money.  The Mets are in a position eerily similar to the one the Knicks were in prior to this summer, with one issue. There is no potential LeBron James at the end of the tunnel, or even for that matter an Amare’ Stoudemire.  Due to the current front office’s contractual blunders such as the four-year 25 million dollar disaster for Luis Castillo, and the seven-year 199 million dollar contract signed by Carlos Beltran.  With an abundance of bloated contracts on the current payroll, and the new money conscious attitude in the front office, it seem likely that the 2011 Metropolitans are doomed to another season of ineptitude with a lineup consisting of over-paid and under-performing players, sprinkled in with the likes of AAA level talent such as Ruben Tejada, and Josh Thole starting at key positions.

The Bigger Problem There have been teams that made drastic personnel changes to cut salary that managed to remain successful, ex. Marlins.  Granted it took them a few seasons to get back in the winners circle, but they did it. The Marlins had two things going for them that the Mets don’t, a fan base that has about as much passion as a grapefruit, and a farm system.  Rebuilding is never easy in New York, especially in the shadows of the Yankees and it doesn’t help that the current front office regime has stripped the farm system down to the studs.  The farm is filled with one-time blue chip prospects, full-time busts.  Fernando Martinez a one-time top rated prospect has watched his value plummet at the Mets expense.  In order to get rid of some of the unwanted contracts on the club, the Mets will need to blow teams away with offers that just aren’t there.  Can you imagine any team giving up a solid pitching prospect for the likes of Ollie Perez and Mike Hessman. No chance.

The Solution – In all of this mess, Jerry Manuel seems to get a free pass, which too is sickening.  Although he has been hamstrung by ownership with the personnel he’s given to field a team, he has done nothing to spark the team and it seems more and more every day that the team has given up on this season and this managerial regime.  Although that type of attitude is unacceptable for a paid athlete, players are there own commodities, and if they don’t feel they are being put in a situation to succeed they will shut it down early regardless of what anyone says. The solution to this mess is simple. Bobby Valentine. A proven winner, and a New York personality, Bobby V seems like a no-brainer.  I defy anyone to say the Bobby managed 2000 Mets team was more talented than this Mets team as currently constituted.  An outfield consisting of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Timo Perez is nowhere near as good on paper as Bay, Beltran, and Pagan.  Paper doesn’t win games, players and coaches do.  Valentine gets the most out of all of his players, and demands 110% of everyone at all times.

There is no doubt that this is an extremely talented team, on paper.  The thing now is converting paper to the playing field, and Bobby Valentine is the best candidate to make that dream a possibility.

-Frank Giambrone

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Half man; half machine

Throughout Major League Baseball a lot of people are on Alex Rodriguez watch. After hitting his 600th home run of his career a couple weeks back everyone is preparing for him to break Barry Bonds 762* home run mark. The Yankees were and probably still are confident that A-Rod will break the record which led them to playing him 25 million a season plus giving him incentives that increases each years total to about 30 million. So A-Rod is the 30 million dollar man ready to break baseball’s home run mark and be king?Don’t look now The Machine is coming for him.

The Machine that is Jose Alberto Pujols hit his 400th career home run last night off Washington Nationals Pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. He is the third youngest to do it, behind Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He is the 6th player in MLB history to post a .330+ batting average with 1,200+ runs batted in at the 400 mark. The other 5 players were Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Fox and Stan Musial. Not a bad company to join.

What makes Pujols stand out on his own and make him the first person to do something is hitting 400 home runs in his first 10 seasons. No one has ever done it but now Pujols stands alone in that category. Pujols is a hitting machine to say the least. 30+ homers in his first 10 seasons, 4 of which he hit 40+ and 2 of which he hit 51 twice in back to back seasons (2003 & 2004) at the ages of 23 and 24. 10 years to hit 400 and can anyone say he doesn’t have the chance to hit 700 and if he keeps up the pace maybe even 800.

Another thing that makes Pujols the best player in the league is that not only can he hit bombs but he hits for average. His on base percentage is amazing. Every time he steps up to the plate he gives his team the chance to score whether it’s getting a hit and being scored later or hitting an RBI or a home run. To top it all off he’s an excellent defensive player at first base posting a .997 fielding percentage over the past 10 years.

Albert Pujols should be the highest paid player. He plays baseball the right way, the only way and the clean way. I hope and I pray that he is never mixed in with steroids or HGH (human growth hormones) because if he is clean until the day he retires Albert Pujols could go down as one of the three best hitters of all time, the home run king and overall the greatest first baseman to play the game of baseball ever. Albert Pujols said,”It’s a special milestone but I don’t play for numbers.” You may not Albert but us baseball fans do. The Machine is making his mark on history. Are you watching?

-Timmy Dimas

(@TimmyD_WSJU)

For more numbers check out this link. Baseball Reference – Albert Pujols

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As the first episode of this season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” came to a close Wednesday night, Jets fans were probably hoping for more than just a cameo from star cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The Gang Green Pro Bowler, who has held out of the first two weeks of training camp in pursuit of a new contract, was featured just once in the show’s season opener, reminding Jet fans that this may be just the tip of the iceberg in what could be long contract negotiations.

But what really IS the big hold-up in all of this? Revis, who has been praised by teammates, coaches, and media alike as the best corner in all of football, is looking for a significant raise on his rookie deal, which still has three years remaining on it. Critics argue that, if he really is the best in the game, why not pay him like it?

The problem with this seemingly simple concept lies, believe it or not, 3,000 miles away in Oakland, California.

This is the point where a football problem turns into simple economics. The Oakland Raiders, in all their desperation, signed star corner Nnamdi Asomugha to a deal that includes two years with $28.5 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid cornerback in NFL history.

Now this is not to say that Asomugha doesn’t deserve top tier money, but what Al Davis and the Raiders did was effectively inflate the market value of a shutdown corner.

It’s Economics 101.

Compared to other positions, a corner, no matter how good, probably isn’t worth $14 million a year, but, the Raiders have set the water mark and now every negotiation will work from that statute. Darrelle Revis and his agents now know that a team is willing to pay $14 million a year for a player similar in style, so he wants that money plus $2 and a bag of sunflower seeds.

But, in reality, two years of close to $30 million in guaranteed money is ludicrous. Especially with a looming lockout next season, almost no other team is willing to put that kind of offer on the table.

So what is there to do? Revis is within his right to hold out. The Jets are within their right not to pay him because he is already under contract. Owner Woody Johnson has already acknowledged his doubts about Revis returning to the field for the 2010 season and the rest of the Jets organization is sticking to the basic rhetoric that, “if he’s here, great, if he’s not, we have the same goal…win a Super Bowl.”

This is what it boils down to: Revis wants his money. The Jets are in no place to offer his the deal he wants, so there is very little light at the end of the tunnel. The two sides have publicly agreed to take discussions behind closed doors, so the next we will hear would probably be an agreement of some sort. But, only time, and some creative bargaining, will tell when that can happen.

Dan Martin

@Dan_MartinWSJU

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