DePaul Blue Demons at St. John's Redmen – Saturday, February 18, 2006 – 11:00 a.m. CST – Madison Square Garden, New York City
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St. John's coach Norm Roberts on the Blue Demons
"DePaul is a terrific basketball team," said Roberts. "They can score from all five positions on the floor. They've got a lot of versatile players. So, we're really going to have to defend and try to get them out of their comfort zone. We're going to have to try to attack them inside."
As DePaul travels to play at Madison Square Garden against the Red Storm of St. John's, this Saturday February 18th, all Blue Demon players and coaches will be thinking is how can they get back there in March (Big East will only take top 12 teams for its conference tournament)? Well, winning is the first step and St. John's, like DePaul, is fighting tooth and nail to come back and play on their homecourt and they won't make it easy. DePaul is currently in 15th place in the Big East with a 2-9 record (9-13 overall). St. John's is one and a half games ahead at 4-8 (11-12 overall) settling for 13th. Both teams view this game as "must have" if they have any hopes of participating in the Big East tournament.
DePaul's chances improved this week with the unfortunate news that St. John's leading scorer Daryll Hill (12.3 PPG) was lost for the season with a knee injury. Hill was the catalyst that made the Red Storm run. While he struggled a bit this year, he was no doubt a player that head coach Norm Roberts looked to for leadership. "Daryll is going to shut it down for the rest of the season. He tried to do everything he could to be out there for us, but this is what he needs to do right now," said Roberts. "He will still be a big part of this team, at practices and games. We wish he could be out there but we understand."
Don't shed too many tears for St. John's just yet though. Perhaps playing inspired ball in spite of Hill's injury, the Red Storm picked up an impressive road win at Rutgers on Wednesday night, winning 54-51 to pull even with Rutgers in the Big East standings. That win was huge as it puts them a leg up on the potential tie breaker scenarios with another game left with Rutgers at home to end the season on March 5th.
DePaul, in their last effort on Saturday February 11th lost to Villanova in a yet another failed comeback attempt, losing 61-51. DePaul had cut it to three points (from being down 17 at one point in game) with under ten minutes to go but could not draw closer and Villanova showed why they are ranked in the top five in the country.
So, DePaul has had a week off to prepare. What can they expect from St. John's, especially now without Hill?
While St. Johns is young and maturing, they also have another capable upperclassman in 6-10 forward Lamont Hamilton. He was huge in the win at Rutgers with 19 points and 14 rebounds. For the season Hamilton is averaging 11.8 ppg (good for second on the team) and a team leading 6.9 rpg. He is a load to handle down low. Also emerging is a local Chicago face in 6-10 junior Aaron Spears (7.7 ppg and 3 rpg). Remember him? He was the Dunbar product who chose Illinois before transferring to Highland Community College. He came to St. John's after his work at Highland and is becoming more involved in every game. Spears made a key jumper late against Rutgers that essentially earned the Red Storm this win. With that confidence and DePaul's history going up against Chicago guys (and having them have career days!) being what it is, look for Spears to get his. Also providing some punch has been the play of 6-7 freshman Anthony Mason Jr. (yes, son of the ex-NBA player). Mason is averaging 8.5 ppg and giving St. John's fans plenty to talk about. Also the play of sophomore Eugene Lawrence (8.9 ppg and 4.6 apg) is something DePaul must be wary of. He is in ways the engine that makes St. John's run.
This game will be a homecoming of all sorts for plenty of Blue Demons. Most noticeably is Sammy Mejia's homecoming. Mejia calls the Bronx his home. He attended Roosevelt High School before prepping upstate at Storm King. He is DePaul's best option (15.3 ppg) and playing in Madison Square Garden with his family by his side will give Sammy all the adrenaline he needs. It's best if DePaul's Coach Jerry Wainwright lets his team run, since St. John's is without Hill's services. Wainwright should make Sammy available on many isolation moves. Mejia will likely be guarded by the inexperienced Mason or 6-2 sophomore Cedric Jackson who is undersized for Mejia. So getting the ball to Mejia should be a priority.
Also playing key roles are other players making their homecoming, sophomores Karron Clarke (9.9 ppg) and Cliff Clinkscales (3.5 ppg and a team high 60 assists). Clarke is from Brooklyn (Lincoln HS-that is the same as SJU's Lawrence) and Clinkscales is from Queens. Clarke had a great game against Villanova with 14 points and 15 rebounds. He is playing with more passion lately and playing at MSG will only help. Clinkscales, also new to the starting lineup, originally attended the same high school as St. John's head coach Norm Roberts, Springfield Gardens. Also coming home is freshman walk-on Drew Gladstone of Queens as well (Cardozo High School - same as SJU's Daryll Hill and 6-5 senior forward Ryan Williams). Assistant coach Gary DeCesare also cut his coaching teeth in his hometown of Bronx, NY coaching the legendary St. Raymond's program. That school has produced many college stars (Julius Hodge, Allan Ray, and Kareem Reid) and St. John's own 6-5 Freshman Guard Ricky Torres is from there.
Suffice to it say, DePaul will be energized and knowing full well the implications this game has. It holds bragging rights (New York vs. Chicago). It holds very important in trying to make it in to the Big East Tournament. With DePaul just winning one game in it's last nine, it means a lot to its confidence. This may not be Villanova vs. UConn, but don't let the records fool you; this should be an all out basketball war with lots of pride on the line.
St. John's Roster
No. Name Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School/Previous School
0 Nygel Roach SR Guard 6-3 195 North Bergen, N.J./Xavier
1 Jermaine Maybank RS JR Guard 6-4 179 Bronx, N.Y./Bronx Regional/Independence C.C. (Kansas)
2 Anthony Mason Jr. FR Forward 6-7 203 Memphis, Tenn./Fairley
3 Daryll Hill JR Guard 6-0 168 Queens, N.Y./Benjamin N. Cardozo
4 Eugene Lawrence SO Guard 6-1 217 Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln
5 Devin Mayo JR Guard 6-0 158 Upper Marlboro, Md./Clinton Christian
10 Tomas Jasiulionis FR Center 6-11 242 Richmond, Va./Trinity Episcopal
11 Cedric Jackson SO Guard 6-2 195 Columbus, N.J./Northern Burlington
15 Phil Missere SR Forward 6-9 206 Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y./Cornwall Central
22 Ricky Torres FR Guard 6-5 221 Bronx, N.Y./St. Raymond's
23 Ryan Williams SR Forward 6-5 228 Queens, N.Y./Benjamin N. Cardozo/Monroe College
30 Liam Biesty SO Guard 6-0 197 Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep
33 Otoja Abit SO Forward 6-6 180 Woodside, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy
34 Lamont Hamilton JR Forward 6-10 253 Brooklyn, N.Y./North Bridgton Academy (Maine)
40 Aaron Spears JR Center/Forward 6-10 256 Chicago, Ill./Dunbar/Highland C.C.
45 Adam Laitsas JR Guard 6-3 196 Inglewood, CA/Westchester
Norm Roberts - Head Coach
Glenn Braica - Assistant Coach
Jose Martin - Assistant Coach
Fred Quartlebaum - Assistant Coach
Chris Casey - Director of Basketball Operations
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