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 — On a day when St. John’s lost one of its most athletic current players to transfer, the bounciest of the program’s future players engaged in a thrilling dunkfest before a capacity crowd in the iS8/Nike Spring Classic championship game.
JaKarr Sampson seemed to have the defining dunk of the afternoon when he drove on former St. John’s signee Dwight Meikle and threw down a ferocious one-handed slam in the first quarter, when Real Scout led the Sean Bell All-Stars by as many as 10 points.
“Durant,” said referee Arnold Saunders, referring to Kevin Durant’s jaw-dropping, one-handed slam on Brendan Haywood in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
But Sir’Dominic Pointer, Sampson’s future St. John’s teammate, had a defining moment of his own.
With Sean Bell mounting a big fourth-quarter run, the 6-foot-5 Pointer drove the lane and flushed one on the head of the 6-10 Sampson as Sampson attempted to rotate over for a block.
Pointer finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds — and Sean Bell won the championship, 71-60, over a Real Scout team that featured three St. John’s signees.
“I beat my man one-on-one and JaKarr stepped up kind of late,” Pointer said of the dunk. “I said, ‘Welcome to St. John’s.'”
“I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Sampson, who finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
Both Pointer and Sampson were named to the All-iS8 1st Team for their play this spring.
The 6-6 Meikle is Pointer’s teammate at Quality Education (N.C.) and was a onetime St. John’s signee before he got his release and committed to Hampton. Pointer said he had to get Sampson back for dunking on his teammate.
“I just went and did it,” Pointer said. “But that is my teammate from Quality Education, a former St. John’s recruit so I had to get it back. I had a little something.”
Another teammate of Pointer’s is Arizona-bound point guard Josiah Turner, who was named MVP of the final after putting up 16 points and 7 assists.
Turner said he was accustomed to seeing Pointer make athletic plays like the dunk on Sampson.
“I see that all the time,” Turner said. “He goes to my school, so I see it all the time.”
Still, Sampson believes his Durant-like dunk was the best of the game.
“Definitely mine,” Sampson said. “My head was at the top of the backboard so I say mine.”
Told that the official compared his dunk to Durant’s, Sampson said, “That Kevin Durant dunk was sick.”
Still, after Sampson missed a 15-foot jumper in the second quarter, a fan said, “That ain’t no Kevin Durant jump shot.”
“That’s what I got to work on,” Sampson said of his jumper.
Sampson still models his game somewhat after the Oklahoma City star.
“He’s an athletic wing, you know,” Sampson said. “He can put the ball on the ground a little bit.”
Sampson had two other St. John’s signees on his team.
Maurice Harkless managed just 3 points while playing on a bum ankle and D’Angelo Harrison tallied 10 points, 8 steals, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. That came one day after a 23-point outburst in the semis.
The future teammates continue to build a bond while playing together in events before heading to campus.
“It was a good experience playing with D’Angelo, getting to know him, getting to know his playing style,” Sampson said. “So we can come in and just play right away, you know?”
The Johnnies will need all the chemistry they can muster from their nine-man recruiting class, especially after rising sophomore Dwayne Polee announced Sunday he was transferring. Polee and Malik Stith were the program’s only two returning players.
“I heard about that,” Sampson said. “It means less experience. We’re going to be even younger than we were going to be before, so we just got to come in and play hard from the get go.”
He added: “We’re going to be a very young team. We’re going to have a lot to learn.”
One thing they won’t have to learn much about is dunking.
And you can bet Pointer will be reminding Sampson about the dunkfest once practices begin next season.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to remind him a few times during the season,” Pointer said. “I’m going to remind him.”
ALL iS8 TEAMSPlayer of the Year
Myles Mack, Playaz (Rutgers)1st Team
Sidiki Johnson, New Heights (Arizona)
Sir’Dominic Pointer, Sean Bell (St. John’s)
Tavon Sledge, Real Scout (Iowa State)
Kyle Anderson, Playaz Juniors (Uncommitted)
JaKarr Sampson, Real Scout (St. John’s)
Khem Birch, Sean Bell (Pitt)
Kuran Iverson, LI Lightning (Uncommitted)
Jevon Thomas, Juice All-Stars (St. JOhn’s)
Jermaine Sanders, New Heights (Cincinnati)
Damion Lee, Sean Bell (Drexel)
Maurice Hatton, Phili
Kelvin Amayo, NIA (Towson)
Jabril Trawick, Playaz (Georgetown)
Max Hooper, Real Scout (Harvard)
Jalen Cannon, Sports Fest (St. Francis, NY)
**Harvard-bound Hooper lights it up at iS8
**St. John’s-bound Harrison drops 23 in iS8 semis
**St. John’s signees repping big at iS8
(Photo courtesy NY Post)
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.