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.
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin picked up his second commitment Thursday night, and it was a huge one.
JaKarr Sampson, a 6-8, 190-pound small forward from Akron, Ohio who plays at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, verbally committed to the Johnnies on ESPNU.
“In the words of LeBron James I’m going to take my skills and talents to St. John’s,” said Sampson, who is friendly with Jamesbecause they both attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
Sampson later said in a phone interview he asked LeBron if he could copy the phrasing James used on “The Decision.”
“I was talking to LeBron,” Sampson said. “I asked him if it was OK if I used his words.”
Sampson, ranked the No. 12 small forward in the Class of 2011 by Rivals.com, chose St. John’s over Baylor and Tennessee. He chose the Big East school without ever taking an official visit, only an unofficial over the summer.
“I made up my mind the beginning of this week,” Sampson said. “I’ve just been thinking St. John’s is a great place to be. It’s everything my mom and my coach and my dad wanted and was looking forward to in a college. It’s a small school but it’s big time basketball. Eveything fit into place. They have two former NBA [assistant]coaches in [Mike] Dunlap and Rico [Hines]. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s my dream, to make it to the NBA.”
Asked if the NCAA investigation into Tennessee impacted his decision, Sampson said: “That wasn’t a factor. It didn’t have nothing to do with me. I feel bad for Bruce Pearl. He’s a great guy. I got to sit down and get to know him.”
Don Anderson, Sampson’s AAU coach, said the Johnnies are getting a potential future pro.
“A pro,” Anderson said. “He brings everything. He’s got all the tools. He has the athleticism. He has the length, the basketball smarts. And he’s coming into his own. He’s just 17.
“He’s actually gonna play multiple positions because he has a varied skill-set. You cam’t make him [just] a three. He plays two, three positions. If need be you can put some meat on him, he can play the center position.”
Sampson said he’s working on having Brewster teammate Naadir Tharpe, a point guard, and Deuce Bello, a shooting guard from Westchester (N.C.) Country Day, join him.
“Deuce Bello texted me,” Sampson said by phone. “I’m gonna try and get him up there. My dude Naadir, I’m gonna try and get him to come.”
Lavin has 10 scholarships to give for 2011 and has talked about building a Noah’s Ark of recruiting, with two players at every position.
Sampson joins Queens native Maurice Harkless, a 6-9 wing who earlier committed to St. John’s on SNY.tv, in Lavin’s first recruiting class.
“I heard he’s a real good player,” Harkless said of Sampson by phone.
“Hopefully this is the start of a lot of great players to come where we could be the great class that we want to be.”
Asked if he was recruiting any other players specifically, Harkless said, “Basically just hoping for really good players to come.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter
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.