Basketball Legend Dr. J Speaks at St. John’s

Dr. J at St. John's
A Night with St. John’s Basketball featured, from left, Conrado Gempesaw, St. John’s president; legendary coach Lou Carnesecca; Julius Erving; Joe Tartamella, St. John’s women’s basketball coach; and Steve Lavin, St. John’s men’s basketball coach. (Photo courtesy St. John’s Athletic Communications)

From St. John’s University, Jamaica

QUEENS, N.Y. – With hundreds in attendance to support the St. John’s athletics teams, a speech by Julius “Dr. J” Erving highlighted “An Evening with St. John’s Basketball,” held at the Metropolitan Club of New York on Tuesday evening.

The evening commenced with an address from Director of Athletics Chris Monasch, who delivered opening remarks and recognized a few of the event’s key attendees in the audience.

“Tonight not only serves as a celebration to commemorate the start of our basketball season, but it is the major fundraiser for our programs,” said Monasch. “Tonight we have the chance to reach the highest level of revenue this event has ever produced. On behalf of our student-athletes and coaches, we thank you for your great support.”

Next to the podium was Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, who as a lifelong basketball fan, relayed a story about his time as a young college professor that linked him to the night’s guest of honor.

“When I became a faculty member in the mid 1980s, my students had a hard time pronouncing my last name,” said Dr. Gempesaw. “One of my students learned that I loved the sport and enjoyed playing basketball, so he started calling me ‘Dr. G’ after Dr. J.”

Following remarks by Monasch and Dr. Gempesaw, the attendees got the chance to hear from two members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, who were interviewed by their coaches during an informal Q&A session.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said women’s basketball head coach Joe Tartamella. “This is the third one that I’ve participated in. It’s such a great event and I want to thank all of you for being here and supporting us.”

Tartamella then asked junior captain Danaejah Grant to describe her team’s expectations for the coming year.

“This year I think we’ll be relentless on both ends of the floor,” Grant said. “Last year we came up a little short as far as the BIG EAST Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, so I just think our shortcomings will really drive us this year. We’re very hungry and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to make it back, but not just make it there, to bring home hardware this year.”

Next up were men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin and senior guard D’Angelo Harrison.

“I want to thank everyone for turning out tonight and for your commitment to our basketball program,” Lavin began. “We all share a common love of this university and St. John’s basketball. I don’t think there’s any better example of a good investment in terms of supporting young people in fueling their futures and their dreams. That’s what an evening like this is really all about. That’s what makes it special.”

After his opening remarks, Lavin asked Harrison to describe his team and their aspirations for this season.

“I love spending every day with the guys,” Harrison said of his teammates. “Every day is a high note for me. Jamal [Branch], Dom [Pointer], Dave [Lipscomb], all the new guys, I see them every single day. This group is the tightest we’ve ever been since I’ve been at St. John’s, so this is a special group. I feel it. We’re capable of big things this year and I’m looking forward to it.”

Rounding out the evening was the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. J., the basketball legend who grew up about 15 miles away from the St. John’s campus. After discussing his New York credentials and his undying love for the city, Erving relayed a lesser known story about his time as a young man in the New York area who fostered a great relationship with legendary St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca. One of the most highly sought-after recruits in the area, Erving had narrowed his collegiate possibilities to UMass and St. John’s. Eventually choosing UMass to play for a teammate of his high school coach, Erving recalled the tough time that he had telling Carnesecca of his decision, sitting in his office crying because he did not want to disappoint the Hall of Fame coach.