NEW YORK — It’s official.
St. John’s freshman forward Moe Harkless will hire an agent and head to the NBA.
“It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” the 6-foot-8 Harkless, 18, said during a press conference at Madison Square Garden in which he was flanked by St. John’s coach Steve Lavin and his mother, Rosa. “I am grateful to my teammates and coaches at St. John’s. I would like to thank coach Lavin, our staff and my teammates for being there for me throughout the whole season.”
Harkless said he will hire an agent and sources said he’s considering Happy Walters and Thad Foucher.
“I am fully committed to the decision to turn professional,” said Harkless, who stands to become the first St. John’s players since 2001 to get drafted. “I plan to hire an agent in the next week or so.”
Harkless earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds during his only season in Queens. He ranked second in scoring among league rookies and first in rebounding.
Lavin said Harkless is the “most well-rounded” player he’s ever coached, including current Knicks point guard Baron Davis.
DraftExpress.com has Harkless listed as the No. 22 prospect in this year’s draft class. He has been compared to pros Rudy Gay and Paul George.
“A lot of NBA people are really intrigued by him,” Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com told SNY.tv. “We need to see who enters to get a better feel for where his stock is exactly, but he’s a hot prospect right now.”
Said Harkless: “I have mostly heard between 15-25, but I am really interested in being chosen by the right team, where I can make immediate contributions.”
Added Lavin: ”I’ve heard people say as high as 13. I’ve heard no lower than 25.”
Asked if he considered waiting a year in order to elevate his draft stock, Harkless said, ”I think now is the time for me to go.”
Harkless is the first player of The Lavin Era at St. John’s to go pro. From 1997-2006, a total of 13 players coached by Lavin became NBA Draft choices, including Davis, Earl Watson and Trevor Ariza.
“Moe has chosen to take the next step in his career to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA,” Lavin said. “Moe and his mother Rose know that we are thankful for his contributions to the St. John’s basketball program and respect his wishes to pursue a professional playing career.”
Nate Blue, Harkless’ long-time mentor, said he he woke Harkless up at 7 a.m. Monday and drove him an hour and a half out to Long Island “for a very intense workout with Jerry Powell, which is what he’s going to have to do on a daily basis.”
“This kid could play 18 years in the NBA,” Blue added.
Rosa Harkless, Moe’s mother, said her son “promised” her he would come back and get his degree and complete his education.
Although St. John’s loses a huge piece in Harkless, his decision will help recruiting because now Lavin can point to him as an example with future recruits.
“I believe this is only the beginning for Coach Lavin at St. John’s and the legacy he will leave,” Harkless said.
Asked about the possibility of playing for the Knicks or the the Nets, Harkless said, “That would be great for me and my family.”