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Posh Alexander’s St. John’s start compares well to history



Posh Alexander's St. John's start compares well to history

Posh Alexander is a quality finish away from becoming the fourth St. John’s player (and the first point guard) to be named the Big East’s Freshman of the Year. Entering Tuesday night’s game at Butler, the 6-foot Brooklyn native has led the Red Storm to six straight wins and seven victories in eight games. He has performed like a veteran instead of a freshman, adjusting to the Big East far more quickly than anyone could have anticipated.

In the process of becoming a fan favorite, Alexander leads the conference in steals (2.7) and is second on St. John’s in scoring (11.8), behind sophomore Julian Champagnie. He also is averaging 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range.

Alexander’s fast start compares well with those of a few of the best St. John’s point guards. Here’s a look (in alphabetical order):

Erick Barkley (1998-99)

The Queens native was the floor general for the last great St. John’s team, a group that reached the Elite Eight and fell three points shy of the Final Four. Barkley was the youngster on a veteran team and the moment was never too big for him. He led the conference in assists, averaging 4.7, helping the Johnnies finish third in a loaded Big East. He scored 13.5 points per game and was a stellar defender, notching 2.2 steals. He seamlessly fit in with this rugged team.

Omar Cook (2000-01)

A McDonald’s All-American from Christ the King in Queens, Cook put up gaudy numbers — 15.3 points, 8.7 assists, 2.3 steals — though St. John’s struggled in his lone season, finishing at 14-15. Asked to carry the load offensively, Cook shot just 36 percent from the field, and his decision to go pro (he was a second round pick of the Magic and lasted only briefly in the NBA) set the program back.

Mark Jackson (1983-84)

A part-time starter, Jackson didn’t put up big numbers like the other players on this list, but he was productive and part of an NCAA Tournament team. The Bishop Loughlin alum averaged 5.8 points and 3.6 assists, deferring to older, star teammates like Chris Mullin and Bill Wennington. It laid the foundation for a memorable career.

Dick McGuire (1943-44)

He was the lone freshman to win the Haggerty Award, which is given to the area’s top player and voted on by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. McGuire and St. John’s won the NIT title in 1944. The Bronx native averaged 6.6 points per game for St. John’s, which defeated Bowling Green, Kentucky and DePaul in the NIT.

Shamorie Ponds (2016-17)

Like Cook, Ponds put up big numbers on a sub.-500 team. He led the Johnnies in scoring (17.4) and steals (2.1), and was a quality playmaker, averaging 3.1 assists. The Brooklyn native, out of Thomas Jefferson High School, set a program record for freshmen with 573 points, shooting 37.5 from 3-point land in a team-high 33.6 minutes per game en route to All-Met Rookie of the Year honors. 

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One college student is using Instagram to make MLB cool again




One college student is using Instagram to make MLB cool again

TAMPA — Alex Tantum represents a minority constituency of sorts: He is a college junior, and his favorite sport is baseball.

When he talks to contemporaries, often, “The first thing they say, when I ask, ‘Why don’t you watch baseball?’ is ‘Baseball is boring,’” Tantum said in a conversation Wednesday. “I think that some of the things that baseball is doing — I think bat flips, more celebrations, embracing players’ personalities — helps the game become less boring,”

In October 2019, Tantum created an Instagram account called “MLB FITS,” championed by the slogan, “The Game is Changing.” Its posts highlight well-dressed baseball players — some on the field, like a recent shot of new Met Francisco Lindor, but mostly off the field, like the Yankees’ Clint Frazier sitting in his highly celebrated shoe closet..

The Frazier post features a comment from Yankees teammate Tyler Wade, and that speaks to what makes this account special: Among its over 21,000 followers are many ballplayers themselves, including Wade, the Padres’ Blake Snell and retired Yankees legend CC Sabathia.

“It’s so important for them to be able to express their personalities,” Tantum said. “It’s good for themselves. It’s good for the game as a whole. It’s good for fans to be able to relate to them. I feel like the players’ outfits are an extension of their personalities.”

Tantum cited the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Lindor as players whom he believes can compel his generation with the way they both play the game and understand the value of looking good while playing good. A Yankees fan, he ranked Frazier, Wade, Judge, Gleyber Torres, Aroldis Chapman and Giancarlo Stanton (not in that order – they all reside in his top tier) as the team’s best-dressed players.

“My friends are really into the NBA and NFL,” Tantum said. “I think what the NBA does a great job of is marketing the players and letting the players really speak for themselves. I think MLB is doing more of that recently.” Players Weekend, he added, was a personal favorite, and he applauded the formation of the Players Alliance. 

After some talk of celebrations and expressions of emotion, I asked Tantum what he thought of the game itself, given all of the concerns and laments surrounding it.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching baseball. That’s just me as a baseball fan,” he said. “Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about time of the game, shortening the game, putting more hitting into the game, lowering the number of home runs versus strikeouts.”

