07/05/2010 9:56 AM ET
Lavin hits the road to fill 'Noah's Ark'
New St. John's coach has 10 scholarships to hand out
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Steve Lavin has a bevy of players around the country -- and the world -- from which to recruit and rebuild the Red Storm. (AP)

Of all the Division I head basketball coaches who head out on the July recruiting trail, perhaps none faces a more daunting challenge -- or bigger potential windfall -- than new St. John's coach Steve Lavin.

Looking ahead to the 2011-12 season, Lavin has as many as 10 scholarships to hand out.

Not two, four, six or eight.

Ten.

"It's a situation where I call it the St. John's Noah's Ark," Lavin said in a phone interview. "We're going to need two of every position."

More than 75 percent of the St. John's roster will turn over after this coming season, when St. John's will feature nine seniors and expects to compete for a spot in the top half of the Big East.

"We really have no choice because we have nine seniors and we have 10 scholarships available, so it appears that we're moving in that direction where we're going to sign 9 or 10 players in our first class and that way we'll have two of every position," Lavin said.

St. John's has already signed 6-foot-7 Los Angeles forward Dwayne Polee for next season and is involved with 6-7 Frenchman Remi Barry of Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro High, who is also considering UCLA and Arizona State. If Barry does not qualify, as some expect he may not, St. John's could roll that 10th scholarship over to 2011.

The first NCAA Division I evaluation period of the month runs July 6-15, and Lavin will begin his journey by driving Tuesday morning to the Hoop Group Elite Camp at Albright College in Reading, Pa.

Among the players St. John's is involved with who will be featured at that camp are Dix Hills (N.Y.) Half Hollow Hills West guard Tavon Sledge and South Kent (Conn.) forwards Kadeem Jack, Maurice Harkless and Derrick Randall.

College coaches are not permitted to comment on recruitable student-athletes, but Lavin says he wants St. John's to recruit not only nationally, but globally.

Speaking of the school's potential talent pool, Lavin cited, "junior college players, international players, prep school players and the top high school talent in the country and overseas."

So far Lavin has appeared to target the West Coast, with his initial focus on Polee and Barry. But Sledge, Jack, Harkless, Randall, 5-8 point guard Myles Mack of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony and 6-9 forward Desmond Hubert of New Egypt (N.J.) are all local kids.

"I think it's really critical that we get our fair share of players in New Jersey and the New York metro area," Lavin said. "But then also don't become so reliant on our backyard that when there's a cycle where the talent isn't as strong, that we're not able to strike out to California, to Europe, to the Midwest, the South to bring the best talent to allow our program to be competitive year in and year out."

To that end, St. John's is targeting a number of elite players from throughout the nation, with a heavy emphasis on the Golden State: 6-3 shooting guard of Jabari Brown of Oakland, Calif.; 6-3 point guard Josiah Turner of Sacramento; 6-0 point guard Cezar Guerrero of Bellflower, Calif.; 6-8 center Norvel Pelle of Compton, Calif.; 6-5 small forward Amir Garrett of Lawndale, Calif.; 6-7 small forward JaKarr Sampson of Akron, Ohio; 6-3 wing Nick Johnson of Henderson, NV; 6-2 point guard Nurideen Lindsey of Philadelphia; and, last but not least, 6-9 forward God's Gift Achiuwa, a Nigerian forward from Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y.

Imagine if God's Gift lands at St. John's, a Catholic school?

You can already imagine the Madison Square Garden announcers saying, "Here he is...God's Gift to basketball throwing one down in the World's Most Famous Arena."

In search of the top talent, Lavin and his assistants, Tony Chiles, Rico Hines and Mike Dunlap will crisscross the country over the next month.

"We'll be at LeBron [Academy in Akron, Ohio], we'll be in D.C., Peach Jam, Miami, Vegas, Southern California, West Virginia," Lavin said.

After the first evaluation period ends July 15, there is a dead period July 16-21 before another evaluation period runs July 22-31.

That's a lot of days on the road, but Lavin, the former UCLA coach and ESPN college basketball analyst, says he's used to it.

"The last seven years, I actually spent more time on the road than I did coaching because with ESPN from mid-November through April, I basically was away 80 percent of the time," Lavin said.

And now he'll be on the road throughout the month of July, trying to fill up St. John's Noah's Ark.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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