Coach Steve Lavin was hired to bring St. John's back into the upper echelon of the Big East and he continues to make strides with the recent commitment of ESPNU 100 SF Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster Academy).
The 6-foot-8, 200-pounder is the second ESPNU 100 commit Lavin has landed in the 2011 class, but the important thing to remember is that Lavin plucked Sampson out of the Midwest, while he snagged ESPNU 100 SF Maurice Harkless (Queens, N.Y./South Kent) out of his own backyard. This is on the heels of landing California native Dwayne Polee in the 2010 class.
"I picked St. John's because I felt very close to the staff," said Sampson, who picked the Red Storm over Tennessee, Baylor and Louisville. "If I was going to be away from home I needed to be very comfortable with the coaches."
Sampson is an extra long combination forward that is very athletic. He is a natural small forward, but his size allows him to make plays in the post. Sampson also has a quick first step that allows him to beat most defenders off the bounce and create for himself or teammates.
"He's versatile and demonstrates a high skill level, which makes him a difficult matchup for opponents," said longtime, successful Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith. "He is a better passer then most people give him credit for."
Defensively, Sampson is a good shot blocker whether it is on the ball or from the weak side and is capable of defending multiple positions because of his length and athletic ability. As he extends his shooting range and becomes a more confident shooter, he will be a viable threat on the perimeter behind the arc.
On any given night, Sampson can impact the game in a variety of ways. However, he does his best work on the glass. He has the ability to pull down a defensive rebound and start the break or grab an offensive rebound and score on put-back buckets.
"When I met coach Lavin, he showed me the plans they have for me and St. John's and I wanted to be part of it," said Sampson. "I felt coach Lavin and his staff can help me reach my goals as a player."
Lavin's body of work at UCLA speaks for itself and in a short period of time his recruiting success at St. John's is shining bright in the Big Apple. This 2011 class, led by Samson will immediately help the Red Storm compete and win in the difficult Big East.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting.