DePaul Blue Demons vs. St. John's Red Storm – Wednesday, January 3, 2006 – 6:30 p.m. CST – Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
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Sammy Mejia, coming off his career high of 40 points against Northwestern
State (a 97-67 DePaul victory), may seem to be in a zone. However, that takes
a backseat to when the Bronx native heads home to play in front of his
family and friends. He will get that chance as the Blue Demons travel to
play at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to take on the Red Storm of
"I'm a New York guy, I got a big family, so to have any chance to have my
family get to see me play a couple more times this year is always a good
thing," Mejia said when asked about his return back home.
Previous to the outburst against Northwestern State, Mejia's career high was
30 at a game at Providence in front of his family faithful. And in his last
game at the Garden against St. John's, Mejia iced the game with a clutch free
throw extending DePaul's lead to four with two seconds to go. For that game Mejia scored 15 of DePaul's 52 points.
It's not just Mejia that relishes the trip to New York. Cliff Clinkscales (from Queens) and Karron Clarke (from Brooklyn) also call New York
home. Assistant Coach Gary DeCesare has ties to the Big Apple as well.
DeCesare cut his coaching teeth in New York establishing St. Raymond's as a power in the high school basketball circuit.
Clarke likes the matchup as well and he knows there is something special to
being a New York baller. "I'd say everybody from New York has a little swagger to them." Clarke related. "Nothing really big. We're just confident people."
This will not just be about family reunions and homecomings. An important
game is at stake as it is the Big East conference opener for both DePaul and St. John's. Each team would like to set the table for a successful Big East season, and a victory would be an ideal start.
DePaul is playing their best ball of the season winning five in a row and seven out of their last eight and improving their record to 9-5. On the flip side
St. John's is still trying to find themselves after a disappointing showing
in their Holiday Festival. First they escaped in an ugly game against a weak
Boston University squad winning in overtime 45-44. Then in the championship
they lost to Hofstra 63-51 dropping their record to 9-4.
St. John's, who were predicted to finish ninth in the Big East by the coaches,
are not a team that should be taken lightly though. Like DePaul, the Red
Storm just missed their chance to make the Big East tournament last year and
they will no doubt be hungry to get back and play on their home court.
They are long on experience as they are anchored by senior center Lamont Hamilton who leads St. Johns in both scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.7
rpg). In an effort to contain Hamilton, DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright
may rotate a lot of his bulk (centers Wes Green, Keith Butler, and Lorenzo Thompson) to try and wear Hamilton down.
St. John's also has good group of experienced guards led by 6-4 junior Avery Patterson (13.8 ppg), 6-1 junior Eugene Lawrence (7.2 ppg and 5.3 apg) and 6-0
senior Daryll Hill (6.5 ppg). They can get up and down the floor and they
have no fear of shooting the rock. Patterson, a transfer out of Iowa Western
Community College, has had the biggest impact and is currently third in the
Big East with three trifectas made a game. He is a gunner who DePaul has to
Sophomore Anthony Mason Jr. (11.3 ppg) is someone DePaul should not overlook
as well. He is an athletic wing who can get to the hoop and score.
DePaul may be coming into the game with more momentum but for both clubs the
slate is wiped clean as it is now 2007 and it is all Big East basketball from
here on out. So expect a tough hard fought battle for the right to start the
Big East season at 1-0.
Pregame Quotes: St. John's vs. DePaul
SJU Head Coach Norm Roberts On DePaul:
"They are a very good team and they are very, very good at home, but they also had a big win on the road against Rhode Island where they played really well. The key about DePaul is they can all score. They'll play different lineups and they do some unconventional things with their players because they are so versatile. They are shooting the ball a lot better than they did last year, so we really have to guard out past the 3-point line."
Roberts On the BIG EAST:
"It is a long season and with this year's BIG EAST, it is going to be a year where there are going to be some big teams that people didn't expect to win and there are going to be some teams that will lose in the eyes of some people were not suppose to lose. You just have to bring energy every night because every game is going to be a war."
Roberts on the newcomers adjusting to BIG EAST play:
"Our older guys need to help our younger guys in this situation. We've talked about this as a team. They've never been through the BIG EAST. We talked about our older guys letting those younger guys know that they have to bring it, that every possession is a valuable possession and we have to take care of business that way."
