October 17, 2011
Whereas most Division I basketball programs use open tryouts to find a walk-on or two to fill the last seats on their bench, shorthanded St. John's doesn't have that luxury.
Not only could as many as five or six of the 26 students who tried out Sunday morning land a spot on the Johnnies roster, the best of those players could even earn sporadic playing time this season.
As a result of the graduation of nine seniors and the transfer of sophomore Dwayne Polee this past spring, seldom-used forward Malik Stith is the lone scholarship player returning from last year's team. St. John's coach Steve Lavin landed a decorated nine-man recruiting class, but three top 100 recruits were declared academically ineligible, leaving the Johnnies with only seven scholarship players prior to walk-on guard Jamal White becoming the eighth on Friday.
Beat writers Roger Rubin from the New York Daily News and Kieran Darcy from ESPN New York attended the student tryout, which began pre-dawn on Sunday morning. They reported that most of the potential walk-ons were as unpolished as you'd expect, but there were a handful of prospects with the talent or experience to potentially help the Johnnies in practice or even sparingly in a game.
• Chuck Anakwenze, a 6-foot-5 senior forward from Inglewood, Calif., started as a freshman at Division II Minnesota State Moorhead before tearing his ACL four games into the 2008-09 season. He transferred to St. John's because he thought it was a better academic school.
• Jody Card, a 26-year-old freshman, played AAU ball for the New York Gauchos prior to serving in the Army for four years including a one-year deployment in Iraq.
Players with size would theoretically have a better chance to earn a roster spot since junior college transfer God's Gift Achiawa is St. John's lone true big man, but it sounds like a few potential walk-ons caught the staff's attention.
"We saw what we expected," St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap told ESPN New York. "We thought that there would be three or four guys that might fit into the criteria that we were looking for. But the thing that we really enjoyed was the attitude of the whole group. They were very receptive."