If you thought the concept of competitive basketball was to play your best players so you stand the best chance of winning, maybe you should start thinking otherwise. I mean, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin’s a pretty smart guy, so if he thinks having his best player come off the bench is a good idea, shouldn’t we all?
Alright, I’m clearly riffing, but apparently so was D’Angelo Harrison, the Red Storm’s sophomore combo guard and leading scorer from a season ago, who will open the season on the bench for Lavin’s squad. Harrison also came off of the bench in the team’s exhibition opener at home against Division II Sonoma State, and sat for the duration of their last exhibition game against D-III Concordia, reportedly as punishment for unspecified transgressions.
Lavin still expects Harrison to play starter’s minutes when the Red Storm ring in the season at home against Detroit on Tuesday afternoon, and seeing how he hasn’t quite decided on his rotation with transfers Orlando Sanchez and Marc-Antoine Bourgault’s eligibility still in question, Lavin will need as much of his best player as possible.
Despite not being too thrilled with Harrison, Lavin acknowledges that the troubled guard is making progress. “I think the biggest, or most important thing, is just channeling his energy in a productive way,” Lavin told ESPN. “He’s at his best when he’s locked into the task at hand.”
While not being overly happy to have lost his starting spot, Harrison seems to be keeping a positive outlook as well. “If I have to come off the bench the whole year, that’s fine with me, as long as I get to play.” Harrison also expressed an understanding that his attitude needs to improve, and he needs to take on a more mature role now that he’s no longer a freshman.
Lavin commented that the lineup he was going with in the season opener wasn’t necessarily going to be the lineup he’d stay committed to for the season, but that he wanted to see what worked and didn’t work, and try out all the combinations he could try.
We’ve seen sixth men play great roles in basketball, whether it’s James Harden, Kevin McHale or even Don Nelson. Harrison can become a great contributor playing as a non-starter, at least until Lavin gets over this latest misconduct and puts him – again, the team’s best player - back in the lineup.
Either way, Harrison’s confidence doesn’t seem to have taken a hit, as he later added “We are gonna make the (NCAA) tournament. I strongly believe that.”
Welcome back, college basketball.