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“I’m going to take it all the way to New York and play for St. John’s,” Harrison said as he donned a “I Love NY” hat on his head and that seals the deal for another top recruit coming to St. Johns and joining Lavin’s “Ark”.

The 6’3″ guard from Missouri City, Texas chose The Red Storm over Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Big East Rival Marquette.

Harrison joins Maurice Harkless and JaKarr Sampson as the third recruit to join the 2011 St. John’s recruiting list in the past two months. Coach Lavin had an in-home visit with D’Angelo Harrison in Texas on Tuesday.

“Coach Lavin is a very straight up guy and he had a plan for how I would fit. Plus, he told me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear,” said Harrison.

Harrison is one of the best shooting guards in the country scoring 20.9 points during his 2009 high school season at John Foster Dulles High. The 44th ranked player in the 2011 recruiting class is a lethal from the perimeter and explosion off the dribble. Not only can he shoot and take the ball to the rim aggressively, he can also come off and fight through screens something that opens Lavin’s play book even more.

In this high tempo offense that Lavin seems to be putting together, Harrison will cause a lot of match up problems for defenses who have to worry about the lanky slashers in Harkless and Sampson and now Harrison around the arc waiting to rain threes.

Don’t look now folks but St. Johns is now #9 in the Class of 2011 Team Basketball Recruiting Rankings and seemly ready to add even more talent very soon. Nurideen Lindsey could be the next to join the back court with Harrison as well as the big man out of Long Beach, California, Norvel Pelle.

The storm is coming. Can you feel it?

-Tim Dimas

@TimmyD_WSJU

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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 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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After six long, strenuous, and at times, very painful years under Norm Roberts, St. John’s basketball finally seems to be back on the right, winning track that you would expect from a program with such a rich history.

Let me preface all of this by saying that Norm Roberts is a great man, one who took the Red Storm from embarrassment and shame back to respectability. I have talked to him in press conferences and personally and he is everything you could ask for in a class guy. He did exactly what he was brought here to do–get this program back to even keel after the scandal that nearly sank the entire ship. His job was to recruit not only quality players, but quality kids, that would represent St. John’s on and off the court. He did that.

With all of this said, the six years under Norm Roberts seemed quite a bit like a romantic relationship, full of ups, downs, and in-betweens.

It began with a honeymoon, promise of brighter days in the future, a rich recruiting center in New York City, and a guy who had New York ties to cultivate the fruits of NYC basketball.

But, as the losses mounted, the excuses did too. He didn’t have the players yet. They hadn’t developed yet. And that all culminated this year. His boys had finally grown into juniors, matured, and ready to make a run in the weakened Big East. Result? A season that limped to a 17-16 finish and a first round exit in the NIT.

The last year of the Norm Roberts era encapsulated everything that the relationship had been. It had the “I Love You”‘s: a 9-1 start, beating Temple and Siena on neutral ground and almost beating Duke at Cameron Indoor. It had the “I Can’t Stand You”‘s: going 6-12 in the Big East, many times leading at halftime and losing that lead in the second half.

Those losses felt like setting up a dinner date, hyping it the whole day, and getting stood up, left to drink at the lonely bar until you finally give up and go home. And then it happened again. And again. And again.

Then, finally, St. John’s said “enough” and parted ways with Norm. As is just standard operating procedure, they played the “it’s not you, it’s me” card, but it’s clear they had their eye on bigger prizes.

Pursuing Billy Donovan of Florida, Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech, and others, all seemed gloomy. Some began to miss Norm after two weeks of being “single”, but St. John’s continued to pursue and pursue.

And then, out of the woodwork, came the glamourous, Hollywood guy with the slick look and sweet talk that swept them off their feet. Steve Lavin, former UCLA coach and ESPN broadcaster, conveniently had a desire to coach again. It was like the one you’d had a crush on for years was finally single when you were. St. John’s fell in love at first sight and Lavin did as well. It seemed to be a match made in heaven.

And thus far, it has been nothing short of heaven. After forward Ron Roberts decommitted, Lavin jumped in and signed highly-touted recruit Dwayne Polee Jr. and is, according to SNY’s Adam Zagoria, the front runner for French-born and supremely-talented forward Remi Barry.

For the skeptics who point to Lavin’s tumultuous career at UCLA with questions, there is one thing you must understand. The expectations for any basketball coach at UCLA are absolutely ludicrous. It is one of those jobs, like coaching the Lakers or managing the Yankees, that carries so much weight that, one bad season, and you’re done. Anywhere else, he would have been regarded for the fantastic coach that he is.

He took the Bruins to six NCAA tournaments in seven years, including four Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight. How does that compare to Norm Robert’s track record of one NIT in six years?

The other question was recruiting. After all the time he spent at ESPN, would recruits still look at him as a coach? Well, it seems to me that, if anything, ESPN has amplified his star power. It only took five weeks and he has already nailed down a three star prospect and is in the running for another kid, Barry, who is said to be NBA-ready in two years.

Seems to me to be a closed case.

Some ask, will he be able to recruit in New York? I can answer that one of two ways, a hypothetical and a concrete way. 1) If his recruits win ballgames, does it really matter where they come from? And 2) The network of coaches and assistants he is bringing in, Tony Chiles from Drexel and Moe Hicks from famed Rice High School and a legend on the AAU circuit, will instantly make SJU a contender with UConn and other Tri-state area schools, I assure you.

So what does this mean? It seems St. John’s has left good-charactered but unreliable Norm Roberts for the sleeker, glitzier Steve Lavin. There is very little doubt to me that this is an upgrade and, when St. John’s travels to Los Angeles in February to take on the Bruins, UCLA will look at their Ex and remember exactly what they let go.

-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.

-Tim

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This is the official blog of Dan ‘The Funny Man’ Martin and Tim ‘The Greek’ Dimas, Sports Directors of WSJU Radio, the home of everything St. Johns. We hold weekly shows on www.wsjuradio.org/listenlive talking about everything sports. Here in the New York market, we cover all the locals: Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, as well as take you around the country and around the world, covering everything in the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL, and, of course, all things Red Storm. We are the official student home of St. John’s Sports, including full coverage of Men’s Basketball LIVE from Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena as well as road dates that have included Rutgers, Duke, and, new this year, UCLA. This blog is designed to invite people to read our thoughts and share theirs. ESPN may have the name but we have the passion that is needed to succeed. Join our journey and follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/WSJUSports for all your breaking news in sports.

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