The recruiting period begins Saturday, and St. John’s got a major jump on what is expected to be a flurry of activity.
Friday morning, coach Chris Mullin picked up a verbal commitment from three-star forward Josh Roberts of Alabama, a source confirmed. The raw but talented 6-foot-9 forward visited the Queens schools last weekend and reportedly picked St. John’s over Auburn, Florida Gulf Coast, Troy and Wichita State.
The news comes a day after St. John’s set up an official visit for the end of the month with graduate transfer Dwayne Morgan of UNLV — he would be eligible for the second semester in the middle of December — and the day before it will visit with a number of elite prospects, including junior five-star duo Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine of The Ranney School (N.J.)..
The 18-year-old Roberts, a strong rebounder and shot-blocker who is raw offensively, is a late bloomer, a former football player. He didn’t begin playing basketball until the eighth grade and this past spring and summer was his first on the AAU circuit. He showed promise there, averaging 6.1 points and 6.6 rebounds for Southern Stampede in the premier Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and will play this year at powerhouse prep school Montverde Academy (Fla.).
“Pretty amazing for a kid we threw in the frying pan against high-major kids,” said Southern Stampede coach Cory Underwood, who praised the aggressive recruiting work by St. John’s assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih. “He held his own against everybody.”
A Division I coach familiar with Roberts said he has similarities to St. John’s junior forward Tariq Owens, and is somewhat under-ranked as a consensus three-star.
“I like his potential,” the coach said. “Long, athletic and plays with a motor. He plays hard and finishes around the rim. Development will be the key.”
Evan Daniels of Scout.com was the first to report the news.
Roberts kicks off what the program hopes is a blockbuster 2018 class. St. John’s is expected to find out in early October about four-star guard Luther Muhammad of Hudson Catholic (N.J.), a player it has tracked for years. Muhammad is visiting Ohio State this weekend, and is also considering Virginia, West Virginia and Xavier. The Johnnies are also heavily in the mix for four-star Louisiana guard Greg Williams and a pair of five-star forwards: Moses Brown of Queens and California’s Jordan Brown.