<
>

Lavin keeping Rysheed Jordan under wraps

NEW YORK -- Rysheed Jordan looks more and more like a rising star, but you won’t hear the St. John’s freshman talking about it much anytime soon.

That’s not because of modesty -- Jordan may indeed be modest, but there’s really no way for us to know. It’s because St. John’s coach Steve Lavin has decided not to let Jordan speak with the media for his entire freshman season.

Nate Shron/Getty Images

Steve Lavin has decided that Rysheed Jordan will not speak to the media for his entire freshman season.

“Throughout my career, you try and make choices as a coach that you think are in the best interest of both individual players and your team as a whole,” Lavin said Saturday. “And at this point, I want Rysheed’s 100 percent focus to be on his studies and on improving as a basketball player, and everything after that is secondary.”

Jordan was a huge get for Lavin, the highest-rated recruit in his four years at St. John’s. The Philadelphia product was ranked the No. 17 high school senior in the country by ESPN Recruiting -- three spots ahead of Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, a leading candidate for national freshman of the year.

Jordan was named the preseason Big East Rookie of the Year, but got off to a slow start. He didn’t crack double-digits in his first seven games, including a couple of scoreless outings. He also was suspended for one game in November for an unspecified violation of team rules, and missed a game in December to be with his ill mother.

But Jordan has heated up of late, as has his team. He has scored in double figures in four of St. John’s past six games, including a career-high 18 points in a win at Providence on Feb. 4. Jordan is now third on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg), tops in assists (3.2 apg), and the Red Storm have won seven of eight to climb back into NCAA tournament at-large bid contention.

Jordan had the ball in his hands in the final seconds of a tie game at Seton Hall on Thursday, and made the key pass to Chris Obekpa to set up the game-winning free throw. He’s been named the Big East Rookie of the Week two of the past three weeks.

Before the season began, Lavin said he planned to begin making Jordan available to the media around Christmas, coinciding with the start of conference play. But he obviously has changed his mind.

“Anything I can do to encourage, create an atmosphere that enhances the chances of Rysheed being able to focus on solely his academics and his development as a basketball player will go a long way to helping our cause,” Lavin said.

St. John faces a critical game Sunday night at Madison Square Garden against Georgetown, a team that handed the Red Storm their worst loss of the season back on Jan. 4 in Washington, D.C. The final score was 77-60, but the Hoyas led 42-16 at halftime and by as many as 33 in the second half.

Ironically, legendary former Georgetown coach John Thompson -- the father of current Georgetown coach John Thompson III -- was famous for prohibiting freshmen from speaking to the media during their first semester. But Lavin has taken things one step further with Jordan.

It’s a step he hasn’t taken with any other player at St. John’s. He said he couldn’t recall if he ever took this step with a player during his previous head coaching stint, at UCLA.

“Every team is unique, every player is unique,” Lavin said. “I’m not sure what I’ve done in the past with freshmen. But as a coach, I didn’t even know how good of a decision that was until we moved down the line a couple months. And so it’s definitely been a good thing for our team.

“Anything that can limit the distractions for a young person’s growth and development both as a student and as an athlete, and I’m very pleased with the results of Rysheed being able to turn 100 percent focus on those two aspects.”