High hopes for Tennessee junior transfer

Zach Smart

There’s already mounting anticipation for the 2005-2006 Quinnipiac men’s basketball season. One of the key reasons for such anticipation is the debut of junior John Winchester.

Winchester, a highly-touted transfer from the University of Tennessee, is a time bomb-it’s just a matter of ticks before he explodes on the Northeast Conference.

A lean 6-foot-4 inch guard/small forward, Winchester was widely regarded as the top high school player in the state of Connecticut as a sophomore. He then took his game to New Jersey, where he starred at Marist High. At Marist, Winchester’s 20 points and six rebounds per game earned him Parade All-America status his junior year. He was also selected as a McDonald’s All-American finalist.

Winchester played one year at the prestigious Milford Academy, where he averaged 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals per game and ranked among the nation’s elite. Winchester evolved into one of the most sought-after guards on the recruiting marketplace, with several major Division I programs drooling over him.

He decided on Tennessee, where he played for two years under head coach Buzz Peterson.

At Tennessee, Winchester quickly developed into a rising star. His game complemented guards C.J. Watson and Scooter McFadgon in the backcourt. During his sophomore season, Winchester came alive in pivotal games against Tennessee Tech and South Carolina, helping propel the Vols to one of the biggest victories of their 15-14 season.

What attracted Winchester to Quinnipiac was the school’s proximity to his Stamford home.

Transferring to QU also presented him with the opportunity to perform in front of his family.

“My family only got to see me play a couple of times and that was on ESPN,” Winchester, a liberal arts major, said. “I just wanted to be closer to home so my family could see me play.”

Having played against NBA players, such as Ronald Murray, Jarret Jack and Francisco Garcia, Winchester brings experience and leadership.

A common blend of strength, athleticism and quickness, Winchester also jumps out of the gym. He’s versatile enough so that he can operate offense or play as a two-guard and small forward.

It’s not a matter of where Winchester is on the court-he’ll do whatever it takes to help produce victories.

“I’m here to win,” Winchester said. “I’m not here to participate or compete. I’m here to win the whole thing.”

Offensively, Winchester can set up his teammates or emerge as a top scorer. He has a sweet stroke from behind the arc, can get hot off pull-up jumpers and he’s shown time and time again that he can take it to the rack and finish on anyone.

Last year, Winchester was able to practice with the Bobcats, but NCAA rules prevented him from playing in games.

So, he became a workout fiend while getting familiar with his teammates and learning coach Joe DeSantis’ system.

“I was just first off trying to fit in with everybody,” Winchester said. “Once everybody started to accept me that’s when I started to put my input on everything.”

The Bobcats couldn’t have landed a better pick-up than Winchester. None of the NEC teams know this yet. They’ll find out soon enough.