By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
ORLANDO – When former St. John’s star Moe Harkless declared for the NBA Draft following Big East Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, that decision was met with skepticism as to whether or not the New York City native was ready to make that jump after just 32 collegiate games with the Red Storm.
After a solid, promising rookie campaign with the Orlando Magic last season, Harkless does not regret his decision to forego his final three years of collegiate eligibility, but at least a little part of him wonders what may have been this spring had he stayed in school one more year.
“There’s always pros and cons of coming out,” Harkless told SNY.tv at the Orlando Summer League on Sunday afternoon. “I could’ve come out this year and probably been a top-5 pick or something like that, but I’m happy with my decision.”
Harkless was the 15th overall selection in 2012 by the Philadelphia 76ers, but was shipped to the Magic last August as part of the four-team blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harkless may have gone higher in the June 27 NBA Draft, but his decision to turn pro has begun to pay dividends after he averaged 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 76 games for the Orlando Magic as a rookie. With a year under his belt, Harkless is back at summer league trying to keep the momentum going.
In Monday’s opener at Amway Center, his 15 points, eight rebounds and a key late block helped the Magic to a 95-88 victory over the Boston Celtics.
This week, Harkless is among the elder statesmen on a roster that includes second-year players Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn, and Doron Lamb in addition to this season’s No. 2 overall pick, combo-guard, Victor Oladipo and 51st overall selection Romero Osby.
“I think you can see it, with us playing, the chemistry,” Harkless said. “Victor and Ro, they slid right in. Me and Victor, I think we already have great chemistry together, along with everyone else. Me and Kyle, he’s one of my favorite players to play with on the team. We just gotta keep building and get better through our mistakes.”
The maturation of Oladipo as the Magic experiment with the former Indiana star at point guard is a major story line this week in Orlando. Already being deemed a world-class athlete and perimeter defender, Oladipo will have the ball in his hands a lot this week. On Monday, Oladipo scored 18 points to go along with seven assists, six rebounds, five steals and six turnovers in 33 minutes of action.
“I think at the guard positions, he brings that pressure and makes it tough on the point guard,” Harkless said of Oladipo, who signed his rookie contract earlier in the day on Monday. “That gets everybody else going. I love to see that because I do the same thing. Having that defense on the perimeter at both positions is great.”