For as much depth as St. John’s lacks in the frontcourt to begin the 2011-2012, the backcourt is made up of a strong foursome that will compete for minutes.
But, in St. John’s first exhibition, it wasn’t sophomore Nurideen Lindsey, a man challenged Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record at Overbrook HS (PA), or freshman D’Angelo Harrison, who averaged over 30 points during his senior year at Dulles HS (TX) who stole the show.Instead, it was 6’2” combo guard Phil Greene who put up 20 points on 8/10 shooting, including 4/6 from three-point range, as a surprise spark in St. John’s 110-80 exhibition win over C.W. Post.
“I just wanted to go out and play hard,” said Greene. “My teammates got me open shots, which opened up the three. They had confidence in me, so I just wanted to play hard and play my game and let the game come to me.”
The Chicago native is showing himself to be a legitimate three-point shooter off the bench for the Red Storm, a complement to the slashing ability of Lindsey and Harrison.
“He’s a pleasant surprise in a lot of areas,” said St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who sat in for head coach Steve Lavin, who is still recovering from surgery. “[Greene] and [freshman forward] Dom Pointer are two guys that, as the season unfolds, will just continue to ascend because they have a set of skills that are unique. But, Phil has been a pleasant surprise in practice as far as how good and mature his game is.”
Greene was impressively opportunistic in his 27 minutes, reading the C.W. Post defense and understanding where he fit.
On one play early in the second half, point guard Malik Stith led a fastbreak down the right side of the court. Greene drifted to open space on the left wing and spotted up beyond the three-point line. Stith found him with a cross-court pass and Greene knocked down the jumper.
“I shoot when it’s time to,” said Greene. “Like I said, my teammates they did an excellent job of penetrating and kicking and looking for the weak side, which got me open, so that’s how I got a lot of my shots today.”
Stith’s assist was one of the team’s 24 on the evening, to go along with just 10 turnovers.
“A big part of our offense that coach emphasizes is ball movement, swinging the basketball,” said Lindsey, the junior college transfer. “We have a lot of versatile guys that can play a lot of spots on the floor, so I wasn’t surprised at the assist number tonight.”
Greene is carving out his own niche, fitting between Lindsey and Harrison’s driving ability and God’sgift Achiuwa’s presence down on the block.
Achiuwa, himself, shot 10/13 from the field, on his way to a team-high 21 points.
“[Greene] going to get a lot of those shots because they’ve got to take care of D’Angelo and Nuri creates his own problems, so he’s going to be on the backside of the defense a lot and you’ll see that he can go unnoticed at times,” said Dunlap.
Physically, Greene says he is adjusting well to the pace of the game at this level, though he still sees room to grow.
“I kind of expected it to be the way that it was,” he said. “It’s college, so it’s going to be faster and stronger. But, we’re ballplayers and we adjust to things real fast. We just come out and compete.”