Malik Stith leaves St. John's team

NEW YORK -- St. John's guard Malik Stith has withdrawn from the team effective immediately, the school announced Wednesday, a few hours before the Red Storm hosted Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden.

The move leaves St. John's with just six scholarship players, plus Jamal White, a former walk-on who was given a scholarship this year and has only played in one game this season.

"For personal reasons I have chosen to step aside as a member of the St. John's basketball team," Stith said in a statement released by the school. "Right now I feel that I need to do what is best for my family. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me at St. John's and pleased to be able to continue to make progress toward my degree. Coach (Steve) Lavin and I have met and talked over the past couple days about my future and the interest I have in contributing to the team as a student."

Stith, a 5-foot-11 junior guard from Hempstead, N.Y., was the lone returning letter winner with the Red Storm this season. He was scoring 2.7 points per game off the bench but played fewer minutes as the season progressed, averaging only 14.6 minutes per game. In a 95-70 loss to Syracuse last Saturday, Stith played just six minutes and did not take a shot.

"For personal reasons Malik has chosen to no longer participate as a member of our basketball team. Beginning next week he will no longer be an active student-athlete, but he will continue to add value to our basketball family while working toward completing his St. John's degree," said Lavin. "We'll miss Malik's contributions on the court but we are pleased he will continue as a member of our basketball program in his new capacity with the Johnnies."

It is a significant loss for the short-handed Red Storm, who are now left with a six-man rotation -- five freshmen starters and junior forward God'sgift Achiuwa off the bench.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com.