There are changes that can be made to mitigate that; the attempted deadening of the baseball will be interesting, and fingers crossed that we’ll get pitch clocks and robot umps sooner than later. Ultimately, though, Tantum feels the best way to make baseball more exciting is to have the players be more excited.

“Emotion is good,” he said. “Pitcher celebrations are good, too. There’s always going to be those people who say, ‘I don’t like this. This isn’t the way it’s done,’ and stuff like that. But I think at the end of the day, the players are the ones who dictate what’s going on.”

The game, like the world, is changing. In a week when we saw Mariners president Kevin Mather resign in shame after voicing some fossilized views on players, it’s clear that baseball must further empower its players to be who they want to be in order for the industry to attain its full potential.

This week’s Pop Quiz question came from the late Jan Bottone of Wellesley, Mass.: The 1992 film “Light Sleeper” features a late scene in which a couple of people can be seen wearing baseball jackets, both sporting the same major-league team logo. Which team’s logo is it?

The Post’s baseball podcasts will get back up and running next week. Check them out.

Your Pop Quiz answer is the Yankees.

If you have a tidbit that connects baseball with popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected] 

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Mets’ Noah Syndergaard honors late Post photographer Anthony Causi




Mets' Noah Syndergaard honors late Post photographer Anthony Causi

Mets photo day at spring training simply isn’t the same this year.

Pitcher Noah Syndergaard posted a touching message to the Mets’ official Twitter account Thursday morning, paying tribute to Post sports photographer Anthony Causi, who passed away from coronavirus last April at 48.

“Hey Anthony, today’s photo day and it’s just not the same without you,” Syndergaard said. “It pretty much sucks. We’re thinking about you today, and we know that you’re snapping photos from above. Miss you man.”

Causi, on assignment for The Post, was a staple at Mets spring training throughout the last decade, bringing our readers a look at the Mets unlike any other photographer.

During Yoenis Cespedes’ first spring training with the Mets in 2016, Causi chronicled the outfielder’s wild cars, even one day getting a view riding shotgun. On photo day in 2016 Causi also captured the Mets’ vaunted starting rotation of Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

And during his stays in Port St. Lucie, Causi developed a friendship with Syndergaard, who was willing to let Anthony try just about anything — including a photo of the right-hander signing an autograph from the ground up.

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Celtics, Heat are two teams moving in opposite directions




Celtics, Heat are two teams moving in opposite directions

The NBA is approaching the All-Star break, and teams have started to show us what they are with about 32 games in the books. This week, I’m looking at two teams in particular, the Heat and the Celtics.

I believe these franchises are heading in opposite directions. Miami’s season was derailed by injury and COVID-19 absences. Yet the Heat have maintained their intensity on defense, showing bettors signs of improvement as they continue to get some continuity with their personnel.

Meanwhile, the inherent flaws in Boston’s roster have started to rear their ugly heads. A team many believed would find its way back to the Eastern Conference finals is now struggling to keep itself out of the play-in game.

Miami is getting warm

About two weeks ago, I thought the Heat were on the verge of a run. They had won three straight, but had covered just one of those games. The betting market had seemingly soured on the Heat, making them 1.5-point underdogs to the Rockets in a game the Heat won. Miami lost its next three games, however, failing to cover each time, and I backed away from my hypothesis. Well, the Heat were 3-0 SU and ATS in their last three entering Wednesday and are slowly starting to look like the team that won the Eastern Conference last season.

The Heat are second in defensive efficiency since Jimmy Butler returned from a foot injury, allowing 107.2 points every 100 possessions. Opponents were shooting just 44.1 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Because the Heat’s defense has been so efficient, they have managed a +2.0 net rating despite ranking 22nd in offense over that stretch. What happens when Miami starts to find its way on offense?

The Heat finished last season seventh in offensive efficiency and second in 3-point shooting. This season has been derailed by injuries and disease, so their inconsistencies are understandable. Miami is a fantastic candidate to right the ship as it builds continuity. Right now, the Heat are 30/1 at BetMGM to win the NBA title, and 33/1 can be found. Those prices could look pretty good when the dust settles in the Eastern Conference.

Boston is wicked average

The Celtics lost on Tuesday night in Dallas, extending their slide to 3-7 SU and ATS entering Wednesday. Boston’s offense has really taken a step back during this slump, averaging only about 109 points per 100 possessions over this stretch. The problem has been an offense that has no flow.

Sunday in New Orleans, the Celtics’ offense devolved into isolation sets for Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Kemba Walker, and as a result they managed just 0.9 points per possession in the second half. This has been a problem all season, and it is why the Celtics rank 28th in assist rate at 54.5 percent. Yes, Marcus Smart has been sidelined with a calf injury, but Smart is not going to fix what is wrong with Boston’s offense. Where does the improvement come from then?

In short, nowhere. This is what the Celtics are going to be this season. They are still a quality defensive team, and that will still lead to a postseason berth. But this is a thin team that lacks ingenuity on offense, and that will hold Boston back from competing for the Eastern Conference title.

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