Recruiting rundown: St. John’s has a replacement for Harkless

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Normally, the news of a star freshman jumping to the NBA from a college basketball team that had mediocre results is met with disdain among the coaching staff and fans. If given the option, surely the coaching staff at St. John’s would have preferred to hold onto Maurice Harkless, who announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft. Luckily for the Red Storm, they landed a commitment that was considered to be of equal talent to Harkless prior to the start of this season.

JaKarr Sampson, a 6-8 forward from Brewster Academy (N.H.), originally signed with St. John’s as a member of the 2011 class, but didn’t qualify for initial eligibility. The former St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) player re-opened his recruitment this year at Brewster Academy. Kansas. Florida, Providence, Baylor and many others were heavily involved in Sampson’s new found recruitment, but he ultimately elected to attend St. John’s, again, last week.

The news was most certainly a welcome surprise to a St. John’s coaching staff that is battling to bring a full complement of scholarship players to the court next season.

A look at consensus player rankings from the 2011 class shows that Maurice Harkless was originally considered the No. 36 prospect, while JaKarr Sampson came in at No. 42. Sampson excelled on the country’s most talented prep school team, and should be ready to step in and start in the front court for the Red Storm.

Like Harkless, Sampson won’t come to campus with a complete skill set, but both players share the often-heard catchphrase of recruiting junkies, “upside.” Sampson is a terrific athlete who can impact the defensive end. He can dunk ferociously and work in the paint to pick up baskets.

Adding Sampson, in addition to Felix Balamou last week, puts St. John’s recruiting back on the upswing. Sampson’s freshman year contribution will have to be large next year at St. John’s, as they will need both scoring and rebounding assistance alongside God’s Gift Achiuwa in a thin frontcourt, given that Harkless was the team’s leading rebounder this year.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.