This offseason St. John’s had two needs: A quality big man and a shooter. It filled one of those on Friday morning.
Vermont grad transfer Stef Smith committed to St. John’s, he told The Post, picking the Johnnies over Colorado, Loyola Marymount and a host of others.
“They were ninth in the conference two years ago. This past year they were fourth,” Smith said. “It shows in the rankings that Coach [Mike] Anderson has done a great job of bringing that winning culture to St. John’s and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
The 6-foot-2 guard from Ontario was a three-year starter for the America East powerhouse, averaging in double figures each season. This past year, he was a second team all-conference selection, averaging 13.6 points on 36 percent shooting, which Smith described as a mediocre season for him. His junior year was better, when he shot 42.3 percent from deep.
St. John’s was attracted to Smith for a variety of reasons. It was more than just his shooting ability. Anderson liked that he came from a winning program in Vermont, which won the American East regular season crown each of his four years there. Smith was drawn to St. John’s because of the opportunity it presented him at a high level, and the fact he was a priority. The entire coaching staff got on a Zoom call with time. He spoke with Anderson several times, and assistant Steve DeMeo stayed in constant contact with him.
Smith has played well against high-major competition in non-conference play. That includes a 17-point performance at St. John’s in a victory two years ago.
“I remember the atmosphere was crazy,” he said. “I could just tell the coach was pushing his players to play hard. … I’m just really excited to get down there and starting putting work in and getting used to those rims at Carnesecca Arena.”
Smith added: “Playing against them I know what kind of system they run, and I feel like my playing style fits that.”
As a team, St. John’s shot 34.5 percent from 3-point range, and struggled at times in the halfcourt with two drive-first guards in Posh Alexander and Rasheem Dunn. Smith is expected to replace Dunn, who graduates and is unlikely to return, and should stretch the floor to create spacing and driving lanes for Alexander, the Big East Freshman of the Year.
“He can really shoot, which they needed,” an America East assistant said of Smith. “He’s a shotmaker.”
The addition continues a busy offseason for St. John’s, which has seen two players, Vince Cole and Isaih Moore, enter the transfer portal, and star sophomore Julian Champagnie announced he will be testing the NBA Draft waters while keeping his eligibility intact. At the moment, the Johnnies have two open scholarships for next year and are intent on adding at least one forward, if not two.