Around this time last year, many people questioned JaKarr Sampson's decision to leave St. John's and enter the 2014 NBA Draft after just two seasons with the Red Storm.
After Sampson went undrafted and appeared headed either overseas or to the NBA D-League, it seemed like those questions would only continue throughout his professional career.
Sampson, however, would be given a shot with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA Summer League, playing well enough to eventually ink a contract with Philadelphia last September. And it was in Philadelphia where the 2013 Big East Rookie of the Year would find a home.
Although the lowly Sixers were one of the worst teams in the league last season, Sampson would spend much of the year in the NBA with the team, playing in 74 games. By February Sampson would make his first NBA start, and he would go on to average 5.2 points (on 42% shooting) and 2.2 rebounds in just over 15 minutes per game last season.
A huge part of Sampson remaining in the NBA last season was his versatility, he played at four of five positions for Philadelphia, and even started a few games at point guard in 2013-14.
And with the 76ers bulking up their depth with big men down low, most notably with the selection of Jahlil Okafor third overall in this year's draft, many around the team feel as though Sampson will once again have to use that versatility and make most of his appearances in the backcourt next season.
Although according to Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times, Sampson is more than ready to excel at any position that he is put in. "I'm ready to play wherever coach needs me," he told Moore, "I'm adding (ball-handling) to my skill set, so when my name is called if I need to play point I can play point."
Sampson would also go on to tell Moore that he's been working on his outside shooting this summer, something that he lacked during his time at St. John's and throughout his rookie season.
If Sampson would be able to add a jumper to his already highly-athletic skill set, it would make him that much more likely to see playing time in the 76ers backcourt next season. As Moore wrote, the injured Tony Wroten and Isaiah Canaan are the only two point guards currently under contract for Philadelphia at this moment. "Sampson could find himself pressed into service again at the point if no more lead guards are added to the roster or injuries occur," he wrote.
Sampson is currently attending the 76ers team minicamp which will lead them into the start of their Summer League season on Saturday night. He is among those who have been leading the team so far throughout camp, and Philadelphia assistants have had nothing but praise for his attitude so far in his time with the team.
This should come as no surprise to St. John's fans judging by the way he carried himself in his two years with the Red Storm. "His attitude's always been perfect," assistant coach Lloyd Pierce told Moore. "He comes to work with a smile on his face and he plays on the court with nothing but energy and effort."
The 76ers will open their Summer League schedule when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas this Saturday night.