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Moe Harkless mulls jump to NBA

Moe Harkless of the St. John's Red Storm

Moe Harkless of the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden. (Undated file photo) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Through a tumultuous St. John's basketball season, forward Moe Harkless was a shining star from start to finish, setting a Big East scoring record for a freshman in his conference debut and finishing the season as the league's Rookie of the Year. But ever since the Red Storm lost its first-round game to Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the Big East Tournament, speculation has been mounting that Harkless will take the one-and-done route to the NBA draft.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin felt compelled to issue a statement Saturday updating the process Harkless is following as he explores his options. "Moe and I have had a number of productive conversations over the past four days," Lavin said. "Naturally, the discussions have covered the pros and cons of leaving St. John's to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA.

"Moe and his mother, Rosa, know, regardless of what his ultimate decision is, we enthusiastically support them. They understand that either outcome will clearly help the Johnnies' cause as we continue to build our basketball program."

Although Lavin coached only four games because of a difficult recovery from prostate cancer surgery, there was no mistaking how much the 6-8 Harkless grew as a professional prospect under the tutelage of assistant Mike Dunlap, who ran the team and who has experience developing NBA players. Harkless averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds and had 11 double-doubles. He scored 32 points in the conference opener against Providence and had 25 in the ending loss to Pitt.

After accepting the Rookie of the Year Award following that game, Harkless said he is undecided about turning pro. But he admitted the NBA is attractive, saying: "That's every kid's dream. It's definitely tempting. But I have to decide what's the best situation and the best thing I should do."

The last St. John's player drafted into the NBA was Omar Cook in 2001, and the only current St. John's player in the NBA is Ron Artest, who changed his name to Meta World Peace.

If Harkless leaves, it would mean that only five players from Lavin's original nine-man recruiting class in 2011 remain. One player who decommitted when he failed to qualify academically, 6-8 JaKarr Sampson, remains interested. However, the Red Storm has heavy competition from Kansas, Baylor, Florida and Providence.

St. John's also is in the hunt for 6-9 Chris Obekpa from Our Savior New American in Centereach and for 6-8 Orlando Sanchez at Monroe College in the Bronx.

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