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2022-23 Big East Women’s Basketball Summer Check-In: St. John’s Red Storm

Can an influx of COVID Bonus transfers boost the Red Storm’s roster after their own departures?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 03 Women’s Seton Hall at St John’s
What can we expect from Kadaja Bailey and St. John’s?
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Team: St. John’s Red Storm

2021-22 Record: 12-19, 7-12 Big East

2021-22 Big East Finish: Seventh, the best team in the league that finished under .500 in league play.

Final 2021-22 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #173 out of 356 teams.

Postseason: A Big East tournament first round win over Xavier and a quarterfinals shelling against Villanova is all the Red Storm have to report.

Key Departures: All told, six women have departed the St. John’s roster since the end of last season. That’s not ideal, but then again three of them presumably left because they played a combined total of 216 minutes between them.

Of the other three, Leilani Correa is the biggest and most obvious loss from last year’s roster. The 6’0” guard from New Jersey led the team in points last season at 17.3 per game and was SJU’s primary outside shooting threat at 35.7% on a team high 168 attempts. Correa also added 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, so that’s a pretty strong across the board loss as she has now transferred to Florida.

Camree Clegg and Emma Nolan are the other two rotation players that have left. Clegg led the team in assists last season at 3.3 per game even though she only started in 21 of SJU’s 31 games and ultimately only averaged 20.8 minutes a night. She averaged 6.4 points and 1.8 rebounds and shot nearly 39% from beyond the arc, but was only fourth on the team in total attempts, probably mostly due to her playing time more than anything else. She’s at Saint Louis now after two seasons in Queens after her transfer in from Clemson. Nolan and her twin sister Sophia (who was one of the three rarely used players who departed) have transferred to Loyola Chicago after three seasons with the Red Storm. Nolan qualifies as notable since she averaged more than 12 minutes a game in 28 appearances with six starts, but her stats (2.6 points, 2.9 rebounds) are otherwise unremarkable.

Key Returners: Given that the team finished under .500 overall for the second straight season and for the third time in four years, I’ll let you decide the level of good news attached to the Johnnies bringing back five rotation players from last season. The headliner in that group is Kadaja Bailey, who is coming off a season where she averaged 14.2 points per game as the only other double digit scorer after Correa. She also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, so that’s a good cornerstone to build outwards from this year.

The #2 slot on the list has to go to Rayven Peeples. After missing most of the first two months of the season, the 6’3” Michigan native returned to the lineup to end up appearing in 21 games for the Red Storm and averaged over 30 minutes a night. I think we can call her a double-double threat every time she stepped on the floor if not actually a double-double machine. Peeples averaged 8.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game... but only got to that double-double spot five times.

Unique Drake and Danielle Cosgrove both played in every single game last season, while Danielle Patterson only missed one. You could make an argument that Cosgrove was still more integral to the team since she started 22 times versus 16 for Drake and 14 for Patterson. Then again, Cosgrove had the lowest per game minutes average, so you can easily argue against that, too. Drake is the scoring leader and the only one of the three that really generated any assists for the squad, while Patterson is the rebounding leader at 4.7 a night. Cosgrove was the most likely three-point shooter at 4.6 attempts per game..... but she only hit 30.1% of them and thus really should not have been shooting at all, especially compared to 33% and 35% for Drake and Patterson respectively.

Key Additions: The Red Storm have four transfers coming in this season along with two freshmen. This is going to be a fascinating clash for the coaching staff to deal with, but we’ll get into that in a minute in the Outlook section.

Three of the transfers are here for their COVID bonus season of eligibility, while the fourth will be on her fourth year of NCAA competition. The player with two possible seasons in Queens is actually a familiar face to the Big East as Jillian Archer was at Georgetown for the past two years. The 6’2” forward from California put up 7.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists last season, so at worst, she should be able to make an impact on the glass for the Johnnies.

