With a young team and a head coach sidelined by health problems, it was a bumpy year at times for St. John's on the court and on the recruiting trail. Now, most importantly, Steve Lavin looks to be making a great recovery and the Red Storm is also back making noise on the recruiting trail.
After picking up a commitment from athletic wing Felix Balamou earlier in the week, the Johnnies landed a big score Wednesday night when four-star combo forward Jakarr Sampson committed.
Originally signed to St. John's impressive 2011 class, the Ohio native had to do a prep year at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Prep. After considering the likes of Kansas, Florida and Providence, his heart led him back to New York.
"They always had my heart," Sampson told Rivals.com of St. John's. "Even when I left my heart was still there. I got to know the coaches, the players and I couldn't leave them like that because my heart is still with them."
Sampson's summer coach Don Anderson of the King James Shooting Stars echoed his player's thoughts. He also said how long St. John's has been involved and Sampson's opportunity to make an impact were key.
"It's about the fit and the style of play for him," said Anderson. "It's how he can become an impact player in that system.
"St. John's has been doing it for two years. It's a place where his heart was at last year and it was unfortunate that he wasn't able to perform for them this year. He saw a rebound here or a blocked shot there that he could have made and felt that he could have helped this year."
According to Sampson, he met last night with his mother and Anderson to discuss his next step and the decision just came to him.
"We were at Applebee's eating and we were talking about some things," said Sampson. "We thought St. John's was the best fit and I called them up while we were coming up back home."
Not surprisingly, Sampson's future coach was excited about the news.
"Coach Lav was shocked and he said he got goose bumps," said Sampson. "It was big. He was happy, I was happy."
Even though he didn't plan on doing a post-grad year in prep school, the 6-foot-8 Sampson feels that he's benefited from an extra year under Brewster coach Jason Smith.
Known as a bouncy athlete, versatile defender and rebounder, his game has developed and Sampson feels that he'll be even more ready to contribute as a freshman.
"It's been beneficial for me," said Sampson. "I was named player of the year and MVP of the national tournament. I got a lot better since last year and I proved some things. I think my jump shot has really come along."