Starting forward Dwayne Polee Jr., one of just two returning scholarship players from last season's NCAA tournament team, instead decided to transfer to a school closer to his Los Angeles home. The sophomore-to-be's departure means St. John's will have no returning starters, and reserve point guard Malik Stith will be the only scholarship player to return to provide guidance to the Johnnies' nine highly touted newcomers.
"I really enjoyed my experience at St. John's and I'm going to miss the staff and New York," Polee said in a statement released by the school. "Right now I feel it is best to be close to my family and help us get through a health issue."
Polee, a former Los Angeles player of the year, started 27 games for senior-laden St. John's last season and averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds, showcasing a knack for defending on the perimeter and finishing on the fast break. Among the schools that will reportedly show interest in the springy 6-foot-7 forward are San Diego State, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
Of course, the good news for St. John's is that its nine newcomers are certainly well regarded.
Coach Steve Lavin inked the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, a group highlighted by junior college transfer God's Gift Achiuwa and six freshmen ranked in Rivals.com's top 75 in the Class of 2011. There's also talk the Johnnies may land former Arizona point guard MoMo Jones, a New York native who could provide leadership next season if the NCAA grants a hardship waiver to allow him to play right away.
For St. John's to even be competitive in the Big East, it would have been imperative for those newcomers to arrive ready to make an impact on the collegiate level even if Polee had returned for his sophomore season. Now that he's gone, the challenge just becomes that much more daunting.