St. John's has different look entering Mullin's 2nd season

NEW YORK (AP) Chris Mullin's first season as coach at St. John's ended with an 8-24 record, including 1-17 in the Big East. Along the way there was a school-record 16-game losing streak and the Red Storm closed the season by losing 21 of their last 22 games.

Whatever Year 2 brings will have a different look because of the depth the team will have this season. There are backups at every position and the players and coaching staff have had a summer together. And there are some pretty good players joining the program.

''The talent level has improved tremendously,'' Mullin said Thursday at St. John's media day. ''Our focus has been on practice, daily improvement and working together. The biggest advantage has been the guys who returned know what we're looking to do within our system. That experience is invaluable.''

Guard Federico Mussini leads the returners and his role will change dramatically with depth allowing him to spend time away from the point where he put in a lot of time last season.

Shamorie Ponds was chosen Big East preseason freshmen of the year by the coaches, and redshirt freshman Marcus LoVett is eligible after sitting out last season. Sophomore Malik Ellison is hoping for an injury-free season.

''Every one of us can play both guard positions,'' Mussini said. ''When we play together, anyone of us can control the ball and that will allow us to run more.''

Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima both added some weight over the summer and they will be joined up front by Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens, junior college swingman Bashir Ahmed and freshman Richard Freudenberg from Germany.

That means Mullin will have a lot more options.

''One of the biggest advantages we will have this year is being able to play multiple lineups,'' he said. ''We practice different lineups to see who functions well together and we've liked a lot of different combinations. We might want to force another team to play big or small and we have the ability to do that now.''

The Red Storm were picked eighth in the 10-team conference by the coaches, ahead of Providence and DePaul.

THE SCHEDULE

The Red Storm open the season at home Nov. 11 against Bethune-Cookman. There's a trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis where they open with Michigan State. The last game of the nonconference schedule is Dec. 21 at Syracuse. Big East play opens Dec. 29 at home against Butler.

THE STAFF

Mullin had to replace assistant coach Barry Rohrssen, who left the program, and he did it by promoting Mitch Richmond.

Not many college coaching staffs can brag it has two Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers but Mullin and Richmond, longtime teammates with the Golden State Warriors, have the rings.

''Everybody learns from them every day,'' LoVett said. ''They have so much experience and it's great just to sit and talk with them.''

STRAIGHT SHOOTER

Mullin is considered one of the best shooters to ever let it go and it appears nothing has changed since he stopped playing. Word around campus is nobody has even come close to beating him a game of H-O-R-S-E.

''He makes everything,'' Freudenberg said.

''He is the best shooter in the gym every day,'' Ellison said.

''He doesn't even warm up and he makes 10 in a row,'' LoVett said.

Owens thought for a second about the question if Mullin could still shoot. He smiled and simply replied, ''Is water wet?''

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