The St. John's University men's basketball program begins its 2011-12 campaign Monday night as the Red Storm host William and Mary in the opening-round of the 2K Sports Classic at Carnesecca Arena in Queens (7 p.m. on ESPNU). The opener is an anticipated one as St. John's, which will be playing without head coach Steve Lavin, who is home resting from successful surgery Oct. 6 to treat prostate cancer, will suit up six new scholarship players who will play in a seven-man rotation that features just one returner from last year, junior guard Malik Stith.
During the offseason, Lavin replaced 10 departing seniors with nine new players -- three of the newcomers: five-star recruit Norvell Pelle, and four-star recruits JaKarr Sampson and Amir Garrett will not be eligible until the Spring semester -- a group considered to be the best recruiting class in the history of the program. The newcomers feature six top-100 recruits that helped the class earn a top-five national ranking.
The Johnnies' projected starting lineup will feature God's Gift Achiuwa (6-foot-9, 240 pounds) a junior forward, who last season earned first-team Junior College All-America honors at Erie Community College. Also, projected to start is freshman guard D'Angelo Harrison (6-3, 186), who's one of Lavin's five four-star recruits, and sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey (6-3, 185), who a few years ago averaged 38 points per game at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Stith (5-11, 184), who played in 26 games last season, is expected to bring veteran experience to the starting five, which should also showcase freshman guard/forward Moe Harkeess (6-8, 208), who was rated as high as the nation's No. 38 prospect overall and the No. 10 small forward by recruiting services.
Look for freshmen Sir'Dominic Pointer (6-6, 205) and Phil Greene (6-2, 170) to provide a spark off the bench.
William and Marr, from the Colonial Athletic Conference, has not played St. John's in 52 years.
-- For more on St. John's basketball, check out SB Nation's Red Storm blog Rumble In The Garden.