By David Cordova
Last season was very rough for all of America and also teams in college basketball, as well, since there was either limited or no entry into games, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some venues, the only way to feel like there was an atmosphere with fans was with sound effects playing throughout gyms and arenas.
It’s November now, and last night was the start of a comeback for the nation, as fans are able to venture out into college arenas to check out their beloved programs, with provisions that they have their vaccination cards and ID’s in selected states.
Carnesecca Arena was rocking last night from pre-game warmups until the end of the game, as more than 5,000 roaring fans came out to support the St. John’s Red Storm, as they dominated against their opponent, Mississippi Valley State, 119-61, for their first win of the season. The on-campus vibe was felt by many with the score of every basket, every defensive play made and also every dunk that was thrown down. With their dominance, it was their highest single-game point total against a team in 31 years.
“It makes a big difference. The adrenaline gets going,” said St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson when asked about having fans in the stands after more than a year without having spectators. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the gym and had fans. I first want to shout out our fans that showed up here tonight. There was energy in the building and I thought it got our guys off to a really good start.”
In this game, first-team All-Big East selection and junior forward Julian Champagnie had 20 points, sophomore guard and reigning Big East Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Posh Alexander, scored 18 points and had seven assists and three steals. Joel Soriano, a transfer from Fordham, had a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds, freshman forward, O’Mar Stanley had 14 points and six rebounds. Rutgers transfer Montez Mathis chipped in with 11 points, while Hofstra transfer Tareq Coburn also added 13 points.
“It was a great atmosphere. We had a lot of fans come out to support us. Thank you to the St. John’s community. … I’m blessed to have this opportunity to play for such a great program and extend my basketball career another year,” said Coburn. “ I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for my classmates in my physician’s assistant [graduate] program. There were around 100 students from my program there supporting at the game, so shout out to them too. I’m just happy to be a part of St. John’s.”
The depth of the Red Storm will carry them through their non-conference schedule as they have tune-ups schools such as NJIT, St. Peter’s, St. Francis, Colgate, Monmouth, FDU and Fordham coming up. However, there are three major non-conference games for the Red Storm to look forward to.
The first of these big matchups is against Indiana on the road on Nov. 17th as part of the Gavitt Games, a matchup between teams in the Big East and the Big Ten. The second major matchup will be against Big 12 powerhouse, Kansas, on Dec. 3rd, at the new UBS Arena in Elmont, Long Island, which will make it the first college basketball game to be played at the venue. To close out the non-conference schedule, the Red Storm will be playing against Pittsburgh on Dec. 18th at Madison Square Garden, as part of the Gotham Classic doubleheader, which also includes metropolitan area schools, such as Iona and Seton Hall, whom they open up their Big East schedule against across the bridge at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Dec. 20th.
With the talent they’ve assembled, there’s no reason that the Red Storm can’t go far. With the addition of Soriano, Mathis, Coburn, Stanley, Purdue transfer Aaron Wheeler and freshmen Andres Pinzon and Drissa Traore, St. John’s has one of the deepest teams in the Big East.
“We have potential. We have some guys that can do some things that we hadn’t been able to do,” said Anderson. “I like how we rebounded the basketball tonight. We have some guys that are older guys. They’re figuring out their roles with our basketball team.”
Although it’s still November, there’s plenty of things that can happen for the Red Storm, but for now, all we can be is optimistic, as it is only the third year of the Mike Anderson experience.