Two of the fifth year players have made their biggest impact in the scoring department in their previous stop. Jakayla Brown comes over to St. John’s after losing all but eight games of her fourth and final season at Hofstra to an injury. In her final healthy season for the Pride, the 5’10” Brown averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Jayla Everett also stands 5’10” tall, and she comes to the Red Storm after starting her collegiate career with two years at New Mexico before spending two years with Pitt. In 20 appearances with 18 starts last season, Everett averaged 13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The biggest question mark for Everett is whether or not she can convert her three-point attempts. She has averaged at least 5.6 attempts per game in all of her four seasons of competition, but twice she has hit less than 31% of them, including 30.9% on 6.2 attempts per game last year for the Panthers. She did hit 35.6% in 2020-21, so the Red Storm will definitely want to see that return.

Mimi Reid is the fourth and final transfer, and at a glance, it seems like her biggest impact might come in the distribution department. She’s been at Ole Miss for the past four seasons as a most-of-the-time starter, and her 3.6 assists per game last year was a career low. That might have to do with playing a career low 21.7 minutes, though. She’s never been a top of the line scorer, falling somewhere between three and seven points per game, and given that she stands just 5’8”, no one is surprised to find out that Reid hasn’t been much of a rebounder.

St. John’s may have a dark horse contender for Freshman of the Year this season in Skye Owen. She’s the only one of the two freshmen that earns attention from Blue Star Basketball, but they’re a little bit asleep at the wheel. While they have Owen as the #54 prospect in the country for 2022, they still have her as a Wake Forest commitment. The 5’7” guard committed to the Demon Deacons last December, but since that was after the signing period ended, she hadn’t signed.... and then Wake changed coaches. You can see how the Red Storm were able to make the move to get the Staten Island product on board to sign in June.

Coach: Joe Tartamella, entering his 11th season in charge of the Red Storm and overall. He has a record of 182-134 and is looking for his first NCAA tournament berth since 2016. This is the third straight season that I’ve had the NCAA tourney bit in there, and it keeps looking worse and worse for him.

Outlook: If you’re a regular reader of these offseason team previews or the in-season game previews, you’ve probably picked up that I’m not a huge fan of Joe Tartamella and how he runs his St. John’s program. It often seems like he’s running a system counter to the strengths of the actual players on the team, or at least the statistical profile that they’re throwing off. To make matters worse, it certainly feels like Tartamella straight up hates the idea that he’s allowed to make substitutions during a game, and more often than not, the Red Storm don’t have much in the way of bench contributions.

That’s our baseline here as far as my thoughts on the Johnnies go. So keep that in mind when I say this: How on earth is Tartamella planning on making use of a roster with five returning players who were major rotation players, three transfers who have just one year of eligibility left and are clearly expecting to play a lot, a transfer inside the Big East who already showed she can average 8&7 in this league, and a top 50-ish local freshman who didn’t pick SJU originally but made the call when her planned spot blew up in March?

I’m counting 10 women there who have a reasonable expectation to be playing somewhere between “regularly” and “a good chunk of minutes” if not more. Is it possible for Tartamella to actually figure out how to use this roster? Remember, he had six women choose to leave in the offseason, three of which were in his rotation and had eligibility left and three more who he essentially just completely ignored last year.

To put it another way, this is what SJU’s rotations have looked like the past few years:

2021-22: Eight deep if you squint and count 12.3 minutes a game as regular rotation play.
2020-21: Seven deep if you squint and count 12.7 minutes a game as regular rotation play and don’t count eight games of Qadashah Hoppie
2019-20: Eight deep with no squinting necessary
2018-19: Seven deep with no squinting necessary

Remember, three of these teams finished under .500 for the year. I can’t help but think that they’re doing something wrong here.

Is having 10 women who should really be playing regularly going to help pop the Johnnies out of this weird system that they’re seemingly locked into for no obvious beneficial reason? will popping out of said system help them win basketball games? What does it mean for Tartamella’s future as the head coach of the Red Storm that six of the 10 “ready for rotation play” women on his roster are on COVID bonus years of eligibility? No matter what happens this year, the roster is getting gutted for next year by default. What do you do if you’re the SJU management and this turns into “four losing seasons in the last five years” to go along with “no NCAA tournament since 2016”? Is this a critical juncture for the Red Storm?