LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Steve Lavin recruited JaKarr Sampson harder than any other recruit he’s ever targeted and now it’s paid off.
The 6-foot-8 forward from Brewster (N.H.) Academy re-committed to St. John’s Wednesday, choosing the Johnnies over Providence, Florida and Kansas.
Sampson initially committed last summer, but was then ruled academically ineligible last fall before re-opening his recruitment.
“He recommitted,” Don Anderson, Sampson’s AAU coach, told SNY.tv by phone. “He wanted to get this over with.
“He always had this in mind about St. John’s. He knew he had it in his heart that he always loved the coaching staff in New York.”
Lavin makes the same pitches to all recruits, including 6-3 wing Felix Balamou, who committed earlier this week.
The coach pitches the team’s up-tempo style of play; the fact that three assistants have NBA experience; the ability to play in Madison Square Garden and in New York City and in the Big East; and a track record of producing pros.
Sampson, along with Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett, were declared ineligible last fall. Sampson and Pelle re-opened, while Garrett arrived at St. John’s in December.
“When it transpired about him not being eligible, he knew it wasn’t nobody’s fault personally,” Anderson said. “He just accepted it and wanted to re-open his recruitment.”
He added: “He wanted to come home. He wanted to come home to compete for a national championship and to further his dreams in the league.”
Anderson said he isn’t certain if Moe Harkless, the Big East Rookie of the Year, will return, but Harkless is expected to turn pro.
“He would probably love to have Moe there,” Anderson said of Sampson. “Him and Moe became real good friends. He would’ve loved the opportunity to play with him but he knows that St. John’s was one or two rebounds away from winning more games.
“He’s happy for what happened to Moe but at the same time he wanted to come and help out the Johnnies program.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.