Overnight, a couple of rumors about the Red Storm's banner recruiting class bubbled up. As far as I can tell, neither will actually hurt the incoming class... but the road to eligibility is often loaded with potholes, especially for the more highly-touted ballers. We'll keep reporting the possible issues around the team, even if they seem minor.
None of these eligibility issues are Josh Selby sized potholes - where Selby was ineligible for half of last season. Or Enes Kanter sized potholes, where he wasn't eligible to play at Kentucky at all. Or even Remi Barry potholes, where the French recruit had to move on to New Mexico State as a partial qualifier instead of coming to St. John's. The possible eligibility/ academic issues with Moe Harkless, Norvel Pelle, and others seem under control by the St. John's compliance staff - just those news tidbits that pop up over a long, basketball-free summer.
In a nine man class that will be pretty much the entire Red Storm roster (see updated scholarship chart), any defections or eligibility snags will damage the team's ability to compete in the Big East. The incoming class is already an adventure in youth; now the class will be an education on the tugs and tweaks of the NCAA eligibility process. Below, a look at the rumors and possible academic/ eligibility hurdles the Red Storm's incoming class might have to face.
Harkless: Last night, Zagsblog and the New York Post both reported that Maurice Harkless (or Moe Harkless if you prefer the familiar) has played with the NY Gauchos AAU program. No big deal, many players in big cities roll with multiple AAU teams, right?
Well, St. John's Director of Basketball Operations Moe Hicks was in an administrative/ leadership role with the Gauchos, and had been associated with them for a long time.
This issue popped up on Twitter when Zagoria was asked why Harkless wouldn't be also ineligible to suit up for the Johnnies like Momo Jones won't be able to.
The Red Storm's compliance department is working closely with the NCAA:
"St. John’s works attentively to be in compliance the NCAA legislation at all times, and we have been diligent with all of our incoming men’s basketball student-athletes," said Mark Fratto, St. John’s senior associate athletics director for communication.
"Naturally, with basketball focus group legislation being relatively new and still evolving, we are collaborating with the Big East and NCAA to establish clarity, as we do in all cases."
...and advisor Nate Blue believes Harkless should be cleared for action in Queens (and confirmed for Rumble in the Garden as well):
As "program director," Hicks had mainly administrative duties with the Gauchos and never coached Harkless directly, according to Blue and other sources with knowledge.
"Moe never even coached him," Blue said. "The difference [between Harkless and Jones] is [Harkless] wasn’t coached by Moe Hicks. He wasn’t there [with the Gauchos] long enough to establish a relationship and if they did have a relationship, why did he quit after two weeks?"
Pelle: Meanwhile, a rumor popped up that Norvel Pelle was considering a prep year instead of coming to campus. Johnny Jungle reported that was false, and Norvel Pelle seemed to lament false reporting. But knowing who put the report out there, I won't shove that news under the table just yet; sometimes when there is smoke, there is fire. And I don't believe recruits will be on campus until they actually set foot on campus - there are many mercurial characters out there.
Pointer: Sir'Dominic Pointer's Quality Education Academy was in the news last month for possibly being scrutinized by the NCAA for their academics. The QEA, while attracting all manner of high-level basketball talent like Josiah Turner and Quincy Miller, is a more longstanding operation than, say, a controversial post-graduate basketball factory like NIA Prep. But players like Dom Pointer have enjoyed strong academic gains while on the Quality Education campus.
Lindsey: Nurideen Lindsey still has classes to finish at Redlands Junior College over the summer; he won't arrive until fall, and to finish JUCO in a year and a half can be a heavy load. At the very least, he will be behind in training and periodic summer instruction from the staff.
Just because all of the players in St. John's banner recruiting class are signed up doesn't mean that they will all make it to campus. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and players sometimes change their minds... until the Noble Nine (Nefarious Nine? They need a nickname) get on campus and suit up, there is some worry about the NCAA process.
Sampson: Jakarr Sampson had some eligibility rumors surrounding him as well in April. Remember he went to Brewster Academy to clean up his academics and get him eligible for NCAA basketball. Sampson's eligibility rumors seem to have died down, at least for now.
Fortunately, the St. John's compliance staff has seemed very on top of their game in recent years, from Phil Wait to Derwin Kitchen and Rob Thomas. And the NY media (with help from other locals, perhaps??) will look for the possible snags in the Red Storm's recruiting class. Hopefully for the Red Storm, little will come of the rumors and the class will arrive on campus intact.