St. John’s Red Storm coach Steve Lavin realizes he has a young team. “The youngest in the history of the school,” he said.
So to help his young team prepare for the upcoming season Lavin instituted an accelerated program he calls “College Basketball 101.”
The Red Storm plays mock games. Not just five-on-five drills with someone keeping score. No, Lavin goes all out. He brings in officials, makes the team dress in game-day uniforms and runs the scoreboard.
“We are trying to figure out ways, when you have the youngest team in the country, the youngest team in St. John’s history, to accelerate the learning curve,” said Lavin. “How do we get them ready to be in a place where we can be competitive?”
Lavin brought six new recruits onto a team loaded with sophomores, including Big East Conference All-Rookie team member D’Angelo Harrison, who averaged 17 points per game. But with so many new players, including a couple of junior college transfers, Lavin wanted to put this talent to the test before the Nov. 13 season opener.
“We thought putting on uniforms, bringing in officials, turning on the scoreboard and trying to simulate—like a dress rehearsal—all the conditions of a game, it would help them become familiar with the whole process, what it takes to win,” he said. “We’re pleased with what it’s done for our squad.”
Legendary coach Gene Keady, a special assistant and adviser to the Red Storm, said defensively he’s already seen the impact the mock games have had on this young squad.
“They are getting better every day. They are learning all the ends and outs of playing defense, seeing the ball, jumping to the ball,” Keady said. “We have referees every day. We have 20-minute halves. We do a lot of stopping of course to teach and communicate about what we can do better.”
Lavin said how quickly the team matures will determine whether they have a successful season. “The number one factor, of whether we are successful, whether we do something special come March… will come down to the maturity,” said Lavin. “So we’re trying to give them a crash course on college basketball: college basketball 101. And there’s no better place to learn than the Big East.”
Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball. Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa