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Picture uploaded by Mason Jr.'s friend and current St. Johns Center Sean Evans (@shizzy5)

Former St. Johns Red Storm star forward Anthony Mason Jr. has “taken his talents to South Beach” after reaching an agreement with the Miami Heat yesterday.

Tweet from the Official Miami Heat Twitter account announcing the news.

Mason Jr. attended and played for St. Johns University for the past 5 years. In 99 career games in which he started 86 of them he averaged 10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assist. Mason Jr. is the son of NBA great Anthony Mason.

Anthony is right at home in Florida, where he was born, but still has to make the final cut October 15 but has made a lot of people at the University very proud by getting the invite to join a team that is loaded with all-stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The WSJU guys would like to wish Anthony a great deal of success in Miami and will keep everyone updated on his status throughout the season.

-Tim Dimas



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Jakarr Sampson, the highly touted 6’8″ swingman from Akron, Ohio, has given his commitment to Steve Lavin to wear Johnnies red and white in 2011.

Attending St. Vincent-St.Mary’s (OH) (LeBron James’ alma mater) for his first three years of high school, Sampson is spending this season at Brewster Academy (NH) before heading to Queens next season. He announced his decision on ESPNU, choosing St. John’s over Louisville and Tennessee. That means, for the first time in recent memory, St. John’s stepped into the ring with recruiting giants Rick Pitino and Bruce Pearl and came out with their man.

Sampson is a consensus Top 50 player by experts across the country and is considered by some, including ESPN Insider Recruiting, to be in the Top 25. There is no doubt that a new era is dawning in St. John’s basketball. Just a few weeks ago, when Forest Hills High (NY) forward Maurice Harkless committed to SJU, talk was that the Red Storm had landed their biggest recruit in a decade. Now, with Sampson on his way, rhetoric is the same. In a matter of weeks, Steve Lavin has managed to outdo himself and, amazingly enough, still has 8 more scholarships to fill for the Class of 2011.

It is now clear the type of player Lavin prefers: the long, slender swingman with athleticism and versatility. His first recruit as St. John’s head coach, current freshman Dwayne Polee Jr. (6’7″, 185lbs), Harkless (6’7, 200lbs), and now Sampson (6’8″, 200lbs) will undoubtedly create big mismatches in the open floor when they all take the court together in 2011.

Scouts point to Sampson’s athleticism as the major catalyst for the rest of his game. Because of his size and length, in combination with his quick first step, he can beat defenders off the dribble and finish above the rim, as well as do work with his back to the basket. On the defensive end, he is regarded as a solid shot blocker and can guard three positions on the floor, thanks to his versatility and natural athleticism. He probably needs to add a considerable amount of muscle to his frame to be more effective at the Division I level, along with polishing his skills under heavy defensive pressure.

And, as mentioned before, the Johnnies are far from done. Eight scholarships remain open and, according to a source, Lavin has eight to ten players on his big board that he has had from the beginning and is confident that he could get a commitment from any of them. Lenn Robbins of the New York Post reports that “sources told The Post that forwards Amir Garrett (No. 51) of California; Dominque Pointer (No. 81) of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and center Norvel Pelle of California, the No. 2 center and No. 19 recruit overall; all could be headed to Queens.”

Perhaps it is true: national recruits are once again seeing red.

-Dan Martin


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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 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 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, 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, “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


Special thanks to for quotes and updates


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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


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Earlier today sources have come out and said that The University of Rutgers are on their way out of the Big East. This is almost a month after star point guard Mike Rosario transfered to Florida and Coach Fred Hill resigning two weeks after being given a vote of confidence that he would return to the school as head coach. Fred Hill got  in trouble with the University when he got in a shouting match with umpires during a baseball game in which his father Fred Hill Sr. coach’s.

No final word has been made on the move but sources are saying it is “likely” that Rutgers would move into the Big 10. Big 10 already consists of Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Big 10 commissioner has denied these reports but nothing is for certain.


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