Mike Anderson raises the bar for St. John’s this season

There was conviction in his voice, confidence that this team has the pieces to break through.

A belief that has not been there at this time each of its first three seasons. We talk less about St. John’s needing time to gel and develop its cohesion, more we talk about what it has already shown.

Mike Anderson firmly believes he has a competitor this season. On Thursday, he set expectations with his upbeat tone.

« [This is] probably the most talent I’ve had since I’ve been here, more guys that fit what we’re doing,” the St. John’s coach said during media day inside the Carnesecca arena. “This team here has all the components of some of the best teams I’ve had.

“I’m excited about this team. I can’t wait for this team to come out and show not just this university, but this city — the whole country — what St. John’s is all about.

Anderson called his class of three freshmen in AJ Storr, Kolby King and Mohamed Keita « underappreciated. » He hailed the maturity of juniors Posh Alexander and Dylan Addae-Wusu. He’s been happy to have up to eight players who he considers capable starters, has repeatedly spoken of the comfort of having eight returning players and praised the depth of his program which is a necessity in the fast and pressing style of the Johnnies.

Mike Anderson, St. John’s coach
Jason Szenes

Clearly, Anderson likes this team, as the mix of upper class men and quality newcomers could lead the Johnnies to the NCAA Tournament for the time being since joining in 2019.

« It’s what we expected, for sure, » center Joel Soriano said. “We have the talent this year. We had the talent when I was here last year.

But this did not translate into results, despite high expectations that were not met. The circumstances were very different. A year ago, St. John’s had just three recurring contributors. There was no summer exhibition tour — and the 10 practices that go with it — to build chemistry. This team was one of the few programs in the country not to lose a single player on the transfer portal, although leading scorers Julian Champagnie and Aaron Wheeler leaving for the professional ranks were significant departures. Anderson’s staff added two of the best transfers in the country in Illinois point guard Andre Curbelo and DePaul winger David Jones as projected difference makers.

« This year we have a special group, » said Alexander.

Last winter, St. John’s couldn’t finish close games, dropping 11 games by single digits. The latter, a one-point heartbreaker in the Big East Tournament quarter-finals against eventual champion Villanova, was a bitter pill to swallow. But Anderson hopes all those narrow losses will serve his team well this season.

« We all know what we want to do, » Soriano said. « We know that feeling we had last year, and we don’t want to feel it again. »

Anderson is there with his players. COVID-19 ended his first season at halftime of the Big East Tournament quarter-finals. St. John’s finished fourth in the league the following year, but stubbed its toe late in the season and did not win the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s team couldn’t conclude games.

« Believe me, I love winning and I want to win at the highest level, » Anderson said. « Every year I’ve been here has bothered me. »

Maybe this winter will be different. Anderson certainly sees the potential.


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