- Last Updated: 9:51 AM, November 16, 2012
- Posted: 12:39 AM, November 16, 2012
CHARLESTON, S.C. — In a summer pickup game prior to last season, Moe Harkless, who went on to win Big East Conference Freshman of the Year honors, went up for a shot that was absolutely smothered by JaKarr Sampson.
Sampson, who has a 1,000-watt smile, lit up the gym.
But what could have been a fascinating season-long battle for power forward supremacy never materialized when Sampson couldn’t gain his academic eligibility. Harkless now is in the NBA. Sampson is in a St. John’s jersey.
Sampson will tell you, with that smile, the real reason Harkless opted for the NBA was because of the impending arrival this season of JaKarr, aka The Killer.
Sampson gave national college basketball fans a glimpse of his skills last night when he scored eight points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked one shot in the Red Storm’s 64-53 win over the College of Charleston in an opening-round game of the Charleston Classic.
St. John’s will play the winner of last night’s late game between Murray State and Auburn in a quarterfinal matchup today (5:30 p.m., ESPN3).
Sampson’s performance was a major bounce-back from his college debut Tuesday night, when he scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting in the Red Storm’s 77-74 season-opening win over Detroit at Carnesecca Arena.
“I was disappointed I didn’t play my best game [Tuesday],’’ said Sampson. “My energy was up there and I was going too fast and not playing my game. I was too energized and too hyper.’’
Energized and hyper are two words to describe Red Storm guard D’Angelo Harrison, who returned to the starting lineup with a game-high 21 points. Harrison, who started 29 of 32 games last season, was benched for the final preseason game and did not start in the opener.
Phil “The Rock” Greene IV had another superb floor game with 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Small forward Amir Garrett chipped in with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Charleston was led by Nori Johnson, who had 11 points off the bench.
The Johnnies opened a 22-11 lead on a 3-pointer by Garrett with 9:22 left in the first half, led 36-26 at halftime and were never threatened in the second half. For a team comprised of seven freshmen and sophomores, it was an impressive road victory in front of a vocal crowd.
“From a coach’s standpoint we were pleased that they were able to take on that road warrior mentality,’’ St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “While this is early in the season I was impressed with our first test on the road. We had a sustained level of play for 40 minutes.’’
Sampson is an electric athlete with an effervescent personality. His poor performance in the opener was understandable. Instead of playing for the Johnnies last season, as he had anticipated, Sampson went to prep school. He came out of the gate against Detroit as if he were attached to jumper cables.
“He had enough electricity running through his body to light up New York City,’’ said Lavin.
And how was last night different?
“I think he was definitely in a better place in terms of comfort level,’’ Lavin said. “I said to him [after the win over Detroit], ‘When you watch the game film what’s going to be clear is that you were in a hurry. You can’t play basketball in a hurry. Be quick but don’t hurry.’ ’’Follow @NYPostsports