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Jarvis has high hopes for SJU Red Storm

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Marcus Hatten is a shoot-first point guard, a floor general who is more apt to look for his own shot first before opting to dish to a teammate.

And Mike Jarvis is happy about it.

The head coach of the St. John’s Red Storm said that for his new star to do anything else would only be a detriment to the team. It may not be basketball at its traditional best, but it is a formula Jarvis is hoping will work.

“He is a shoot-first point guard,” said the coach, entering his fourth year at the helm of the Red Storm. “That’s what I want, that’s what I better get. For us to be successful, he needs to do what he does best.

“I am very fundamental,” he added. “I like to hope that I also use good common sense. The job of a coach is to get his team to win. He’s got to get his players to do what they do best.”

Hatten put that mentality on display this past Saturday when St. John’s played its first exhibition game of the season against the Harlem Globetrotters at Madison Square Garden. The 6-foot-2 junior guard in his first year with the team put up 24 shots and scored a game-high 27 points in the 75-69 loss. He also grabbed seven boards, but dished out just three assists.

As a whole the team shot just a shade over 35 percent for the game, but showed enough to have Jarvis and many Red Storm faithful optimistic about the 2001-2002 season.

“Not bad....about what I hoped for for the first day out,” Jarvis said of his team’s effort against the Trotters, a team that featured several former NBA players and a bevy of former collegiate standouts. “We had a chance to win, which is what I was hoping for. I thought we were in very good condition for this time of year.”

“I think we have a lot of room for improvement,” he added. “It’s all positive. I’m going to find something positive out of anything. We potentially are a very good team.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was not Hatten’s high-shot selection — the junior college transfer is really a converted two-guard — but the selection by Jarvis to go with junior Abe Keita as his starting center.

Keita, who rode the pine most of last season, was picked in favor of senior Donald Emanuel and sophomore Mohammed Diakite. Both Emanuel and Diakite seemed to have an edge on playing time heading into the season, but Jarvis “rewarded” Keita with the start for his hard work in practice.

“He earned it,” Jarvis said. “He’s been working hard, playing great defense, really making it difficult for other teams to work around the basket.

“I think it was more a matter of Abe getting confident enough,” the coach added. “Now he’s confident. And that’s really what he was lacking. That’s what Mohammed needs, but doesn’t have yet.”

Keita’s athletic build and aggressive play on the defensive will only serve to help St. John’s come conference time. The Red Storm brain trust hasn’t set on a starting line-up for this week’s season-opener with Stony Brook, but some things seem a lock.

With Hatten at the point, sophomore shooter Willie Shaw will likely be the team’s two-guard most of the season. The No. 3 guard or small forward position seems up for grabs. Alpha Bangura started against the Trotters, but played on 18 minutes, scoring seven points with five rebounds.

Sharif Fordham, a defensive specialist, will certainly jockey for time at the slot.

Senior Anthony Glover is a lock in the No. 4 position and will get help from newcomer Eric King and second-year man Kyle Cuffe, all of who might be worked into the rotation simultaneously. King, out of Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School, was impressive in his first outing, scoring five point, including a thunderous putback slam off a Hatten miss.

That the team is deep up front this season means Jarvis can afford King the luxury of learning without throwing him to the wolves.

“He’s a very talented young man,” Jarvis said. “Unlike a year ago, we don’t have to play him. He can get more comfortable.”

Shaw will also likely benefit from the presence of Hatten and the point-guard’s shoot-first mentality. Shaw was the team’s No. 1 option last year who largely disappeared after some early-season sparks and played in the shadow of Omar Cook.

Cook left St. John’s as his freshman season a year ago for the NBA. He was cut by the Denver Nuggets prior to the start of the season.

“We put him in an awful position a year ago,” Jarvis said of Shaw. “[This year he has] the role that he should have been in a year ago. They’ll still be plenty of shots for him.”

Also key to this team will be freshman Tristan Smith, who will back-up Hatten at the point and occasionally share time with him in the backcourt. The Amityville product played well in limited duty this past weekend and will likely see his minutes grow as the season progresses.

All in all, Jarvis seems pleased with his team’s progress thus far and, despite the team’s 14-15 record a season ago, does not expect anyone to take the Red Storm lightly.

“I like this team a lot,” he said. “I think this team is going to keep getting better and better. I feel very good about this team. No one’s looking past St. John’s.”

The Red Storm will host Stony Brook Saturday at 7: 30 p.m. at Alumni Hall before traveling to take part in the Great Alaska Shootout next week.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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