Busting Brackets

Don’t look now but St. John’s guard Rysheed Jordan is playing decent


Recently, our friends over at CBT released their ten most disappointing players of the year article. In it, obviously, they named ten players who haven’t really lived up to their end of the expectations bargain. Still, it is early enough in the season that those guys can turn it around and closer resemble the types of players that most assumed they would be.

There was a name on that list that was absent, however — despite being nowhere near as good as expected. St. John’s Red Storm heavily hyped freshman, Rysheed Jordan.

Jordan was a top-recruit coming out of the 2013 class. Steve Lavin was able to land him to much joy and many figured that this particular recruit would help put the Johnnies over the top. With returning players such as D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson and Chris “O’Blockpa” Obepka, that a “true” point guard is all that they needed. All of that turned the Johnnies into everyone’s favorite sleeper team to do damage this season. So, with that, the expectations were not only high for Jordan, but for St. John’s as an entire team.

Then, um, the season happened.

Jordan’s season began with a borderline atrocious start. Not only was he battling adjusting to the college level, but he also found himself suspended for a game for violating some stuff and he even found himself riding the pine. It even got to the point where it looked like he was falling out of the rotation completely.

To highlight how bad it was — and really, still kind of is — it took until the 15th of December for Jordan to break double-figures in a single game, which he accomplished by going 2-8 from the field. So yeah, still not so great. Granted, that was a big time game against the Syracuse Orange in the Battle for New York, but if you let the coverage of how he played sway you, one would think he scored 20 points while shooting over 60 percent from the floor.

The freshman followed that performance with an admirable outing against San Francisco, where he scored 10 points.

Yet, again, you would think that Jordan has “figured it out” or that he was on the cusp of living up to the lofty expectations set before the season. Well, I think we need to temper it down just a little bit.

At this point of the season, St. John’s is 7-3, with only one “bad” loss. That was to Penn State, who is actually a little bit better than people realize. Regardless, the Red Storm are still in a position to be competitive in the Big East Conference and make run at the NCAA Tournament. However, they still have a ton of work to do and a lot of that rests on the shoulders of the freshman.

Using him as a scapegoat for whatever failures St. John’s might have is unfair, but with the rest of the roster having guys filling roles and doing so well, a finger is usually needing some pointing. One might want to have that finger go toward Lavin’s general direction, which isn’t completely wrong. Although, to be honest, the Red Storm are not even everyone’s sleeper team if it weren’t for the stylish coach’s ability to recruit. You can point to his on-the-floor coaching, but again, this team does have a bunch of isolation-type players. Blaming him for running that style of offense is like blaming a streetwalker for getting curbstomped by her boss. It’s just kind of the lay of the land and expected. It is what it is or some other clichéd thing like that.

To even further discuss how important Jordan’s development is to the Red Storm we should point to how good some of the other Johnnies are.

Harrison is playing some solid basketball this season. The volume-shooter is doing what he does — getting points in bunches. He has also been a much improved player on the defensive side of the ball, has looked to get his teammates involved more often and is not going through the whole grump-face spurts like he has in the past when things were not going his way.

Sampson’s game is even more unique than Harrison’s. A tweener type of player, Sampson does not have a solid jumper, but falls in love with it far too often for a guy whose biggest attribute is going to the rim. Still, because self-confidence, when Sampson does attack the rim it sometimes looks like he is doing so while having an epileptic seizure. Out of control, yet sometimes effective. In a weird, strange, but good way, Sampson’s box-score always looks better than his game — but he is still a very good player. While I don’t love his game, his basketball IQ or anything really (I am a jerkface), Sampson does fill the role of a productive offensive big man.

Then there is (was, really) Phil Greene. Who looked like he was bubbling up to be the Red Storm’s third best player. Time has passed, Greene has fallen back to Earth, but I am sure it is good for Lavin to know that every now and then Greene has the ability to play above his skill set. Even with that, at worst, Greene is a really, really good role guy.

There are more, role-ish type players for the Johnnies. Obekpa blocks shots better than anyone in the nation, Max Hooper spreads out the floor because of his ability to hit threes or at least his reputation of doing that does and the roster as a whole is as deep as it has been during the Lavin era. Which, in the most roundabout way humanly possible, brings us all the way back to Jordan.

Really, who is Jordan, what is his role on this team and is he actually any good or are people just waiting for him to live up to a set of expectations that weren’t meant for someone of his caliber to begin with?

What makes all of this even stranger is the fact that — after two mediocre games — people are acting like Jordan has figured it out or that he played really well in those two games. Um, no. Just no.

Jordan played decent, at best. Slightly below average, actually. Although, because the start to his season was so horrific, people clung onto the double-digit scoring outputs, the way in which he flashes his athleticism and his ability to get to the charity-stripe, as a way to show that he is on his way to being “that” type of player everyone thought he would be.

No, I am not trying to knock him or say he can never be “that” type of player. The kind that the Red Storm desperately need and would — in theory — put them over the top. What I am trying to say is; holy smokes, man. Have the expectations on this kid completely changed direction to the point of absurd?

If someone were to tell an “expert” (including me, mind you) that Jordan’s first 10 point scoring burst (lol because it’s funny) wouldn’t happen until the middle of December and that everyone would celebrate it (even though he didn’t actually play that well), they would step off a cliff while wondering what in the hell was going on.

We have officially reached that point in the season for St. John’s. Where a preseason’s worth of — apparently undeserved — hype has come back down just a little bit. When their most hyped recruit is now being praised for cracking the rotation or scoring ten points instead of folks wondering if he’s even that good to being with.

Yup. You know, and I mean I am probably wrong, but maybe Jordan just isn’t that good. Like, at all. Maybe he is one of those fancy-smancy, top-recruits who just can’t translate to the college level. No one wants to talk about it, though. Especially if you are a St. John’s fan. Because if Jordan isn’t who everyone thought he was, well, St. John’s isn’t going to be that sleeper everyone predicted.

A lot of weight on one freshman’s shoulders. Especially considering the fact that it was other folks’ expectations of him and the Johnnies to begin with. Maybe we should all start to temper our foresight and whatnot about guys who have yet to play a single game of college basketball.

I mean, the alternative is this. All of us looking like dopes while Jordan is failing at the college level, but so desperate in holding out hope that he is good, that we try to convince anyone that will listen that his averaging of 11.5 points over the last two games is somehow a sign that we were all right to begin with.

But probably, you know, Jordan might just be an average player.