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Thursday, September 15, 2011
St. John's recruiting class takes major hit

By Diamond Leung

St. John's scored what appeared to have been the nation's third-ranked recruiting class, with coach Steve Lavin leading the nation in luring six top-100 players to New York.

But this afternoon, the NCAA eligibility center informed the school that half of them won't be able to qualify for at least the fall semester. Forwards Amir Garrett, JaKarr Sampson and Norvel Pelle are ineligible, and that's a significant blow to the Red Storm.

Garrett appeared hopeful he could gain eligibility by the spring, tweeting at the other two recruits in limbo, "I'll be there January believe that!!"
"All the ones that are talking bad about me, keep talkin I'm not lettin this get me down, I'm still #stjbb I'll be there soon!!" he also tweeted.


"The University has been proactive and diligent in assisting in the reviews for each of our incoming men's basketball student-athletes," athletic director Chris Monasch said in a statement. "We will continue to review what avenues the student-athletes may have to achieve their initial eligibility."

Lavin needed this recruiting class to be a good one because of the unique situation he inherited. The team advanced to the NCAA tournament in his first season, but it did so with 10 seniors that have since departed. After the talented Dwayne Polee II transferred in the offseason following his freshman season, the Red Storm was left with only one experienced returning player -- junior Malik Stith, who averaged 3.3 points.

So for all the splashy headlines Lavin has created by shooting up the recruiting rankings, it should be tempered with the understanding that some of those talented players also came with academic concerns.

They could very well arrive in the spring, but there are prep school options and Garrett has a $1 million signing bonus from the Cincinnati Reds if he ultimately chose to focus on baseball instead.

Lavin, whose reputation as a top recruiter was earned at UCLA, still has three other top-100 recruits in Maurice Harkless, D'Angelo Harrison and Sir'Dominic Pointer. It just would have been nice for the program to have three more immediately available.