St. John’s first big time New York City recruit under Steve Lavin, forward Maurice Harkless (above).

Silky smooth Steve Lavin, panned by many for how it ended for him in Westwood, despite 6 NCAA tournament bids out of 7, and a championship ring under Jim Harrick as an assistant, has acted quickly to make St. John’s basketball program, long flagging, relevant again.  On the quick.  Lavin, who showed his trademark poise and polish in ESPN’s television booth in the time since his UCLA ouster, has unilaterally impressed current players, potential players, and staff with his vision for the program–a sleeping giant on the NCAA landscape.

Lavin, who pounced on former Golden State Warrior and assistant coach Rico Hines, and Tony Chiles (Drexel), immediately adding the proven California and Philadelphia recruiters to his staff, worked a bit more deliberately to add legendary Rice HS (Queens) coach Maurice Hicks as director of basketball operations and lead assistant.  Hicks led Rice to substantial glory, claiming 5 state and 6 city titles, while losing only 86 games in 16 seasons.  Hicks is very well connected within NYC and represents a vast recruiting resource.  In our estimation, Hicks will be the best local recruiter for St. John’s since Fran Fraschilla, and makes St. John’s a serious player for every blue chipper in the city.

Lavin’s first major recruiting coup for the Jhonnies came in from his old backyard, snagging long, athletic Los Angeles prep star Dwayne Polee Jr., one of the few remaining blue chip talents in the 2010 recruiting class.  Polee will figure prominently into St. John’s on court plans this season.

Lavin hopes to land electric Sacramento star Remi Barry, who called his summer visit to the Queens campus “amazing.”  The coach is out west this week with 7 scholarships to give in the 2011-2012 class, and has already signed city product, 6’7 Maurice Harkless, 6’8 Ohio product Jakarr Sampson, and 6’3 shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison of Houston, Texas.  Harrison, considered a top 20 guard prospect by most analysts, is expected to give St. John’s its most legitimate backcourt scoring threat next year.

Big time success in 2011-2012 will depend on St. John’s ability to sign a top flight point guard.  But we aren’t worried about it.  After St. John’s made an initial mess out of the coaching search by striking out with big names such as Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt, they hit an unexpectec home run with the Lavin hire, whom we have full confidence in.

Steve Lavin, in a long anticipated move, announced a most impressive addition to the St. John’s staff yesterday–5 time national coach of the year and former Purdue coach Gene Keady.  Keady comes on as a special assistant and consultant/advisor to Lavin.  The hire is an important reflection on Lavin’s character.  He created a prominent role at St. John’s for Keady, the man who gave Lavin his start in coaching, and was able to convince the legend to accept the post and relocate to New York.

Very well done.  Our money is on Lavin to land a one and a quality pivot for St. John’s and for the basketball program to take center stage in the Big East, Especially in light of UConn’s recent troubles running a clean program.


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