Men’s Basketball Update: Balamou in; Moe out?

The men’s basketball team’s freshman forward Moe Harkless is leaning towards foregoing his final three years of eligibility and entering the NBA Draft, multiple outlets have reported.


Citing “multiple sources,” The New York Post on March 10 reported that he had already decided to go pro, while the New York Daily News said that he was “leaning” towards entering. CBSSports said on the same day that Harkless had not made a decision.


In addition, multiple classmates of his told the Torch that he hasn’t been to class since the season ended – an indication that his mind may be made up.


St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin on March 10 added to the speculation when he tweeted about Harkless. “Regardless of Moe’s ultimate decision he is a very thoughtful and intelligent person with a BRIGHT [sic] future in basketball,” he said.
Harkless was named the Big East Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Red Storm (13-19, 6-12), averaging 36.1 minutes per game and starting all 32 matchups for the Johnnies.


Originally thought of as a second round pick if he left this year, he has seen his draft stock soar as the season progressed. At the time of print, he is projected in most mock drafts to be a mid-to-late first round pick.


If selected, Harkless would be the first draft pick from St. John’s since Omar Cook in 2001. While at UCLA, Lavin had a streak of 10 seasons in which either a player he coached or a recruit he signed was drafted.


“Moe and I have had a number of productive conversations over the past four days,” Lavin said in a press release. “Naturally the discussions 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.”


His departure would break up the “Fresh Five,” St. John’s starting lineup toward the end of the season that featured freshmen Amir Garrett, D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene, Sir’Dom Pointer and Harkless.


Speculation as to whether Harkless would depart for the NBA was the subject of several postgame questions following the team’s 73-59 end-of-season loss to Pittsburgh.


“I’m convincing Moe [to come back next season],” said freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison after the game. “Moe’s on my side right now. I’m going to   go with whatever he chooses, him and his family. I’m behind him 100 percent.”


Balamou Commits


The men’s basketball team’s 2012 recruiting class is no longer empty. Head coach Steve Lavin received a verbal commitment on March 12 from Long Island shooting guard Felix Balamou, according to the player’s assistant coach.


Balamou, listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds by the recruiting service Scout, attends Our Savior New American High School in Centereach, N.Y., and is a teammate of another Lavin target, ESPNU Top-100 big man Christopher Obekpa.


Balamou has been described as raw and athletic, and is unrated by most major recruiting services. Despite the low profile, however, OSNA assistant coach Eric Jaklitsch told the Torch that St. John’s has been in contact with the guard since September, and that the Johnnies were not the biggest offer that the guard received. He reportedly also considered Connecticut, West Virginia, Oregon and Virginia Tech.


“He’s one of the most underrecruited kids in the country,” Jaklitsch told CBSSports earlier in the year. “He’s exploded his senior year.”