“JaKarr is dreaming”

By Lloyd Carroll

      Sophomore St. John’s University forward JaKarr Sampson surprised nearly everyone by declaring that he would be leaving the Red Storm with the hopes of being drafted by an NBA team this coming June.

      The 6'8" Sampson is a good player who averaged around 14 points per game this past season but he is not an exceptional talent since every college team has a player just like him on its roster. He was not listed on the Wooden Award ballot in which media members select the outstanding college basketball player of the year and it should be noted that there are a lot of names on it. Toss in the fact that St. John’s was “one and done” in both the Big East and the National Invitational Tournaments and you get the feeling that NBA teams are not exactly lining up for his services.

      Felipe Lopez, who was one of the best high school players in the US during the early ‘90s and even made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager before embarking on a fine college career at St. John’s. He was one of the many hoops legends who returned to Madison Square Garden last Wednesday for a press event commemorating the return of the NCAA Tournament to New York City for the first time since 1961.

     Lopez tried to be diplomatic when the topic of Sampson’s decision to leave SJU inevitably came up. “I always believe that everyone should get a four-year degree like I did. I would not be a manager for NBA Cares (the philanthropic arm of the National Basketball Association) if I did not have a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “JaKarr does have a few months to work on his game and impress the scouts,” he added in a way that was anything but a ringing endorsement.

     In 2012 when former Forest Hills High School star Maurice Harkless decided to ditch SJU after his freshman year for NBA glory (he was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers who had the 15th selection in the first round that year before being traded shortly afterwards to the Orlando Magic), the St. John’s University Athletics Department arranged to hold a press conference for Mo at Madison Square Garden. In this case they arranged for JaKarr to meet with reporters at Taffner Field House the day after he made his decision. That’s a big difference in stature.

     The best case scenario for Sampson is that he will be a late second round draft pick but the odds are that he will not be selected. If he is not drafted then he will have to try to wrangle an invitation to an NBA training camp and be willing to start off in  pro basketball’s minors, the NBA Developmental League. The other option is to play professionally overseas. 

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