Excuse me if I sound a bit ignorant, as I am in fact the College Sports Writer for SB Nation New York, but what the heck is going on with St. John's University men's basketball recruiting? No, nothing bad or illegal is going on, but it seems that nobody wants to play for the Red Storm or head coach Steve Lavin anymore, and it's a bit perplexing.
On Thursday, sophomore point guard Nurideen Lindsey, who in nine games has played an average of 29.9 minutes, netted 11.9 points and dished out 2.9 assists per game, decided that he's going to transfer. Entering the season, Lindsey was a solid JUCO recruit from Oklahoma, who was supposde to be a decent replacement for last year's starting point guard and star, Dwight Hardy. Early in the season, Lindsey burst onto the scene netting 19 points in his first collegiate with the Johnnies, Nov. 7 against William and Mary, but since then has struggled and decided that another school was his best option.
"Just want all of you to know this was an extremely hard decision to make," said Lindsey via his Twitter account Thursday. "But ultimately I felt as though the decision was best for me and my family. I love St. John’s! And will continue to support Red Storm Nation and family."
However, Lindsey hasn't been the only recent recruit to change his mind about coming to St. John's, which entered the season with the third-ranked recruiting class in the nation. In September, three of Lavin's top recruits -- JaKarr Sampson, ranked 35th in ESPN's Top 100 recruitment rankings for the class of 2011, Norvel Pelle, ranked 77th, and Amir Garrett, ranked 30th for the class of 2012 -- were declared academically ineligible for the fall semester. Because of that ruling, both Sampson and Pelle had time to think about attending St. John's and have officially decommitted.
I must admit, I only learned of these decommitments after the news of Lindsey's plans to transfer and while having a quick Twitter conversation with Pico Dulce, the manager of SB Nation's St. John's basketball blog Rumble In The Garden, Wednesday. In my defense, with all the Big East football expansion talks and the Syracuse basketball scandal involving former assistant coach Bernie Fine, my mind has been someplace other than St. John's basketball. Hopefully, Red Storm fans can forgive me for being out of the loop.
But, my question is what happened from the summer to Wednesday to make these recruits reconsider attending St. John's?
"Many of these guys were available because schools backed off of them once they caught a whiff of their transcripts, honestly," said Dulce in an e-mail response. "Lavin took some risks to get a banner class, hoping they could get some of them through; St. John's isn't going to attract the same eligible talent that other programs will until the school is established as a solid destination."
Dulce said, other reasons for a lot of these decommitments were: players became homesick after attending prep school (Pelle), concerns about the Big East's stability (Gathers) or loving the spotlight of being recruited again (Sampson).
Currently, St. John' is 4-5 overall, including losses in three of its last five games and one of those was a 81-59 drubbing to the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the University of Kentucky, Dec. 1, on national television. It looks like the Red Storm will go from playing in March to staying home in March.
Now, it would have been an unfair assumption to think that the Johnnies' were going to have a year like last season -- wins over four top-10 opponents and their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002 -- after losing 10 players and having their head coach miss time on the sidelines because of prostate cancer surgery. In fact, the Red Storm were predicted to finish 12th in the 16-team Big East Conference, but despite the low expectations there was a lot of hope for the future. However, it looks like, at least for now, that the future will not be as bright.
"...Fans expected bigger wins from an entirely new squad of highly-touted recruits," wrote Dulce Thursday. "Steve Lavin will return, and the rebuilding process continues. The long-run process of revitalizing the St. John's program requires patience."
"But in the short term, the team is left thin and wounded, with Big East play looming in a couple of weeks. A difficult season becomes even harder."