Mike Jarvis could hardly contain his smile. While it was apparent that the head coach of the St. Johns University mens basketball team wasnt quite sure what to make of the latest version of the Red Storm, it was just as clear that the first official day of practice was a welcome relief.
The 2001-2002 Johnnies took the floor before a smattering of students and media Saturday at Alumni Hall with no blue-chip stars on the floor, no Omar Cook, Ron Artest or Lavor Postell. This is a team Jarvis will try to mold into a winner after a disappointing season last year.
If the young men werent enthusiastic today then my impressions would be its probably time to find a new occupation or maybe get sick for the reason, Jarvis said. I was very pleased with the condition they were in to start practice. They worked very hard this fall. I think right now obviously they are full of life and enthusiasm and hopefully we can maintain that and, if we do, we will have a pretty good team.
The whole day had a blue collar feel to it, exemplified best by senior Anthony Glover, who has clearly become the team leader. A 6-foot-6 low-post presence, Glover has made a living by overachieving.
With the loss of Cook, who signed a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets earlier this month, St. Johns has been forced to make some adjustments to its backcourt. Instead of Cook looking to dish to a hot new prospect, a hot new prospect has been given the offensive reins.
Marcus Hatten, a junior college transfer out of Tallahassee Community College, is the player Jarvis expects to run his team this year, the coach said. And, judging by his performance Saturday, Hatten seems comfortable in the role.
Marcus Hatten should emerge as the point guard of this team, the coach said. He already knows how to work, theres no question about that. He has the chance of being a very, very special player.
Jarvis balked at drawing similarities between Hatten and Cook, who, while leading the Big East in assists as a freshman, struggled in his perimeter shooting game.
I hope hes this years Marcus Hatten for me Jarvis said. Hes a different player. One thing Im not going to even think of doing is comparing the two guys.
Hatten was a National Junior College Athletic Association first-team All-American with Tallahassee, averaging 24.1 points, 5 rebounds and 3.6 steals as the Eagles finished 29-2 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Though originally brought in to compliment Cook in the backcourt as the starting two-guard, Hattens transition to the No. 1 spot seems to be going smoothly.
I think right now, he wants to learn, Jarvis said. Hes like a sponge. He comes with the right attitude. I think with him I have to make sure he and I are in perfect synergy. I want him to really, really understand how important it is for him to make good decisions and take good care of the ball. He is such an excellent offensive player, thats going to take care of itself.
Most the of day focused of drills, with the team broken down into small groups small, middle and big before the entire 17-player roster (sans 7-foot-4 Curtis Johnson, who spent most of his day an exercise bike) played a heated scrimmage.
One squad featured Hatten, Glover, Willie Shaw, Alpha Bangura and Mohammed Diakite, all of whom, Jarvis said, could well be starters for the Storm this season. But Jarvis would not commit to his starting line-up as his team prepares to opens its exhibition schedule Nov. 10 against the Harlem Globetrotters.
My message today is, Lets begin, Jarvis said. You begin putting the building blocks together. You begin to develop an attitude,. You begin to develop a work ethic. You begin to learn how important it is to practice with intensity. You begin to do the things that are going to help you win games.
Also returning to the Red Storm this year are Kyle Cuffe, Donald Emanuel, Sharif Fordham and Abe Keita. Some new faces expected to make an impact are Amityvilles Tristan Smith, who will back-up Hatten at the point, and Lincoln High Schools Eric King, who will fight for playing time at the No. 4 spot.
Jarvis also had a bevy of walk-ons work out with the team. This included the returning Jon Scheiman and Christian Diaz, and new faces Andre Stanley, Danny Boualn and Chris Duckrei, a transfer from Fordham.
The new kids are nice basketball players, the coach said. I feel very confident that Tristan Smith is going to develop into a real nice player. And I think Eric King is very, very talented. You take [Hatten, Smith and King] and you add them onto a whole lot of people that got a lot of experience last year and experienced some tough times.
Last years team finished 14-15 and out of postseason play for the first time in four years. It was the first losing season of Jarvis college coaching career, but as on all first days, optimism abounded among the players.
We got a lot of guys coming back, we got some fresh guys here, Glover said. I feel pretty good about it. Everybody wants to work hard day in and day out. I think we can [contend in the Big East].
Shaw added: It was a great day for us. I think everybody worked hard. Everybodys hyped to have a better year.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2001 Community News Group
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