Discussions in Taffner Fieldhouse were about DePaul and St. John's four-game winning streak on Tuesday afternoon. That was until a special visitor walked in.
Former St. John's forward and current Orlando Magic player Maurice Harkless walked in, as if he had never left. He grabbed Steve Lavin, who had just finished an on-camera interview with SNY, by the shoulders from behind.
"Oh man, that was a good backscreen," Lavin said, joyous to see the first player he had sent to the NBA since he has been at St. John's. When Harkless asked his former coach how the team was doing, Lavin responded proudly: "They're improving by the day. They're starting to get it."
Harkless, who was originally drafted 15th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers last June, has played in 38 games for the Orlando Magic (where he was traded in August, as part of the deal that sent Dwight Howard to L.A.) this season - averaging 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
He chose to leave St. John's after just one year with the Red Storm, one in which he led the Johnnies to a disappointing 13-19 (6-12) season.
"You always look back and think: 'What if I would have come back? What if I would have waited another year?'," Harkless reflected on Tuesday. "But I feel like I made the right decision. I'm in a good position right now to get better and have a good career."
When he was traded from Philadelphia to Orlando, it was clear that Harkless would be receiving a better opportunity to play more minutes and get more exposure on a team with lower expectations and fewer established veterans.
"I was surprised [when I was traded]. I didn't get angry or anything like that," Harkless said. "I felt like Orlando had more opportunity anyway and it would be a better situation for me there. Things are really working out."
Harkless was named Big East Rookie of the Year before ultimately deciding to go into the NBA Draft. Setting the league's freshman debut scoring record against Providence and scoring 30 points against Duke made the accomplishment of his biggest dream possible.
He was there on Tuesday to visit his former coaches and teammates, who are currently riding a four-game winning streak and are tied for third place in the Big East.
"I watch every game that I can. I watch them on my iPad or on TV when they're on," he said. "They're getting better. Sometimes I sit there and face-palm. But they've won four straight and I think the best days for them have yet to come."
Harkless and current Storm star D`Angelo Harrison were the bright spots on a team that left fans with little to cheer about a year ago. Now that Harrison and the rest of his former teammates are experiencing success, Harkless is enjoying the observation.
"[D'Angelo] is doing a great job being a leader. He's scoring well, but I expected that from him," Harkless continued. "I'm really impressed with JaKarr [Sampson] and Dom [Pointer], who has gotten a lot better since last year."
And now that he can enjoy the riches of professional basketball, what was Harkless' first big purchase?
"I bought my mom a car," he said. "I bought her a BMW 528."
And he actually considered coming back to college for another year? We kid, but it was great to see that Moe, who now prefers to be called Maurice, is healthy and enjoying the challenges of the NBA.
Harkless scored a career-high 16 points last night in Brooklyn against the Nets. His Magic will be back in New York tomorrow night, when they'll play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
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