by Jim Mancari
At just 19 years old, former St. John’s University, Jamaica, standout small forward Moe Harkless will live out his dream of playing professional basketball.
The Queens native, who spent three years at Forest Hills H.S., was selected 15th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 NBA Draft, held June 28 at the Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
NBA Commissioner David Stern announced Harkless’s name, making Moe the 60th St. John’s draftee all-time and the first since 2001. He’s the highest St. John’s pick since 1992 when the Indiana Pacers selected Malik Sealy with the No. 14 overall pick.
“I’m thankful to have had my name called and to be given this opportunity,” Harkless said. “I’m blessed to be here. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. I didn’t even think I could work as hard as I’ve worked. It’s definitely a good feeling to be here now.”
Harkless was named the Big East Rookie of the Year for the 2011-2012 season after averaging 15.5 pts. per game for the Red Storm, ranking him second in the conference and sixth in the nation among rookies. His 8.6 rebounds per game also placed him as the top freshman in the conference and second in the nation.
“Moe is the most well-rounded and complete player I’ve coached relative to this juncture or stage of a playing career,” said St. John’s head men’s basketball coach Steve Lavin. “His intellect, size, skillset and athleticism set him apart from others.”
Harkless was invited to pre-draft workouts for several teams, but he said the 76ers made him feel comfortable, especially head coach Doug Collins. Philadelphia is only about 90 miles from New York City, so his family will still be able to see him play.
The 76ers are coming off a season in which they earned the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Matched up against the No. 1 seeded Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia pulled off an upset in the series – only the fifth time in NBA history that an eighth seed defeated a one seed in the playoffs. The team then fell in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the second round.
“Philadelphia is one of the young up-and-coming franchises in the NBA,” Lavin said. “Moe’s particular talents will fit nicely with the up tempo and flexible system employed by coach Doug Collins.”
Harkless said he’s looking forward to helping the 76ers anyway he can in his first year.
“They’re a young team that likes to get out and play fast, and that’s the type of style I like to play as well,” he said.
Philadelphia currently has three other small forwards on its roster in addition to Harkless: All-Star and U.S. Olympian Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Sam Young. However, he said he’s not worried about seeking out playing time.
“I can play any position, and I think those guys can play any position, so I think we’ll be good,” he said.
As his career transitions from the college game to the pro game, Harkless said he would try to get stronger in anticipation for training camp. He’s currently playing for the 76ers summer league team.
Though he only spent one year with the Johnnies, Harkless said his brief time there prepared him for the next step of his career. He hopes his game will translate smoothly to the NBA.
“Being there (St. John’s) really humbled me a lot,” he said. “(The coaches) helped me a lot with the little things.”
An emphasis on the “little things” allowed Harkless to leave his mark at St. John’s and continue the rich basketball tradition of the university.
The 76ers are getting a budding star who has experience playing on the big stage, since the Red Storm played 11 of its home games at Madison Square Garden, the home of Harkless’ favorite team, the New York Knicks. However, Harkless will now be rooting for his 76ers to consistently defeat the division-rival Knicks.
He joked: “Now I can’t be a fan of the Knicks, obviously.”
Contact Jim Mancari via e-mail at email@example.com.
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With the team’s second round selection in the NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks picked University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., guard Doron Lamb 42nd overall – the pick right after Taylor.
Lamb played his first two years of high school basketball at Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene. However, he spent his final two high school seasons at Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.
Lamb played an integral role in the Wildcats 2012 NCAA championship title. He leaves Kentucky as the most efficient three-point shooter in the school’s history at 47.5% beyond the arc.