College Basketball Nation: Juwan Howard Jr.

What it means: Steve Lavin is back, and his team is off to a promising start.

After missing almost all of last season while recovering from prostate cancer, Lavin officially made his return to the sideline Tuesday afternoon. And St. John’s won its regular-season opener against Detroit, 77-74, at Carnesecca Arena.

Three highly touted freshmen made their St. John’s debuts -- forwards Jakarr Sampson and Christian Jones, and center Chris Obekpa. All three made positive contributions -- particularly Obekpa. But the key to the victory was the play of three returning sophomores -- D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene and Amir Garrett (see below).

The skinny: This game was very tight for most of the first half. The score was tied at 25 when Detroit first took control, reeling off nine straight to make it 34-25. The Titans led 37-29 at intermission.

Trailing 60-53 in the second half, St. John’s went on a 14-2 run, retaking the lead for the first time since the opening half with just under five minutes remaining. Down the stretch, a more experienced Detroit team unraveled, while the younger St. John’s squad showed poise and resilience.

St. John’s did get a scare in the game’s final sequence. Detroit scored a bucket, St. John’s gave the ball away, and Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr. suddenly had a 3-point shot that would have tied the game. But the shot was off.

Star watch: Harrison, St. John’s leading returning scorer, came off the bench -- he was benched entirely for the team’s second exhibition game last week because the coaching staff felt he was having trouble controlling his emotions. Harrison looked lethargic when he first entered the game, but ratcheted up the intensity after halftime, when he scored 15 of his team-high 22 points.

Greene finished with a career-high 20, displaying an improved perimeter shot. Garrett had a double-double, with 15 points and 11 rebounds. And Obekpa had 7 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. (That's a St. John's single-game record, breaking the previous mark of seven, set by Robert Werdann in 1989.)

Number crunch: St. John’s struggled on the glass, giving up 19 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points. But the Red Storm had 12 blocked shots as a team. Obekpa is going to be a game-changer on defense.

What's next: St. John’s heads to South Carolina to participate in the Charleston Classic. The Red Storm will play the host team, College of Charleston, on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. They’ll play two more games there as well, on Friday and Sunday.

Some unhappy with Detroit's talent infusion

October, 4, 2011
Detroit could be one of the nation's best mid-major teams and a big threat to overtake Butler in the Horizon League. The Titans are doing it with sophomore guard and son of the coach Ray McCallum along with a mix of impact transfers in guard Chase Simon from Central Michigan and forward Eli Holman from Indiana.

But not everyone was happy when news emerged that Detroit managed to land Western Michigan transfer forward Juwan Howard Jr., who will have to redshirt the season before becoming eligible. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, WMU coach Steve Hawkins stood behind Howard for deciding not to return due to personal reasons, but wasn't exactly thrilled to lose a second talented player to the Titans.
That's the same Detroit which also wound up with another prized WMU freshman, center LaMarcus Lowe, following the 2008-09 season.

WMU coach Steve Hawkins wasn't thrilled then and his "No comment" on his feelings about Howard's trek to Detroit said plenty this time, too.


After Lowe's transfer to Detroit, Hawkins decided not to renew the Broncos' long-running series with the Titans after the current contract expires following this season's game at Calihan Hall.

Howard ending up at Detroit isn't the first time McCallum's addition of a transfer left another program unhappy. When Holman left Indiana, coach Tom Crean found the circumstances of that departure to Detroit troubling.
Crean on Thursday characterized Holman hooking up with Detroit as "an orchestration," according to The Indianapolis Star.

"We were led to believe that this was a family decision and that he wanted to get closer to home," Crean said, according to The Star, "but now it doesn't look like that's the way it's going to turn out.

"I don't think there's any doubt that there was a certain amount of orchestrating going on. It's disappointing -- very disappointing -- on a lot of fronts."

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported Hawkins declined comment when asked if he felt Detroit coaches had tampered with Howard, and McCallum did not return a phone call from the paper. Either way, Detroit adds Howard, the son of an NBA player and former Fab Five member. And once again, the transfer issue has rubbed someone the wrong way.