Roberts on his confidence of the team heading into BIG EAST play:
"I think we are deeper than we were a year ago in every aspect. It is just going to be one of those years when we just have to bring it when we get out there. You can't tell a guy how intense it is going to be until they are actually in it and we're starting off playing a really good team."
On the team's level of play:
"I hoped we would be playing a little bit better than we are right now, but I do know that things can turn on the dime. They can turn quickly with confidence and execution. What we need to do is just move on to the next game. It is 0-0 for everyone right now. It's a whole new season for everyone. So we have to focus in on this season because the early season schedule is over with."
Senior Forward Lamont Hamilton on this year's team compared to last year:
"We are definitely farther along that last year. We just need to get back to that toughness that we had last season. We are still a tough team, we just need to be tough enough to execute down the stretch."
Hamilton on what he has told the new players before heading into BIG EAST action:
"I've told them to stay focused and to remember that we are all in this together, so don't ever put your head down."
Hamilton on what he would tell fans before going into the BIG EAST season:
"I would tell them to continue to believe in us because we believe in ourselves."
Hamilton on the loss to Hofstra in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival:
"The Hofstra game was a tough one to lose, but we have to stay focused and prepare for the DePaul game (Wednesday)."
Junior Guard Eugene Lawrence on the game against DePaul:
"We are going to look at this game like every other game. We are going to come in and play hard, play together and try and win the game. We did lose to them last year, so some players might have a little more vengeance to beat them. We have to be the first team out there diving for the loose balls and get all the little plays that will help us in the end."
Lawrence on BIG EAST games compared to non-conference games:
"Each game, no matter if it's BIG EAST or non-conference, is going to be a tough game. But the BIG EAST is a really good league. All of the players are much more athletic. Certain games in non-conference play you have to key in on just one or two players, but in the BIG EAST you have to worry about each player on the court and players coming off the bench. Players are just that talented. You have to know their tendencies and what they like to do."
Lawrence on the loss to Hofstra in the Aeropostale Holiday Festival:
"We've watched tape and seen the mistakes we made during the game, and now we just have to work on that stuff during practice. I think it's helpful to keep the game still in our head when we play DePaul tomorrow because you have to learn from your mistakes. While we're playing against DePaul, the same scenario might occur but if we think about the Hofstra game and what we did wrong, we could probably change it."
St. John's Roster
No. Name Cl.-Exp Pos. Ht. Wt. Home, High School, Prev. School
1 Qa'rraan Calhoun FR-HS F 6-8 215 Hazlet, N.J., Raritan, Bridgton Academy (Maine)
2 Anthony Mason Jr. SO-1V F 6-7 207 Memphis, Tenn., Fairley
3 Daryll Hill SR-3V G 6-0 172 Queens, N.Y., Cardozo, Milford Academy (Conn.)
4 Eugene Lawrence JR-2V G 6-1 225 Brooklyn, N.Y., Lincoln
5 Larry Wright FR-HS G 6-2 159 Saginaw, Mich., Saginaw
10 Devin Mayo SR-3V G 6-0 160 Upper Marlboro, Md., Clinton Christian
11 Tomas Jasiulionis SO-1V C 6-11 249 Richmond, Va., Trinity Episcopal
15 Avery Patterson JR-TR G 6-4 184 Kannapolis, N.C., A.L. Brown, Iowa Western C.C.
22 Ricky Torres SO-1V G 6-5 222 Bronx, N.Y., St. Raymond's
30 Liam Biesty JR-1V G 6-0 175 Brooklyn, N.Y., Poly Prep
33 Otoja Abit JR-2V F 6-6 187 Woodside, N.Y., Archbishop Molloy
34 Lamont Hamilton SR-3V F 6-10 255 Brooklyn, N.Y., North Bridgton Academy (Maine)
40 Aaron Spears SR-1V F 6-10 245 Chicago, Ill., Dunbar, Highland C.C.
45 Adam Laitsas JR-1V F 6-3 206 Westchester, Calif., Westchester
55 Rob Thomas FR-HS F 6-6 235 New York, N.Y., South Kent (Conn.)
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