After a period of speculation that followed St. John’s season-ending loss in the Big East tournament, freshman forward Moe Harkless has made it official: he will hire an agent and head to the NBA draft.
The announcement came at a Monday afternoon press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York City, as Harkless sat alongside his mother, Rosa, and St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin.
“It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA, and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” Harkless said in a press release. “I would like to thank Coach Lavin, our staff and my teammates for being there for me throughout the whole season.”
Harkless was named the Big East Rookie of the Year and averaged 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Red Storm this past season. Against Providence, he set the scoring record for most point by a freshman in a Big East debut, hanging 32 points on the Friars.
The record was previously held by Allen Iverson and Troy Murphy.
Over the course of the season, Harkless developed more aggressiveness and learned to use the physical gifts that he was granted with his 6-8, 210-pound frame. At Cameron Indoor, he scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a loss to Duke.
Scouts project Harkless will go anywhere from 13th to 25th in the first round and, despite his ability to pull out of the draft by April 10 under NCAA rules, he expressed his desire to gain representation and remain in the pool.
Though the Red Storm will be losing their best player, the move is positive for Steve Lavin’s recruiting efforts, especially in New York City.
Harkless came to St. John’s as a Top 50 player, but few saw him as a one-and-done. With his move to the NBA, Lavin can now use that as a recruiting tool to attract players who are looking to make the shift from high school to college to the NBA.
The Red Storm have two players committed to their 2012 class so far: Felix Balamou of Our Savior New American (NY) and ultra-athletic forward JaKarr Sampson of Brewster Academy (NH). Sampson returns to the Red Storm after being ruled ineligible at the beginning of the 2011 season. Lavin has made it known that he is looking to bring three more prospects on board during the spring signing period.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_