It's not surprising the top two freshmen scorers in Big East games are St. John's Moe Harkless (18.1 points) and D'Angelo Harrison (17.1). The Red Storm started all five scholarship freshmen in their 78-62 upset of West Virginia Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and since juniors God'sgift Achiuwa and Malik Stith are the only others in the rotation, plenty of playing time to amass stats is guaranteed.
But there has been no mistaking the talent level and versatility displayed by the 6-8 Harkless, a Forest Hills native, who also is among the league leaders in rebounds (9.1). Harkless opened conference play with 32 points against Providence to set a league record for a freshman debut, and he had his best all-around game since then with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots against the Mountaineers.
"He gets a double-double every night and has been really consistent in all our Big East games," said Harrison, who had an excellent game himself with 19 points and four assists. "Moe is a great player, and he's going to get his recognition."
Assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who has been running the show while Steve Lavin recovers from prostate cancer surgery, isn't ready to rush to anoint Harkless instantly as the next big thing in the country's premier college basketball league. No need to push him out the door to the NBA before he's ready, and make no mistake, Harkless can use at least one more year of Big East seasoning before making the leap to the pros.
As a coach who was an assistant for player development on George Karl's Denver Nuggets staff, Dunlap absolutely knows what he's talking about. "Moe has a long way to go to become a complete player," Dunlap said. "He's versatile, but his tool box needs to be developed. By that, I mean his penetration game and being able to take a hard hit and finish, the ability to get his hands on rebounds and pull them in, the physicality part of it.
"It's just a matter of time and development and working away from the lights on pieces [of his game] -- his spin dribble. That's something we've been working on. His post-up move. So, he's versatile. That makes him a guy who can play 'small ball,' and also we can put him at [center] and protect him with our zone. I just think that, when you're dealing with talented people, there's a step-by-step process to bring them where they want to be."
If Harkless has the patience to continue the learning process at St. John's, and if Lavin can surround him with a little more talent and depth, there's no doubt he has a chance to be one of the most special players in Red Storm history. Dare we say the best since Chris Mullin? It's certainly possible.