D'Angelo Harrison to begin on bench

Updated: November 12, 2012, 5:56 PM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- St. John's will begin its 2012-13 season with its best player on the bench.

Sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison, the team's leading returning scorer, will not be in coach Steve Lavin's starting five when the Red Storm host Detroit on Tuesday -- a game that tips off at 2 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN, as part of the network's 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon.

"At this point it probably will be the same as what we've gone with the past two (exhibition) games," Lavin said Monday when asked about the starting lineup. "And I expect D'Angelo to play the equivalent of starter's minutes."

Harrison was also held out of the starting lineup for the team's exhibition opener against Division II Sonoma State, and he did not play at all in the team's second exhibition against Division III Concordia (Ill.), as punishment for unspecified transgressions. Lavin said he has been pleased with Harrison's response to the benching.

"I think the biggest, or most important thing, is just channeling his energy in a productive way," Lavin said. "He's at his best when he's locked into the task at hand, of trying to get a stop on the defensive end, and then offensively keeping his aggressive approach."

Harrison said he learned a lesson from the benching.

"Just don't react to things, don't let your emotions get the best of you," he said. "Just stuff I had problems with last year -- just being more mindful of it, since I'm older. Just having a better attitude all the time."

Harrison also said he hopes to regain his starting role at some point this season, but isn't bothered by Lavin's decision.

"If I have to come off the bench the whole year, that's fine with me, as long as I get to play," he said.

Lavin said he sees a "good flow" in the lineup he's currently using.

"It's not as though I'm settling on this lineup, and this will be the lineup for the rest of the year, by any means," he said. "Gotta just keep an open mind, very flexible and pliable, in terms of looking for combinations that work."

Harrison may be one of the few players Lavin can turn to off the bench on Tuesday. A pair of junior college transfers from Monroe College in the Bronx, forward Orlando Sanchez and guard Marc-Antoine Bourgault, are sitting out while the NCAA reviews their eligibility status.

Lavin had no further update on Sanchez and Bourgault on Monday, and doesn't know when St. John's will receive the NCAA's decision.

"I try to stay away from the speculation game," Lavin said. "Not something right now that we can really dictate. We've done our part. Now we wait."

Senior forward God'sgift Achiuwa and freshman guard Felix Balamou also sat out both exhibition games. Lavin is debating whether to redshirt those two, and his decision will be based in part on the availability of Sanchez and Bourgault.

St. John's played with a very short bench for much of last year, finishing the season with just a six-man rotation due to the academic ineligibility of two incoming recruits, plus two other players leaving the team along the way.

The plan was to have a much deeper team in 2012-13. But Lavin may have just seven scholarship players at his disposal Tuesday, against a Detroit team that made the NCAA tournament last season and is picked to finish second in the Horizon League this year.

But Harrison remains confident, saying Monday, "With this group we have, we definitely can get it done."

"We are gonna make the (NCAA) tournament. I strongly believe that," Harrison added. "We're gonna be a competitive team in the Big East. And we're gonna be ready to go tomorrow."

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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