St. John’s True Warrior

Ron Artest earns his nickname in word and deed

"It's hard to encourage vocal leadership," says Aberer. "If you see it you want to nurture it. Most kids today don't want the focus to shine on them. They want to blend in. But if you're going to be a leader, you sometimes have to offend people. Ronnie has no fear of doing that."

But Jarvis does. While appreciative of Artest's desire to win, the Red Storm's new coach has tried to establish an equality of leadership, a structure in which everyone can lead, no matter their ability. "I think it's important for teams to have leaders, whether they be vocal or otherwise," Jarvis says. "Ronnie happens to be vocal, and as long as it's done in a positive way, I think it's great.

"When it's time to hop on the team, I'll do that. That's my job. I don't need players nor do I ask players to do that. The coach can be the bad guy."

Talkin' the talk and walkin' the walk: Ron Artest (top)
AP / Wide World
Talkin' the talk and walkin' the walk: Ron Artest (top)

So far, Jarvis has been anything but a bad guy. After Fran Fraschilla's two years of in-your-face stewardship, Jarvis's fatherlike direction has suited a team with only one senior well, not only allowing freshman point-guard sensation Barkley the comfort level to make mistakes and not lose his starting job, but giving Tyrone Grant the confidence and playing time to become the team's leading re bounder. Still, the team seems to realize that the words or actions of a peer can break the monotony of listening to one man and one man only.

"It's good," junior center Albert Richard son says of Artest's assertiveness. "For one thing, you're not just getting help from just the coach. You're learning from each individual, so it's always great for other players on the team to be leaders, no matter who it is."

Artest maintains his goal in verbally prodding the Red Storm is to help the coaching staff. "Coaches can't keep talking," says the 19-year-old forward. "They'll run out of breath eventually, so you just want to be like a second coach and, hopefully, get everybody on the team to do the same."

While that's far from a unanimous view in the St. John's locker room—it's a philosophy that has made the Red Storm a Top 25 team and made Artest an NBA prospect—all in the cauldron of New York City.

Some players wilt, others run. Ron Artest hasn't gone anywhere, and yet he may take St. John's farther than anyone expected.

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