St. John’s RJ Luis ‘excited’ to be back after injury-riddled start
No, RJ Luis Jr. shook his head, this was not how he envisioned his first season at St. Johns going.
He has appeared in just two games all season, a fractured left hand and stress reaction to his left shin costing him much of the last three months.
Its been a tough year, the talented UMass transfer said on Friday, ahead of the Johnnies non-conference finale against Hofstra on Saturday at UBS Arena. Id say more mentally than physically, coming into this year, having high expectations for myself and what I can bring to the team. Early on, it was hard.
In an open practice on Oct. 1, Luis fractured his left hand.
Then, after playing well in his first game back against Holy Cross on Nov. 25, he felt pain in both shins Luis has dealt with chronic shin splints and an MRI exam revealed a stress reaction to the left one.
It was back to the sideline in a walking boot.
That, Luis said, was worse than the hand because he couldnt do anything for two weeks.
3RJ Luis Jr. drives on Alex Karaban (right) and Hassan Diarra during the first half of St. John’s 69-65 loss to UConn. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConIt appears, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel now for the 6-foot-7 wing, and it isnt an oncoming train.
RJ Luis Jr.’s return could make St. John’s ‘very scary’ with added dynamic
He returned last Saturday in the loss at No. 5 UConn, and actually played more than was planned, logging 18 quality minutes.
I was just really excited. I never played in an arena with that many people, so I felt like I kind of fed off their energy, Luis said, referring to XL Center in Hartford, Conn. As far as how my body felt, I think I felt great. Performance-wise, it was not even close to what Im capable of. I went out there, mentally, Im just going to play hard, play defense, and just try to let the game come to me and not for anything. Thats what I did.
That doesnt mean hes out of the woods yet.
St. Johns, (8-4, 1-1) will have to manage the issue with his shins.
For now, Luis is practicing on a limited basis, held to 1.7 miles of activity that is monitored by a tracker.
He wears insoles in his sneakers to alleviate the stress on his shins, is getting extra treatment and is mindful not to push it if he feels any discomfort, to avoid a flare up.
Thats what happened after the Holy Cross game.
Luis will be even more important after the news, as first reported by The Post, that starting power forward Chris Ledlum is expected to miss Saturdays game with a sprained ankle.
Its uncertain if Ledlum will be able to return against Butler on Tuesday.
SOURCE: St. Johns forward Chris Ledlum expected to be out tomorrow against Hofstra with a sprained ankle and uncertain if he will be back for Butler on Tuesday. Its NOT a high ankle sprain, source says. Hurt the ankle late in UConn loss. #sjubb
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) December 29, 2023It is not a high ankle sprain, according to a source.
Keeping Luis on the court is the priority.
In two games, Luis has shown his potential, averaging 10 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
Hes long and athletic physical attributes that should make him a weapon in the press a shot creator on the wing and one of the best athletes on the team.
3RJ Luis Jr. looks to shoot against UConn’s Stephon Castle during the second half of St. John’s loss. APHe made a difference against Connecticut even though it was his first game in a month after only a few practices.
His presence will create positional versatility for coach Rick Pitino, enabling him to use Luis as a small-ball power forward when Ledlum isnt on the floor.
I feel like my length and my athleticism allows me to do a lot on the court, Luis said. When Coach P talks about my length, I feel like I can be a disruptor. Very versatile player, two-way player, get it done on both sides of the ball.
3RJ Luis speaks to the media during St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 17. Charles Wenzelberg / New York PostI just bring a different dynamic. Defense, offense, just playmaking. I have the ability to make others around me better, I have the ability to create my own shot. The more games that go by, Ill be more comfortable with my teammates and well just play off of each other better.
Luis has done his best to use his time on the sidelines to his benefit.
Watching has given him a different perspective of the game, and while he hasnt been out there with his teammates very much, he feels like he knows their tendencies and the learning process will be quick.
Most of all, hes thrilled to be healthy again, and eager to make an impact for the improving Johnnies.
Im stoked. Ive been bored. Im just trying to go out there and play the sport that I love, Luis said. Its been a long, tiresome three months. But Ive learned a lot out of it. The best thing that you can do when youre put in a negative situation is try to figure out the positive. So thats what Ive been doing. Im just pumped to get on the court.
Saturday marks the first of three contests St. Johns will play at the home of the Islanders.
The Johnnies will also host DePaul (Feb. 6) and Seton Hall (Feb. 18) there as well. … This will be the first meeting between St. Johns and Hofstra since 2009.
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