Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Maurice Harkless is going to be a Pied Piper.
The 6-foot-8, 190-pound wing from Queens is the first player from the Class of 2011 to commit to St. John’s and new head coach Steve Lavin, and he made the announcement Tuesday at the SNY studio in Manhattan.
“I will be going to St. John’s University in New York,” Harkless said.
“I always wanted to look into St. John’s but they weren’t that good in the past few years and with a new coach, I feel like it’s a brand new opportunity and the coaches are hungry. I’m in New York. I can represent my city in my city.”
“It’s going to be real exciting. Playing in Madison Square Garden is one of the world’s most famous arenas. Just being home, so that plays a big factor as well.”
Harkless, who will prep at South Kent (Conn.), initially committed to UConn last December, but then changed his mind in June — a story first reported by ZAGSBLOG.
He is the No. 13 small forward in the Class of 2011 and the No. 45 player overall, according to Rivals.com
He also considered Rutgers, Maryland, Oregon, Florida State, Florida, Cincinnati and Arizona.
“I could really do it all,” he said. “I can shoot. I can rebound. I can defend any position and I use my length really well so I feel I will be able to bring a lot to the table at St. John’s.”
St. John’s has 10 scholarships to give in 2011 and Harkless is the first to join what Lavin is calling his “Noah’s Ark.”
“It’s a situation where I call it the St. John’s Noah’s Ark,” Lavin said earlier this summer. “We’re going to need two of every position.”
More than 75 percent of the St. John’s roster will turn over after this coming season, when St. John’s will feature nine seniors and expects to compete for a spot in the top half of the Big East.
“We really have no choice because we have nine seniors and we have 10 scholarships available, so it appears that we’re moving in that direction where we’re going to sign 9 or 10 players in our first class and that way we’ll have two of every position,” Lavin said.
St. John’s is also involved with several elite players, including JaKarr Sampson, Amir Garrett, D’Angelo Harrison, Norvel Pelle, Tyler Harris, Quinn Cook, Naadir Tharpe and Tavon Sledge.
“[Lavin] is hungry,” Harkless said. “He tells me what kind of plans he has and I think we could really do big things there.”
After a mediocre spring, Harkless blew up on the summer circuit.
He was invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy but instead was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Hoop Group Elite Camp in Reading, Pa., in early July.
He led the New York Panthers to the semifinals of the Fab 48 event in Las Vegas and was named to the All-Tournament team.
And he finished up his tremendous tour by helping the Panthers win the Desert Duel event in Arizona, beating out Tony Wroten, Quinn Cook,Wayne Blackshear andTharpe for MVP honors.
“I just wanted to prove to myself mainly that I was a better player than a lot of people thought because I started off this spring not so well,” he said. “A lot of people doubted me so I just wanted to go out there and show people what I could do.”
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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.