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Joe Panik, former St. John’s standout, calls it a career

Former St. John’s standout baseball player Joe Panik has retired from baseball after a successful career that spanned the better part of a decade in Major League Baseball.

The John Jay High School grad appeared in 818 games across eight years in the major leagues, highlighted by a World Series victory with the San Francisco Giants as a rookie in 2014.

Panik hit .305 after joining the club in June of that same year, finishing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Panik was named an All-Star the following year and hit a career-best .312, slugging .455 and driving in 37 runs. In 2016, Panik earned the Gold Glove award for being the NL’s top defensive second baseman.

Panik was selected with the 29th overall pick of the 2011 draft, after hitting .370 in three years at St. John’s. He holds the second-highest career average in program history. As a junior in 2011, he earned All-American honors from the ABCA, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball newspaper after hitting a career best .398 average.

He helped lead the Johnnies to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Big East Tournament title in 2010.

Panik signed to play for the New York Mets in 2019, before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays in early 2020. His playing career ended with the Miami Marlins last year at the age of 31.

Panik and his wife, Brittany, welcomed a daughter, Mikayla, in October of 2021.

St. John’s Basketball signs 7-foot-1 Mohamed Keita

The St. John’s men’s basketball program announced the signing of incoming freshman Mohamed Keita, a 7-foot-1 center out of NBA Academy Africa and The Winchendon School.

“Mohamed is an elite defensive prospect with great size and versatility,” said Head Coach Mike Anderson. “He’s also a very coachable young man who also has a tremendous offensive upside and an unrelenting motor. We think he’ll fit in nicely with the rest of our team and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the St. John’s Basketball family.”

Keita saw an uptick in his recruitment following a dominant defensive performance during the April live period with the New York Jayhawks, a local AAU program that produced both Rafael Pinzon and Andre Curbelo.

Prior to his noteworthy series of showings in the states, Keita also impressed at the NBA’s Basketball Africa League this spring. NBA Academy is a year-round elite basketball development program that provides top high school-age athletes from outside the United States with a holistic approach to player development and a predictable pathway to maximize potential. Playing with S.L.A.C. (Guinea), he averaged 5.0 points on 71.4 percent shooting to go along with 4.3 rebounds per contest. In his final appearance against AS Sale (Morocco) on March 14, Keita posted a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double in just 19 minutes of action.

Keita also has experience playing internationally with Guinea, averaging 5.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in five games at the 2020 FIBA U18 African Championship.

Keita spent the past season at The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass., averaging 6.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game in the AA Division of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC).

St. John’s breaks ground on new facility

Health Sciences Center and Nursing Program to transform campus

St. John’s University administrators and local elected officials commemorated International Nurses Day by breaking ground on its plans to build a $106 million Health Sciences Center.

Part of a new initiative to transform the learning and landscape of the Queens campus, the proposed 70,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2024 as the permanent home of the recently launched Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing program at St. John’s.

“For the last two years, New York’s nurses have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude,” New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “This new state-of-the-art Health Sciences Center at St. John’s University will be crucial to educating the next generation of New York’s best and brightest nurses, ensuring they are ready to step up and protect their fellow New Yorkers when they are needed most.”

Establishing a nursing program is part of a planned expansion of the health sciences curriculum coupled with capital improvements to new and existing academic facilities on the campus.

The new Health Sciences Center aims to both support and house existing and forthcoming health science programs in one energy-efficient academic facility, which will provide students with access to state-of-the-art technology, classrooms, laboratories, simulation facilities, and flexible room layouts to allow for a multitude of teaching and learning opportunities. The innovative and flexible learning environment will ensure that future healthcare workers can keep pace with the dramatic advancements in the industry.

“Nursing is not simply a job or a career, it is a vocation—a true calling to service—the kind of compassionate service that is at the heart of the transformative Catholic and Vincentian mission of a St. John’s education,” Rev. Brian J. Shanley, president of St. John’s University, said in a statement. “Today, with a major investment and expanded commitment to the health sciences, St. John’s helps answer that call.”

St. John’s University will also provide students with hands-on clinical rotations within a network of partner healthcare systems that include New York City Health + Hospitals, New York-Presbyterian Queens, and Catholic Health.

With an innovative curriculum, support for brand-new facilities, and established community partnerships, the new nursing program at St. John’s aims to strengthen the local academic health system. The four-year nursing pre-licensure program is designed for undergraduate students with no previous experience in professional nursing. It is open to applicants with good moral character and demonstrated academic ability.

