Despite additions, D'Angelo Harrison remains key for St. John's

NEW YORK -- The same prevailing thought resonated throughout college basketball circles all summer.

The addition of highly touted freshman Rysheed Jordan would finally give St. John's the electric point guard it needed to be a major factor in the Big East and compete for an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2011.

With Jordan, high scoring forward JaKarr Sampson and shot blocker Chris Obekpa, St. John's looked like a team on paper that would have enough facilitating, scoring, and rim protection to be considered a legitimate contender for the field of 68.

Every member of that trio could go on to have a banner year for the Red Storm, but if the team's first two games are any indication, any hopes of St. John's having a breakthrough season still hinges on the shoulders of D'Angelo Harrison.

The talented junior shooting guard finished with 25 points, including 14 in the first half in the Red Storm's 73-57 win over NEC-favorite Wagner on Friday night. Harrison led St. John's with 27 points in last week's opening game loss against Wisconsin.

"He's as gifted of an offensive player as I've coached," St. John's Steve Lavin said of Harrison. "He can score the ball in a variety of ways. He's playing with good purpose right now."

A lethal scorer in all aspects of the game, Harrison carved up the Seahawks in a multitude of ways.

Early on against Wagner, Harrison showed his ability to attack the rim and finish. Then came a few jump shots sprinkled in along with an adept accuracy in the mid-range area.

"He's hard to guard," Wagner coach Bashir Mason said of Harrison. "Every big basket they needed he wanted to get."

Despite being suspended for the final six games of last season, the Texas native looks re-energized. After averaging 17.4 PPG during his freshman and sophomore seasons, the 6-4 sniper knows his collegiate legacy depends on his team performs this season.

"We're trying to take care of business," Harrison said after the game. "We've got 10 or so games before Big East play begins and we hope we're in position to be a Top 25 team when that kicks off."

With Harrison, Jordan, Sampson, underrated glue guy Dom Pointer and a host of others, St. John's clearly has the most talented roster in the Big East.

The key for this team will be the continual development of its chemistry.

"It always takes time to establish rotations," Lavin said. "The important thing is to keep making progress and we did that since the Wisconsin game last week. The thing I like about this team is we can play big or small. We've got options."

But none more important than Harrison.

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