Inside Scoop: Students Worried About St. John’s Basketball

Last week, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin announced that incoming freshmen Amir Garrett, Norvel Pelle and Jakarr Sampson will be unable to play during this fall semester. After losing 10 seniors from last year’s squad, this news serves as a major hit to St. John’s Basketball. With Malik Stith being the only returning player from last year, Coach Lavin was planning on building a brand-new system compiled of young talent.

“We will continue to work with the NCAA in an effort to review Amir, Norvel and Jakarr’s cases regarding their eligibility,” said Lavin in a statement. “Our student-athletes and their families have been patient and cooperative throughout this review process. We are hopeful that Amir, Norvel and Jakarr will be able to join us on the court this winter, and in the classroom when the 2012 spring semester begins.”

Spirits haven’t been too high about the basketball program around campus lately, mainly because the Johnnies don’t have any returning familiar faces. However, Red Storm fans had faith in their incoming freshman class, which was rated the third best in the nation. Now with Garrett, Pelle and Sampson out for the first 10 games, feelings are even more skeptical than they were beforehand. Even when they are able to return, it’s hard to believe that they will have an immediate impact. Not only does this hold back the team’s success this season, it could slightly damage Lavin’s reputation as a recruiting genius.

“The NCAA Eligibility Center informed us this afternoon that after a review, these three PSAs cannot qualify at this time,” said Director of Athletics Chris Monasch. “The University has been proactive and diligent in assisting in the reviews for each of our incoming men’s basketball student-athletes. We will continue to review what avenues the student-athletes may have to achieve their initial eligibility.”

Being a student at St. John’s, this news doesn’t serve as much of a surprise. Things have been noticeably different this year regarding the basketball program, as it would at any school losing 10 seniors and bringing in nine new players. Normally, the basketball team would be making appearances at every event on campus, out mingling with the fellow students on the strip, and even playing pickup in Taffner every now and then; but this year, that hasn’t been the case.

Members of the basketball program at our school are notorious for making appearances at the beginning of the year, but this year they have been maintaining a pretty low profile, which is very unusual. The vibe on campus right now is very new, and after the news leaked that three of our best guys won’t be able to suit up until the spring, the air got pretty thick.

Last week, I had two Sport Management classes and there are players and managers in the both of them. When our professor asked them how they felt about the news in class, they each declined to comment on the situation, sparking an awkward silence. After I got out, I took a trip to the basketball office in Carnesecca Arena to see if I could catch up with one of the coaches to get some more insight on what was going on, but it was almost impossible. I even ran into some of my friends who are managers and even they seemed like they were holding back from talking about it.

Coach Lavin is faced with a bit of an obstacle now. Things haven’t turned out as smoothly as he had planned, and now he’s going to have to do his best to try and pick up the spirits of the St. John’s Basketball fan base. Hopefully he’ll make it look as easy as he did last season.

What do you think will happen?

Follow Jaimie on Twitter at @SubZEROxPaste.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.