Forget the capacity crowd inside Carnesecca Arena that is awaiting his entrance at Red Storm Tip Off. Put aside the fact that this is his first experience with the full-on media blitz in the high-stakes market of New York City. Disregard, even, that this is a freshman who, just weeks ago, found out that his team will start the season with eight scholarship players.
Isn’t there something that could unnerve St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison?On the surface, there certainly does not seem to be.
He stands outside the press room at Taffner Fieldhouse and takes questions, one arm leaned against the wall, the other motioning as he speaks confidently and maturely about his team’s progress, to this point.
“Everybody on the team is buying into what everybody has to say,” he says. “We wish certain guys could be here, but we could still do big things with what he have.”
Harrison, a 6’3” guard from Sugarland, Texas, is as confident on the court as he is off, as is evidence by his entrance at Tip Off, an emphatic, running entry, throwing his arms in the air to pump up the crowd, with Meek Mill’s “I’m A Boss” bumping in the background.
Once he gets to mid-court, he high-fives teammates and continues to get the crowd into it, with the red-tinted smoke from a fog machine settling in over the arena.
But, there is an important distinction to be drawn.
It becomes apparent rather quickly that Harrison’s confidence is not synonymous with “cockiness” or “selfishness.” The bravado that he brings to the floor is a catalyst, the foundation for a player who could become an emotional leader.
“He plays with intelligence and intensity,” said head coach Steve Lavin when Harrison signed his letter of intent. “He puts tremendous pressure on opposing defenses because he is constantly in the attack mode.”
The Texas sharpshooter has a scoring instinct similar to former Red Storm guard Dwight Hardy and will be the team’s go-to guy from beyond the arc. Harrison averaged 31 points per game in his senior year at Fort Bend Dulles HS (TX), including performances when he posted 56, 46, and 43.
“I tell him every day that he could be the best shooter in America. I really believe that,” said assistant coach Rico Hines. “And that’s how we work him out.”
Harrison will most likely be the starting shooting guard when St. John’s takes the floor for their season opener against William & Mary at Carnesecca Arena on November 7th and, for as prolific a scorer as Harrison was in high school, his match may be standing right next to him in the backcourt this season.
Redlands CC (OK) transfer Nurideen Lindsey, who played his high school ball at Overbrook High in Philadelphia, was ranked as the second best junior college prospect in the 2011 recruiting class and, while at Overbrook, challenged the scoring record of NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain.
As half of one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the Big East, Harrison sees it, not as a matter of who will get the majority of the touches, but, instead, how they will work as a unit.
“It raises the level I play at, brings it up to here,” says Harrison, holding his hand parallel to the ground, at eye-level. “Where I played [in high school], two people used to guard me when I didn’t have the ball. So, now, you help off me, Dom [Pointer] can score, you help off Dom, Nuri[deen Lindsey] can score.”
Harrison stays impressively loose throughout this one-on-one interview, giving the sense that he is speaking what he truly believes, goofing around and shooting inside jokes at teammates as they walk by, off into the locker room.
“I tell him every day that he could be the best shooter in America. I really believe that.” -St. John’s Assistant Rico Hines
Though yet to play a minute of Division I college basketball, D’Angelo Harrison may have struck the elusive balance between business on the court and leisure off of it.
“Coach Rico stresses it a lot, Dunlap all the coaches, trying to help us grow,” he says, elaborating on his team’s vision. “We gotta grow because we’re about to play Duke, Kentucky. We’re just eight guys together, hanging out in the locker room, listening to music, dance, you know stuff like that. It’s been a really good experience for me so far.”
And this St. John’s team will need a balance like that to succeed in a season where the odds have been stacked against them from the start. Fielding a team that is the youngest in the program’s history, half of the team is less than six months removed from attending their senior prom.
“It’s crazy. It didn’t hit me until it got here in the summer. I’m actually going to be a part of this,” says Harrison.
With head coach Steve Lavin’s timetable for return remaining undefined and based on his healing, leaders like Harrison and Lindsey have emerged, and the formula boils down to something simple:
“We work hard every single day,” he says. “Every single day.”