When it comes to Julian Champagnie, it’s an established fact that “there’s no place like home.”
The St. John’s University, Jamaica, sophomore guard/forward is a graduate of Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene, and he’s proving this season that the comforts of home have translated to on-court success.
The 6-foot-7-inch Champagnie is off to a roaring start this season. He’s leading the Big East Conference in scoring at 19.7 points per game — a nearly 10-point increase from last season’s average of 9.9.
The Johnnies have been playing some competitive hoops this season, and Champagnie has been a major contributor on both sides of the ball.
With all the COVID-19 protocols in place, Champagnie and his Red Storm teammates have been staying mentally tough to deal with any issues thrown their way. They’ve stayed on task while continuing to keep themselves safe.
Champagnie’s freshman campaign was impressive. He was selected to the Big East All-Freshman Team after starting 26 of St. John’s 32 games.
Specifically this offseason, Champagnie — who played Catholic Youth Organization basketball at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dyker Heights — worked on getting stronger, especially his legs. Last year, he experienced some knee issues that slowed him slightly. He’s also become more in tune with the mental side of the game.
“My confidence is also one of the main things I focused on this offseason,” Champagnie said. “I am trying to be confident in what I can do and know what I can’t do. It helps to know that Coach (Mike Anderson) and all my supporters have my back.”
Though this is a season like no other, the Johnnies are making the most of it. As much as they can, they’re having a lot of fun playing together. Their exciting style — led by the former Loughlin Lion — has been enjoyable to watch.
“We’re really trying to enjoy this moment,” said Champagnie. “It’s a little difficult not having fans at our home games. It’s not like a normal college experience. But the games are very much real, and the intensity is real.”
Champagnie is no stranger to intense games. The local CHSAA league is similar to the Big East in that you know going into every conference game that it’s going to be a hard-fought contest.
There are no “lay-ups” in Big East play, just like there were no “lay-ups” for Bishop Loughlin against the likes of Christ the King H.S., Middle Village; St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows; Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood; and Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge. Luckily, Champagnie experienced a tough high-school schedule that helped him prepare for this big stage.
“Honestly and truly, it helped me a lot,” he said. “It prepared me a lot for what I’m doing now. Gyms were always packed, and the teams were competitive. It was a lot of preparation mentally.
“Sometimes things might not go our way, so I learned to just keep pushing and do something that the team needs to help us win.”
Champagnie has a twin brother, Justin, who plays at the University of Pittsburgh. It was a tough decision when the twins chose their schools whether to stay together or split up. Though they decided to go their separate ways, both have found their comfort zones.
Justin is averaging 18.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Julian follows his brother’s stats closely, and the dynamic duo chats every day. Pittsburgh and St. John’s are set to square off in the 2021 Gotham Classic — scheduled for December at Madison Square Garden. The Champagnie family already has the month circled on their calendars.
As much success as Justin is enjoying at Pitt, there’s something meaningful about Julian’s stellar performance in his own backyard. Though he wishes the fans could be a part of this, he said it’s a wonderful feeling to be playing well so close to home.
“Who wants to leave home?” Champagnie said. “It’s a great feeling that I can be doing what I love to do and not be too far from home.”
Just about a year ago, the Johnnies had their Big East Tournament matchup with Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., suspended at halftime as the coronavirus began its nationwide spread.
Let’s hope things stay as they are so that we can have a full Big East Tournament this year. And let’s hope Champagnie and the Red Storm can continue their momentum to put up a strong showing among the other Big East powerhouses.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.