St. John’s hosts Fordham in city matchup

A rivalry requires more than geographic proximity.

St. John’s and Fordham are roughly 15 miles apart, but have been separated so much more by the disparities in their basketball programs. One school views March Madness as a must, while an appearance by the other would appear miraculous.

The Red Storm have claimed 23 of the past 25 meetings, but Fordham coach Tom Pecora’s recent recruiting successes may allow the seeds planted decades ago finally to grow.

Even if St. John’s and Fordham don’t have a real rivalry yet, Red Storm center Chris Obekpa said the two teams have something.

“I call it beef. I don’t like them,” Obekpa said on Friday before the teams meet in the MSG Holiday Festival on Saturday. “They’re mad I’m in this position, like I’m taking their spot. Most of the players think they’re supposed to be at St. John’s, so it adds beef.

“St. John’s is New York’s team. It’s a privilege for me to be on this team. They’re mad that they’re not here, so playing us is an opportunity for them to prove a point.”

Obekpa, who set a school-record with 11 blocks in last season’s win over Fordham, said he expects trash talk from Rams guards Branden Frazier and Jon Severe, against whom he has played in summer leagues. He said he won’t say anything back, but he’ll try to quiet them by breaking his record.

“I know them. Just playing against them, they’re going to say some stuff,” said Obekpa, who leads the nation with 5.7 blocks per game. “All we got to do is shut them down. Once you get them two, I think we can handle them. … My own way of responding to trash talk, I’ll beat you. The victory’s going to speak. That’s my trash talk.”

Severe, Fordham’s freshman sensation, was excited to make his first-ever appearance at the Garden, but he seemed even more energized by the opportunity to take on the Red Storm (5-2).

“They’re a tough team, but I think we can beat St. John’s,” Severe told The Post. “We gotta go earn respect. If we beat St. John’s, I think people will look at us in a different way.”

Severe is the reason this rivalry could get real. Despite little size and even less depth, Fordham (4-2) has had a successful start to the season, led by Severe, who is the 11th-leading scorer in the country (23.2 points per game).

Severe said he never had any interest in playing at St. John’s, but Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said they didn’t go after the top player in New York harder in recruiting because they didn’t have a scholarship to offer until Amir Garrett transferred in the spring.

“[Severe is] a Big East level player that we would have recruited in a normal year if we had scholarships available,” Lavin said. “Loved him, loved his game. [At] UCLA we would’ve recruited him, anywhere I’ve coached. He’ll be a pro. He’ll play in the NBA.”

While Severe has matched every expectation, St. John’s still is waiting for highly touted freshman Rysheed Jordan to demonstrate his playmaking potential.

Jordan hasn’t been granted the same number of opportunities, playing only 15.8 minutes per game (21 minutes less than Severe), but he is averaging only 4.2 points on 23.5 percent shooting from the field and 14.3 percent on 3-pointers.

Lavin maintained Jordan is right on track — leading the team with 2.5 assists per game — and that he will see more opportunities as the season progresses, noting the freshman is learning how to play at this level and learning how to fit in with his talented teammates.

Though the results may take longer to see, Lavin said this method is much preferable than having to play freshmen more than 35 minutes per game — as he had been forced to do with D’Angelo Harrison — because there were no other options, a la Fordham.

“I think he’s a competitor, so naturally he wants to accelerate the learning curve,” Lavin said. “Sometimes you can’t, sometimes you have to go through the paying your dues, earning your stripes… As a facilitator, as a quarterback, he’s really someone that can help our cause. If you see him every day in practice, you know where he’s headed.”