Nahiem Alleyne makes good on his Rick Pitino promise for St. John’s
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nahiem Alleyne pulled Rick Pitino aside.
He wanted to talk to the Hall of Fame coach.
“Here it comes,” Pitino thought to himself. “He’s going to want to know how to get more minutes and how to get back in the lineup and so on.”
That, however, was not the case.
Alleyne apologized to his new coach.
He had not been performing up to his standards.
“I didn’t come here to play like that,” the fifth-year senior told him.
Sunday’s effort was more like it.
Alleyne made an impact, helping St. John’s knock off Utah, 91-82, in the third-place game of the Charleston Classic.
The Connecticut transfer had 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting, three assists and a plus-nine rating in 17 quality minutes off the bench.
In their talk, Alleyne didn’t lobby Pitino for more playing time.
“I’m going to be ready whenever you call my name,” Alleyne said, recalling the conversation. “It could be one minute, two minutes, I’m going to be ready to go.”
The 6-foot-4 swingman illustrated his value against Utah.
He defended well — Pitino has called him the team’s best perimeter defender — hit a few 3-pointers and even set up his teammates a few times.
Pitino has wanted him to do more than just score on offense.
“He was a big factor tonight playing small forward. I said all I want you to do, son, is create some assists, get some rebounds. I know you can score the basketball,” Pitino said. “Tonight he gives us a big lift, three assists, zero turnovers, one steal. He just did a lot of good things.”
RJ Luis told Pitino before the game he wasn’t quite ready to return. The UMass transfer has been out since fracturing his left hand on Oct. 1 and has only had one full practice. The plan is for the 6-foot-7 sophomore to return against Holy Cross next Saturday.
Pitino praised the play of star center Joel Soriano, who had 12 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks against Utah and its two 7-footers, Branden Carlson and Lawson Lovering.
“I think Joel played about as intelligent as a pivot can play with walling up and not fouling,” Pitino said. “It was tremendous to see that.”