After an award-winning freshman season, Moe Harkless has decided to test the waters of the NBA draft.
The Queens native announced his decision on Monday, March 19 at Madison Square Garden alongside his mother Rosa and Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin.
“It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA, and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” said Harkless. “I am grateful to my teammates and coaches at St. John’s. I would like to thank Coach Lavin, our staff and my teammates for being there for me throughout the whole season.”
Draft projections have the 6-foot-8-inch small forward being picked in the middle of the first round.
Harkless capped his celebrated first season at St. John’s — he was sixth nationally among freshmen in scoring and third in rebounding — by being named the Big East Rookie of the Year.
A stat-sheet filler, Harkless finished with per game averages of 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks.
While many fans were excited about the direction the team was headed behind this year’s “Fresh 5,” Lavin has said that players leaving early for the NBA helps the program gain traction on the recruiting trail.
“We are proud of what Moe and our young group accomplished this season — Moe is an example that St. John’s is once again a destination for top-caliber talent and we look forward to following his progress,” Lavin said.
Speaking about his teammates, Harkless said, “We have been through a lot together and I know everyone is excited for me. I know if we all keep working hard, a lot of us will be playing together in the league someday. I believe this is only the beginning for Coach Lavin and his successful legacy at St. John’s.”
Next year’s team should return five of the six players in the Johnnies’ rotation and add Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch. JaKarr Sampson has recommitted to the Red Storm after being declared academically ineligible before the season and the team also received a verbal commitment from Felix Balamou.
“I really enjoyed playing with Moe,” said D’Angelo Harrison who set the St. John’s record for points by a freshman. “He is a great player and I wish him luck and success in the NBA. I hope to join him in the league in a few years.”
The last Red Storm player to be drafted was Omar Cook in 2001. Cook, who was also a freshman when he entered the draft, is often touted as an example of college players leaving too early. He was taken in the second round and played in only 22 NBA games in his career.
Harkless can still return to St. John’s if he does not sign with an agent, though he is in the process of finding one. Players have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft which will be held on June 28.