Julian Champagnie delivers exactly what St. John’s needs

There’s no better basketball stage for a Bishop Loughlin High School student than the Garden, and no better time than the first round of the Big East Tournament to lift his hometown crowd and carry his hometown team on his shoulders into the quarterfinals Thursday night against Villanova, to the possibility of making amends for a season when there was not enough utopia on Utopia Parkway.

There were moments when Julian Champagnie made the Garden sound like the Garden used to sound, like the Garden always sounded in the good old days when Louie Carnesecca wore that sweater and Chris Mullin was the Brooklyn Gym rat who did the Imagination gave free rein to all possibilities.

Nobody expects this St. John’s team to set the city on fire, star in college basketball’s version of “The Way We Were,” and warm the hearts of everyone who remembers what it meant to be the New Cheering on York College Team.

But Champagnie, who had 22 of his team’s 49 points in the first half and finished with 26, showed up against DePaul on Wednesday night and said the hell with that storye during a 92-73 blowout.

Julian Champagnie – 8-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-6 from Jamaica in that first half – emerged as a sniper, with an assassin mentality usually reserved for his twin brother Justin on a night the team just sort of has committed two turnovers.

That’s the way stars are supposed to do it, the way the Big East first-team stars are supposed to do it back-to-back, the way big players play in the bigger games, and the Red Storm , who survives and advances Even bigger play is required of everyone, especially Champagnie, and against Villanova even bigger defense and banking.

Julian Champagnie dunks the ball in St. John’s win over DePaul on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

“We understand what’s at stake right now,” said Champagnie.

After the first five nervous minutes, everyone understood. Everyone played passionate defense. Everyone shared and protected the ball. Nobody understood it better than Champagnie.

Champagne Square Garden.

“It’s amazing to watch,” said Stef Smith. “You, as his teammate, have to make sure he gets the ball.”

It’s been 22 long years since St. John’s won the Big East Tournament championship, 22 long years since Mike Jarvis became the first coach — the only coach — since Carnesecca to uphold a once-proud tradition and a bonfire in the garden inflamed.

“This weekend has not been free of controversy and conflict within our team,” Jarvis told The Post. “As competitive as the boys were and as well as they played together on the pitch, they were sometimes competitive off the pitch,” said Jarvis.

So much so that Erick Barkley and Bootsy Thornton had an altercation in the dressing room at halftime against Miami.

“Erick hit on Bootsy about the defense, and Bootsy didn’t take it well. … We almost had to play the game without our starting point keeper in the second half,” Jarvis said.

Barkley decided he would take a leave of absence at the worst possible time.

“We went back to our hotel, the drama continued,” Jarvis recalled, “and we figured we’d have to play the league game the next day without Erick.”

There would be no shooting in the garden.

“We went back to college and tried to heal our wounds,” Jarvis said. “We had a team meeting instead of an exercise.

Stef Smith shoots the ball against DePaul on Wednesday.
Robert Sabo

In the dressing room of then-Alumni Hall on the afternoon of the championship game against UConn, Barkley apologized to Thornton and the team.

“At that point we asked the team to basically make the decision whether or not to play Erick in the game,” Jarvis said, “and man to man as we walked through the dressing room, they basically said they wanted to.” that he would come back and join the team, and then all the players – including Bootsy and the coaches, the manager – all wanted Erick to come back.”

Jarvis had led his first St. John’s team to the Elite Eight last spring, where they lost to Ohio State.

“I guess Connecticut bought up all the tickets years ago,” Jarvis said. “It was like a home game in Connecticut. The house was packed with St. John’s fans. We had more fans in our building than we should have had in Connecticut. The place was alive. It was electric. … The only other night I can remember that the Garden was that electric was probably when we were playing Duke.

The final: St. John’s 80, UConn 70.

Erick Barkley, Mike Jarvis and Bootsy Thorton celebrate the St. John’s 2000 Big East Championship.
Nury Hernandez

“Everyone just felt such a sense of relief,” Jarvis said.

The 2000 team defeated Northern Arizona in the NCAA tournament before losing to Gonzaga upset.

“When I took the job, the Knicks weren’t playing well,” Jarvis recalled, “so you had kind of an extra burden because you were representing New York. For a guy with a Boston accent who was training in New York, it was tough at times.”

Turning 77 next month, he is currently an associate professor and special assistant to the president at South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary.

“Louie came in and hugged the boys, kissed the boys. … That’s always made it special to have Louie in the house and Louie as part of the team,” Jarvis said. “The pride he always had at St. John’s was incredible.”

In his third season, Mike Anderson tries to restore Pride and desperately tries to secure that elusive invitation to the dance. He needs Julian Champagnie for that now more than ever. Julian Champagnie delivers exactly what St. John’s needs


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