Johnnies' Moe Harkless stars in Big East debut breakout performance

Freshman Moe Harkless led the young Johnnies with 32 points and 14 rebounds in Tuesday's win over Providence.

The local Queens kid is the talk of the borough.

In his Big East debut on Tuesday night, St. John's freshman forward Moe Harkless reminded Red Storm fans why the program's future is bright. With an impressively efficient 32 points and 14 rebounds, Harkless is just beginning to exhibit his potential to join the Big East's pantheon of elite players.

St. John's defeated Providence, 91-57, on the first night of conference play. The Johnnies, with its thin roster and absent head coach, are undoubtedly thrilled to kick off the league slate with an addition to the left column. They are probably more thrilled of how impressively they took care of business.

Taking care of business - that is Harkless' goal. His healthy combination of reserved humility and insatiable desire make for the best formula for collegiate greatness. Oh, and he's got some game too.

Each and every game, it becomes more apparent that Steve Lavin and his staff have found a stud in #4. A different aspect of his game seems to be on the upswing from one day to the next.

It won't be long until St. John's will start worrying not on how to develop Harkless, but how long he will ultimately stick around.

More, below the fold.

Moe Harkless, a graduate of Forest Hills High School in Queens, was the first member of Lavin's nationally regarded 2011 recruiting class. Though some pieces of the puzzle were not the right fit, Harkless just keeps on doing his thing.

Moe just wants to play basketball. On Tuesday, he made everyone aware that he can pull that off.

Not only did Harkless score a game-high 32 against the Friars, but he made some history while he was at it. In his 12th game as a college player, he broke a record that had stood for 12 years.

Georgetown's Allen Iverson, whom you may know, and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy each scored 30 points in the Big East debuts. Harkless' 32 made him the new bearer of the record as the Big East newcomer to score the most points in his first conference game.

"It's a great honor just to be mentioned with those guys," Harkless said after the game. "I've never felt like this before. Being able to break the record is a great feeling."

But it wasn't all about Moe. It's never all about Moe. He remained adamant that his intentions were simply to do what it took to get his team the victory.

If Moe can be a scorer of that caliber, the victories will pile up on each other.

Iverson and Murphy each went on from the Big East to enjoy successful careers in the NBA. Harkless, though very early in the process, seems to be on that track.

How long will Harkless stay in St. John's white and red? As of now, it seems to be foggy. You can probably bet that Moe doesn't have a clue what his prolonged future holds. If he is able to find a way to play like he did Tuesday on a regular basis, he won't be in Queens much longer. Consistency will be a key factor in how long Lavin will have the lengthy forward at his disposal.

What has become more noticeable in the Red Storm's three most recent wins is Harkless' growing willingness to take shots from the perimeter. The passivity and uncertainty that had plagued him and some of his teammates throughout November and into this month seems to be wearing off.

Nothing is more important to a basketball player - especially one developing a jump shot - than confidence. If a shooter doesn't believe an open attempt will be made, it most likely won't be. Moe's on-court body language is beginning to convey that he has found the confidence he needed.

The statistics don't lie, either. Harkless shot an unbelievable 14-17 (82.4%) from the field in the win over Providence. No, the Friars didn't bring a suffocating defense from Providence. But you would think that a player would miss more than 3 of his 17 shots.

Harkless doesn't want to celebrate after every made basket. He usually just turns around and gets back on defense as quickly as possible. A pump of the fist? Never. A high five with a teammate? Maybe.

It all refers back to that healthy combination. Humility and desire are what drive Moe Harkless forward. He'll carry that everywhere he goes. For now, he's staying put.

Harkless has been the face of the program since he arrived on campus. Providence head coach Ed Cooley thinks the young man's power ranges even further than that.

"He's definitely the face of the Big East. He'll go down as one of the better players in the conference when it's all said and done."

Let's just hope we're talking about three years from now.

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