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Thursday / August 16.
  • St. John’s Drawing Distinction Between Mo and Momo

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    In the eyes of St. John’s, there is a distinction between Mo and Momo.

    St. John’s signee Maurice “Mo” Harkless played a couple of events with the New York Gauchos AAU program in the spring of 2010, but was never directly coached by Moe Hicks, now the Director of Basketball Operations at St. John’s.

    Lamont “Momo” Jones, by contrast, was directly coached by Hicks for two years at Rice High School.

    St. John’s believes an NCAA rule implemented in 2010 means that while Jones likely can’t play at the school until at least 2012, Harkless is free and clear to join the program this fall.

    “St. John’s works attentively to be in compliance with NCAA legislation at all times, and we have been diligent with all of our incoming men’s basketball student-athletes,” said Mark Fratto, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communications and St. John’s spokesman. “Naturally with Basketball Focus Group legislation being relatively new and still evolving, we are collaborating with the Big East and NCAA to establish clarity, as we do in all cases.”

    Harkless, a 6-foot-8 wing who is the centerpiece of Steve Lavin’s highly-ranked 2011 recruiting class, played two events with the Gauchos in 2010 and then spent the rest of the summer with the New York Panthers, according to his mentor, Nate Blue.

    Harkless, who finished his high school career at South Kent (Conn.) after transferring from Forest Hills High, played at the Spring Fling event and than at the Boo Williams EYBL event with the Gauchos before quitting and going to the Panthers, according to Blue.

    “He did those two events and then he quit the team,” Blue said Wednesday night by phone. “Then he told the Gauchos, ‘Thanks for everything, but it’s not a good fit. He’s going to play with the Panthers all the way through.'”

    He added: “He made his decision to leave UConn when with the Panthers. He committed to St. John’s when with the Panthers.”

    As “program director,” Hicks had mainly administrative duties with the Gauchos and never coached Harkless directly, according to Blue and other sources with knowledge.

    “Moe never even coached him,” Blue said. “The difference [between Harkless and Jones] is [Harkless] wasn’t coached by Moe Hicks. He wasn’t there [with the Gauchos] long enough to establish a relationship and if they did have a relationship, why did he quit after two weeks?”

    Hicks, the longtime Rice High coach, was hired as St. John’s Director of Basketball Operations June 1, 2010.

    At issue is NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2, which says St. John’s can’t recruit anyone coached by Hicks for a two-year period after the hiring, or until June 1, 2012.

    The Bylaw reads: “In men’s basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position.”

    It goes on to say:  ”If an institution hires an IAWP [individual associated with a prospect] for a noncoaching staff position within two years on either side of enrollment, involved S/A will be permanently ineligible for competition at offending institution.”

    The odd thing about the rule is that if Hicks had been hired as an assistant coach on the floor, St. John’s would not be restricted in terms of recruiting his former players.

    The Jones scenario appears completely different, as was reported here Tuesday.

    Despite published reports that Jones, an Arizona transfer, was a done deal to land at St. John’s, not only wasn’t it a done deal, but Jones can’t enroll at the school until after June 1, 2012 because he was coached by Hicks. Even if Hicks were to leave St. John’s for another position, the restriction would still be in place.

    Jones would have to go to a junior college for a season and then enroll at St. John’s in the fall of 2012, something his advisor, former St. John’s and Seton Hall assistant Dermon Player, said was highly unlikely.

    “If he really wanted to go to St. John’s, that’s the only way he could go,” Player said of the JUCO option. “And I’m not a betting man but if I was I don’t think a kid would do that.”

    Player said Seton Hall, UConn, Iona, Hofstra, Siena and Maryland were among the schools that had expressed interest in Jones.

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    **NCAA rule says Jones can’t enroll at St. John’s

    **Player says Jones to St. John’s unlikely

    (Photo courtesy Daily News)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.