The construction of the new facility is funded by a mix of private and public funds including more than $20 million to date in philanthropic support. The Health Sciences Center is partially funded by a $1.25 million federal appropriation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration secured by Representative Gregory W. Meeks and Senator Chuck Schumer.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the need for adequate nurse staffing, which is crucial to ensure quality health care access for all New Yorkers,” Hope Knight, CEO, president, and commissioner of Empire State Development, said in a statement. “New York State’s investment in St. John’s University’s state-of-the-art Health Science Center reflects our strategic focus on workforce development and highlights New York’s commitment to strengthening our health care system. The New Health Sciences Center will create 21st-century jobs by creating a pipeline of nursing staff in the region that will help fulfill a crucial need across the State.”

In addition, St. John’s secured a $5 million New York State Higher Education Capital Matching Grant and a $700,000 Empire State Development grant from Round XI of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

“Investing in our workforce is an important priority for the Regional Councils and the pandemic has put a focus on the need to expand the talent pool of skilled nurses,” New York City Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Winston Fisher and CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez said in a joint statement. “The NYREDC is proud to support the Health Science Center at St. John’s University, which will be an important long-term investment in future healthcare workers that will expand our workforce of nurses with good-paying jobs while also growing the State’s economy.”

When complete, the new facility will enable St. John’s University to train student nurses with the most innovative training tools and techniques available. Applications for the University’s Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing are now being accepted and preparations are underway for the first cohort of students to begin classes in August.

The new undergraduate nursing program is expected to produce approximately 125 nursing graduates per year.

“Borough Boxing” brings fight night to St. John’s

People filled the Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University on Saturday night, to watch and cheer as some of the toughest professional boxers from NYC stepped into the ring. Hosted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, “Borough Boxing,” featured five back-to-back match-ups, including the main event between Woodhaven local Danny “El Gallo” Gonzalez (20-4-1 7 KO’s) and Brazilian welterweight Paulo Galdino (12-5 8 KO’s).

Danny “El Gallo” Gonzalez went the distance in an 8 round bout against Brazilian welterweight Paulo Galdino

Gonzalez came out the gate early, landing a flurry of punches, keeping Galdino unsteady on his feet. Gonzalez was looking to close the show early, but Galdino managed to survive the round. The thrilling action continued throughout the entire bout. Gonzalez appeared to have Galdino’s number several times throughout the match, picking his spot and unleashing strong bursts of jabs against the southpaw Galdino, who managed to hold his own through all eight rounds. The fight was a memorable one, as the two fighters went back and forth, exchanging impressive and brutal blows to the body of their opponent.

In the end, it all came down to the final bell, as ringside judges were left with a difficult decision to make. In the end, it was Galdino who pulled it off, winning in a razor-thin split decision upset right in Gonzalez’s own backyard.

Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea wins her bout.

Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea (30-2-1 13 KO’s) extended her win streak in a super bantamweight showdown against Calista “Cali” Silgado (19-14-1 13 KO’s), who showed remarkable resolve, trading blows and body shots with the heavy-handed Bronx-native. But in the end, it would be Shea’s superior boxing ability that would prove the difference, winning by unanimous decision. She is now poised to make a title run at 118-122 lbs.

The undercard matches were just as thrilling as the Bronx-based “The Nigerian Nightmare” Afunwa King (4-1 1 KO) won in the cross-borough matchup, besting Brooklyn-born and raised Kamron Humphrey (3-1 2 KO’s). King managed to knock down Humphrey in the second round, to go on to win in a unanimous decision.

Glendale’s own Mat “The Future” Castro wins his bout against Angelo Thompson

Glendale’s own Mat “The Future” Castro got hometown fans riled up in his match-up against Angelo Thompson (0-3), as they went the full 4-rounds in this super welterweight fight. Thompson kept Castro on his toes, but in the end, it was not enough to triumph over Castro’s boxing skills, which made all the difference. Castro won by unanimous decision.

The opening bout of the night got fans out of their seats to see NYPD officer Emmanuel Etienne (2-0 1 KO) face off against Tunde Fatiregun (0-2) from Elizabeth, NJ. The first two rounds were intense as both fighters switched up from the body to the head. However, in the third round, Fatiregun was deducted a point for two separate occasions where he pressed down on the head and held Etienne. In the end, the referee called the fight off for the same reason, giving Etienne the win by DQ in the fourth round.

“What an excellent night of boxing for the first-ever show in Carnesecca Arena history,” Joe DeGuardia, CEO of Star Boxing, said. “The fights emulated the grit and determination of the history and quality of Borough Boxing. Maureen Shea bit down against a tough opponent and got the job done. Paulo Galdino and Danny Gonzalez put on a thrilling fight for the fans, as did all combatants. Thank you to everyone involved in the show and the fans who came out to support their fighters and the show. We look forward to returning to St. John’s University and will announce our future events schedule soon.”

Afunwa King of The Bronx and Kamron Humphrey of Brooklyn step into the ring for an interborough match-up.

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