QUEENS, N.Y.- St. John's sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, the 2012-13 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, announced Monday that he intends to forego the remainder of his collegiate career and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
"JaKarr will forego his final two years of eligibility and pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. We are grateful for JaKarr's contributions to our St. John's basketball program," said Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin. "In speaking with NBA general managers JaKarr is projected as a draft prospect with intriguing talent and upside."
"It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA, and I am excited and ready to begin that journey. 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 my whole career at SJU. We have been through a lot together and I know everyone is excited for me," said Sampson. "Coach Lavin and my support group have helped me conduct research and the information gathered indicates that with hard work, I have a chance to improve my stock and play in the NBA next year. I will work hard and prove myself in every workout. I know I can impress upon GMs and coaches that I am ready be a contributor to a NBA team."
Sampson, who is projected to possibly be selected between the draft's late first and mid-second rounds, looks to become the 61st all-time St. John's men's basketball player selected in the NBA Draft - and the first since Maurice Harkless in 2012. Sampson has not hired an agent at this time but is in the process. The early-entry deadline is April 27 and the 2014 NBA Draft will be held on June 26 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
A total of 14 players signed or coached by Lavin have become NBA draft choices. Baron Davis, a 1999 lottery pick, is a two-time NBA All-Star who played in his 13th season in 2011-12. Earl Watson, a 2001 draft choice, is now a 14-year NBA veteran. Harkless was Lavin's first draft selection at St. John's - the first for the Red Storm since 2001 and the first in the NBA's First Round since 2000. Harkless was selected by Philadelphia and later traded to Orlando.
"We thank JaKarr for his contributions to our men's basketball program," said St. John's Director of Athletics Chris Monasch. "JaKarr will always be a member of the St. John's Family and be welcome to return finish his degree."
"My mother and I want me to finish school," said Sampson. "I will work with my professors and [St. John's Student Development coordinator] Eric Rienecker to complete the semester in good standing and will look to come back during my offseasons and finish my degree in liberal studies."
Sampson completed his Red Storm career with 915 points and 420 rebounds in 66 games with 65 starts, averaging 13.9 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per contest. He averaged 30.3 minutes per outing and connected at a 46.9 percent clip from the field (383-of-816). Sampson's squads made NIT appearances in 2013 and 2014, where he averaged 13.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg across three contests.
The 2013 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and a 2013-14 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Sampson averaged 12.8 ppg (17th in the BIG EAST) and was the Red Storm's leader in rebounding (6.1 rpg, tied for seventh in the league) as a sophomore in 2013-14. His season field goal percentage of .495 was ninth among all BIG EAST players and 95th nationally. Sampson led St. John's in scoring six times and in rebounding on 11 occasions.
Sampson's career high in scoring came with a 23-point effort via a career-best 11-of-15 field goals in a 77-52 victory over Butler at The Garden (Feb. 18). He fired at a 52.2 percent clip from the floor in St. John's final 17 games of the 2013-14 season (11-6 record), while averaging 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds, and helping the Red Storm complete its climb into a tie for third in the BIG EAST regular season standings.
Sampson, 21, was rated as high as the No. 11 high school player at his position and the No. 31 overall prospect originally in the Class of 2011. He spent an additional season at Brewster Academy in 2011-12 before leading all BIG EAST freshmen in scoring (14.9 ppg, T-11th overall) and rebounding (6.6 rpg, 11th overall) in 2012-13 en route to 2013 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, an All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection and unanimous All-Rookie team honors. He was a seven-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, an All-Met second team member and the MBWA Rookie of the Year. His rejections per game (1.1, 11th), defensive rebounds (4.4, T-eighth) and offensive boards per contest (2.2, 12th) ranked among BIG EAST conference leaders. In league play, his 15.1 ppg finished ranked 12th among all players.
As a freshman, Sampson recorded a team-best 29 double-figure scoring efforts, including seven 20-point performances, and scored 22 points on two occasions. Sampson added three double-doubles on the year, including a 15-point, 17-rebound effort against NJIT (Dec. 1), a 16-point, 10-board performance against Fordham (Dec. 8) and a 21-point, 12-rebound effort against St. Francis (N.Y.) (Dec. 15). The 17 rebounds against NJIT marked the most for a Red Storm player since Lamont Hamilton grabbed 17 boards against Niagara on Nov. 26, 2005.
In 2012-13, Sampson led all conference freshmen with seven BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors, from Nov. 26, Dec. 10, Dec. 17, Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 11 and March 4. With that total, Sampson secured the fourth-most rookie honors in BIG EAST history. His mark trailed only an elite group that includes Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony (10 Rookie of the Weeks in 2002-03), Georgetown's Allen Iverson (9, 1994-95) and Notre Dame's Troy Murphy (8, 1998-99).
Harkless, who like Sampson was originally part of the Red Storm's 2011 recruiting class ranked No. 3 in the nation, is currently in his second season in Orlando. He is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long-range year averaging 7.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game for the Magic. As a rookie he ranked sixth in the NBA in steals-to-turnover ratio and 40th in steals while ranking atop the rookies in the league in scoring (11th), rebounding (ninth), field goal percentage (eighth), steals (second) blocked shots (eighth) and minutes played (T-seventh).