#26 St. John's Women's Basketball Preview

St. John’s Red Storm
Overall rank: #26
Conference rank: Big East #7

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You know you’re playing in a tough conference when your school is just outside the top 25 in the women’s basketball rankings and six teams are ahead of you in the same league. Such is the case for a strong St. John’s squad that happens to play in the Big East. The Red Storm posted a successful 20-win season and finished above .500 in the league, which is good considering the difficulty of the conference and the quality of the teams St. John’s plays. The bigger story, however, has to do with what St. John’s did last season. That 22-11 record the Red Storm posted was the second straight 20-win season, coming after a 25-7 campaign in 2009-10. This program was 8-20 a few years ago, marking a nice turnaround job by Coach Kim Barnes Arico.

2010-11: 22-11, 9-7
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost in second round to Stanford, 75-49)
Coach: Kim Barnes Arico, 152-124 at St. John’s, 246-196 overall

Who’s Out:
Two seniors graduated from the St. John’s roster. Forward Centhya Hart, a 6-1 player from Memphis, was the team’s best shooter at 48.6 percent (103-for-212) and averaged 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Sky Lindsay, a 5-11 guard from the New York City area, chipped in 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game and started all 33 contests. The team won’t miss much scoring, but the leadership will be missed. A third player, Tesia Harris, was listed as a senior a year ago but sat out the 2010-11 season due to transfer rules (she came from Delaware). Junior Amanda Burakoski is not listed on the Red Storm roster for 2011-12 for unknown reasons, and neither is senior Elon Sidney.

Who’s In:
There are only two players new to the St. Johns roster that are in their first year with the team. Mallory Jones, a 6-0 forward from prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and Amber Thompson is a 6-2 forward from Newark, N.J. An interesting side note regarding Thompson is she comes from the same school as junior guard Nadirah McKenith.

Who to Watch:
Of the five players who averaged over eight points per game, four are back on this year’s roster. Junior Shenneika Smith, a 6-1 guard, brings her 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game back to the Red Storm roster. Senior Da’Shena Stevens, a 6-1 forward, averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. McKenith averaged 8.4 points per game but also turned the ball over (a team-leading 112 turnovers). Eugeneia McPherson, a 5-8 junior guard, came up with 8.3 points per game. This means plenty of scoring should be back, ideally, as just over 40 points return to the starting lineup.

Final Projection:
It may be hard to compete in the Big East with all of those talented teams, but St. John’s will give it a shot with a strong lineup. Plenty of scoring and rebounding help returns to assist the Red Storm, so it should be another 20-win season and NCAA appearance for the team.

Before opening Big East play, St. John’s has a non-conference schedule including some tough contests. In the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas, the Red Storm faces Iowa and then either Texas A&M or Temple. Later in the schedule, at the Maggie Dixon Classic (at Madison Square Garden), St. John’s starts with Baylor and then takes on either DePaul or Tennessee. You can’t accuse the Red Storm of running away from a challenge.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Shenneika Smith, Guard, Junior, 12.2 points per game
Da’Shena Stevens, Forward, Senior, 11.8 points per game
Nadirah McKenith, Guard, Junior, led in assists (130) and steals (73)
Eugeneia McPherson, Guard, Junior, 33.3 percent 3-point shooting
Mallory Jones, Forward, Freshman, DNP last season

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#18 Da'Shena Stevens