By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
NEW YORK – It hasn’t taken long for JaKarr Sampson to get acclimated to college basketball or life in the always-rugged Big East. If his strong play continues, the St. John’s freshman could even be thinking about the NBA Draft in a few months.
“In my opinion, he’s a first-round pick, he would be in the middle of the first round,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv Wednesday evening after Sampson scored 18 points and hauled in six rebounds as St. John’s beat UConn, 71-65. “If he continues to play well, maybe even higher. Long arms, quick feet, jumps out of the gym, an improving skill-set. He’s a player. A guy like Sampson, he has great upside.”
Said a second NBA scout: “He is a raw, athletic talent that needs to continue to work on becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter as well as improve his ball skills (passing, ball handling) to be a more efficient 3 at the NBA level. He has first-round potential.”
As of now, the 6-foot-8 Sampson, who is averaging 14.5 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game, does not appear on DraftExpress.com’s 2013 mock NBA Draft, but currently sits 31st overall on their 2014 mock draft.
Sampson’s 18 points Wednesday evening was his 10th straight game scoring in double digits and his 20th overall for the Red Storm (15-8, 7-4), who kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with the win on Wednesday evening.
“With each practice and each game opportunity, you see a more mature JaKarr Sampson on the court,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said. “He learns very quickly, he’s a competitor and he takes direction very well. You see quantum leaps in his development and he’s a very pleasant person to coach because he has such a winning way. His temperament, his disposition is so sunny.”
If Sampson, who began his high school career at LeBron James’ old high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, before finishing up at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, were to declare for the NBA Draft, it would make two star freshmen at St. John’s in as many years to do so. Last season, Moe Harkless averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds on his way to being named Big East Rookie of the Year. He declared for the NBA Draft, where he was selected 15th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, but was later shipped to the Orlando Magic as part of the Dwight Howard trade.
Photo: New York Post