The St. John’s Red Storm came into this season hoping for a player to step up and be their number two scoring option behind D’Angelo Harrison. Most people thought it would be one of their much heralded incoming freshmen. Well, it just so happens that it wasn’t one of head coach Steve Lavin’s top notch freshman, but instead sophomore guard Phil Greene IV.
Greene was not a horrible player last year in any way, shape or form. However, as a freshman, Greene was much more of a defensive specialist and his only offensive moves were going strong to the basket. Last season, Greene averaged 7.8 points per game while shooting .367 percent from the floor. Those numbers pale in comparison to this year’s 13.8 points per while shooting .456 from the floor.
While Greene is still one of the best defenders on the Johnnies roster, it’s his completely different style of play that has the Red Storm fan base excited. Last season, whenever Greene wanted to make an offensive impact on the game, the only thing he had in his arsenal of moves was driving hard to the basket. Not only is Greene attempting more shots this year, 8.5 fga per game last year to 13.2 this year, he has taken and hit more mid-range jump shots.
His ability to hit down these jumpers comes as a huge surprise, as many “experts” felt that was a part of Greene’s game that would never manifest itself as his most important offensive weapon.
Another part of his Greene’s game is his ball handling abilities. St. John’s had no player locked in as their designated point guard coming into the season. It was expected that a slew of different Johnnies would essentially take turns bringing the ball up the court and be more of a position-less back court. In turn, if the Red Storm’s best player Harrison, was put in a position to handle the ball on a continued basis, it would take away from the team’s ability to score more efficiently. Thankfully for the Red Storm, Greene has become a reliable ball handler and one the type of player in which Lavin relies on heavily to start and create offense.
St. John’s as a team is still mysterious. Young, athletic, unproven, who knows what is going to happen throughout the rest of this young season. Those were the same feelings I had for Greene at the start of the season and I still feel like I don’t know what kind of player he’s going to turn out to be.
But here is what we knew about Greene coming into this season. Athletic, above-average defensive player and a strong ability to get to the basket while avoiding contact (doesn’t draw a lot of fouls). Write down those attributes in stone, those parts of Greene’s game won’t change. Yet, the new Greene has looked like he added the ability to handle the rock and make some jumpers with pretty good efficiency.
The potential type of player the Red Storm have in Greene is scary if you stop to think about it. A defensive stopper who can get to the basket and knock down jumpers at a solid rate. A player who has shown the ability to improve with every game and is still nationally under the radar.
That player profile if read to any collegiate coach would make them either a coach’s dream (if he was on their team) or a nightmare (if it was the opposition’s best player). Except, the funny thing about Greene is nobody wants or needs him to be the Red Storm’s best player or even their second (JaKarr Sampson stepping up).
Greene will continuously be overlooked and under scouted by coaches game planning against the Red Storm. This will only help grow his game and help the team be better because of it. Greene is slowly becoming(if not already) one of the most improved players in the nation and the proof is in his game becoming more well-rounded.
Not bad for St. John’s third or fourth best player. Potential seems to be the keyword for the Johnnies all season, and while the 4-2 record to the start this season isn’t as indicative as it looks, Greene’s play just might be.
Joe covers the Big East for Rant Sports while dabbling in the NBA from time to time. Follow him on the Twitter device @JosephNardone