Monday, June 1, 2009

Please Lance, Go To SJU (I know it's not going to happen but I can still dream)

Basketball is our city’s game.

So how come, for the better of a decade, there's been a search warrant out for top-profile players at St. John’s University?

How come SJU needs a GPS system to visit top-flight recruits when they are simply a train, bus, subway, or bike ride away?

In the heart of the traditional basketball breeding ground, the once-prosperous program should shoulder an arsenal of the city’s elite ballers.

They SHOULD surface as one of the top teams in the Big East every year.

I don't care how front-loaded the squads that Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun and Jamie Dixon (who has assumed the role of legendary gangster Frank White the past few years, scouring the New York grassroots circuit for talent and winning young guns over) bring in may be...

SJU SHOULD BE a perennial power.

The Johnnies SHOULD BE one of the more reputable programs along the eastern seaboard.

Norm Roberts SHOULD bring new meaning to the words "local presence."

Norm and his nucleus of assistants SHOULD be at every significant NYC event.

Over the summer, the SJU staff SHOULD have goons/contacts who are fixtures at West 4th St., Dean St., Rucker Park, IS8, or wherever they can find a solid local run and register their presence.

Roberts' ear SHOULD BE glued to his cell phone, for as many long, productive convos as his job/life permits...

Roberts SHOULD BE talking to legendary NYC talent evaluator Tom Konchalski and other folks in the know. He SHOULD BE hounding recruits down at a frantic pace, presenting kids with scholarship offers like there's no tomorrow...

The Johnnies SHOULD pen five-star recruits from each of the five boroughs year after year, competing with the likes of first-class schools like North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Duke (despite the fact that Coach K simply refuses to recruit kids who aren't part of the choir or offering to help old ladies cross the street...Will Coach K go against the grain on the recruiting trail after the Blue Devils suffer another NCAA tournament flameout? What will it take?).

Roberts and his ailing program need to stop scheduling games against NJIT (a Division-II team that stole a laundry-load of Division-I jerseys) and seek immediate revival.

Don't get it twisted.

Omari Lawrence and Malik Stith are two players I see making an immediate impact, but who is the prized piece of this year's recruiting class?

To truly put the exclamation point on a solid infusion of talent, the Johnnies need a superstar, some sort of basketball deity who can create offense and willingly score buckets by the bundles.

Unfortunately, Lance Stephenson is an afterthought.

The Johnnies, I thought, were going out guns-a-blazin' to reel in Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson.

The whole operation of recruiting this dazzling 6-foot-6 guard from Lincoln (who is both taller, stronger, and more athletic than Marbury and Telfair were) has been about as straight as Jim McGreevy.

Memphis, Arizona, and Maryland--back in the picture after a source told the New York Daily News UMD was scratched from Stephenson's list a month ago--are still in active pursuit of Stephenson.

If this guy is a one-and-done anyway, why couldn't he have just gone to St. John's?

He could have taken the O.J. Mayo route and (no offense to Taj Gibson, high-flying Davon Jefferson, or Daniel Hackett) decided on a school where he can be the one-man cyborg.....

Stephenson toyed with ideas of revitalizing the program and "bringing New York back" and it was rumored that he would stick by his supposed word and pen with the Johnnies.

Of course, however, I am the "hard-working," "smart guy" who jetted to the mountaintop and announced to the basketball world the move was destined to happen (of course there weren't any other credible sources who, at one point, said the move was imminent, were there?), and WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT PANNED OUT...

I single-handedly kick-started the rumor mill, didn't I?!?! I mean when a "source" says something under the condition of anonymity, that automatically means I'm agreeing with him and announcing it myself, no?

What a bullshit artist I am!

The days when Action Jackson shined, the late Malik Sealy soared, and Chris Mullin shot Madison Square Garden into a power outage are long gone.

Instead, the hoop tycoons from the great wide open sell players on leaving the big city of dreams and its hardscrabble basketball courts for the fresh suburban air, tall trees with leaves crumbling under the weight of autumn, burgeoning basketball culture and fanfare, and the blazing blue-eyed beauties from down south.

Norm, this program needs more change than our president promises to provide our country.

Bring New York back.