After weeks of deliberation, St. John's forward Moe Harkless announced Monday afternoon at Madison Square Garden that he will enter the NBA Draft.
"From a young age, Moe has aspired to play at highest level and we were fortunate for a year to be a part of that journey," Coach Lavin said of the freshman forward from Queens. Lavin and Harkless' mother Rosa attended the conference in support of Moe.
"The future is never guaranteed and I feel like the opportunity and a chance to pursue that dream is available right now," Harkless said.
The 6'8", 200 pound Harkless averaged 15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game in Big East play (15.5/ 8.6/ 1.4 overall) playing 36 minutes per game on his way to the Big East Rookie of the Year award. One of two St. John's players over 6'6", Harkless played the post as a de facto center, leading the team in rebounding despite his size.
Coach Lavin told the assembled press that Moe Harkless' departure "gives us evidence that if you come to St. John's, great things can happen."
More on projections for Harkless and the future for St. John's basketball, below the fold.
Moe has room to improve, but can do that improvement on the professional level where he will be paid for his efforts. The last pick of the 2011 NBA draft received over $850,000 for two guaranteed years and team options for more.
Harkless plans on hiring an agent in the next week and is committed to remaining in the draft. Though the main attraction for scouts is Harkless' athleticism, his skill/ shooting potential also has NBA teams intrigued. He will work out in Florida at IMG Academy in Florida to improve his jump shot and perimeter skills for workouts to better impress the NBA.
The exposure of the Duke game (where Harkless had 30 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals), the Providence game (32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals), and the Pittsburgh game in the Big East Tournament (25 points, 9 rebounds), put Harkless' potential on display, raising his draft stock.
Early projections in mock drafts have Harkless going anywhere from 15-30 - a reasonably wide projection for a player without lottery buzz, but obvious talent.
Draft Express has Moe Harkless at 20th in their 2012 mock draft.
NBADraft.net has Harkless at 16th in their 2012 mock draft.
Chad Ford has Harkless at 26th on his draft board.
Moe Harkless projects as a small forward/ wing on the professional level.
Harkless finalized his decision in recent days, though the resurgence of St. John's and leaving his teammates makes following his NBA dream bittersweet. "We have been through a lot together and I know everyone is excited for me," Harkless said. "I know if we all keep working hard, a lot of us will be playing together in the league someday."
But leaving his teammates will still be be difficult. "My teammates are like my brothers. It’s hard, but I have to be ready to move on. They’re happy for me and that’s what matters."
"I really enjoyed playing with Moe," D`Angelo Harrison said. "He is a great player and I wish him luck and success in the NBA. I hope to join him in the league in a few years."
For St. John's fans, goodbye will be bittersweet as well. Harkless became the face of hope as the Red Storm struggled through the Big East season. #HowCouldYouBeSoHarkless was a popular hashtag. The humble and talented Harkless was an integral part of the Johnnies' attack.
But Lavin has been working on recruiting reinforcements, with the commitment of JaKarr Sampson. Sampson's skill set is somewhat similar to Harkless', though he is known to be a little more raw.
The staff is hoping for some commitment news in the next week or two as well to help bolster the talented Red Storm roster, which will introduce Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch at point guard in December to a talented core of D`Angelo Harrison, Sir`Dominic Pointer, Amir Garrett, Phil Greene, and God`sgift Achiuwa.
Having a player go pro after a year is great publicity for the St. John's program, and Harkless acknowledges that. "My decision to turn pro will help St. John's recruiting, in New York and across the country," Harkless said.