Jamal Branch Possibly the Answer For the St. John’s Red Storm
The St. John’s Red Storm have had a wildly inconsistent season, easily explainable because of their youth. Another reason for the Johnnies up and down season is the isolation offense that head coach Steve Lavin seems dead set on continuing to run. I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons as to why Lavin is relying on that offense, despite not having the talent to do so, but in their win against the mighty DePaul Blue Demons a possible secret was discovered, Jamal Branch might be the Red Storm’s best bet to play point guard full-time.
Branch, who missed all but one of the non-conference schedule games, is becoming a fixture in the St. John’s rotation. Since joining the team when the world was supposed to end, December 21st, Branch is averaging 9.5 points and 2.5 assists per game. However, over the last three games Branch has stepped it up, scoring over 16 twice while shooting over 60 percent from the floor.
What Branch is bringing to the table is something Red Storm faithful expected Phil Greene to, stability. Even though Branch’s numbers don’t scream prototypical point guard, averaging less than three dimes a game, it’s his ability to control the offensive tempo that’s so vital to the long-term success of the Johnnies.
A worry for Lavin and the Red Storm has been when D’Angelo Harrison doesn’t have the ball the offense goes stagnant. Over-dribbling, isolation offense(true even when Harrison has it), and horrible shot selection has been the norm for the better part of the St. John’s season. However, Branch is bringing this calming influence to the offense by taking smart shots, moving the ball, and using the dribble to matter(like you know, make an actual basketball move to the basket).
I expect Branch’s minutes on the court to go way up while Greene’s start to dwindle. That’s not to say Greene will be a lost cog in the Johnnies’ wheel, but Branch is clearly becoming a better option at the point. The only question now for the Red Storm, is it too late?
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone