- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- St. John's sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson is leaving school and entering this summer's NBA draft.
Sampson is in the process of hiring an agent, and firmly intends to forego his final two years of college eligibility.
"It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA, and I am excited and ready to begin that journey," Sampson said in a statement released by St. John's. "I would like to thank Coach Lavin, our staff and my teammates for being there for me throughout my whole career at SJU."
"We are grateful for JaKarr's contributions to our St. John's basketball program," said St. John's coach Steve Lavin. "In speaking with NBA general managers, JaKarr is projected as a draft prospect with intriguing talent and upside."
Sampson was St. John's second-leading scorer (12.8 PPG) and leading rebounder (6.1 RPG) this past season, but his numbers actually dipped from his freshman year. He averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 2012-13, and was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
ESPN.com NBA draft expert Chad Ford does not currently list Sampson among his Top 100 draft prospects. Ford has Sampson ranked No. 137 overall, and No. 34 among power forwards.
"I have been advised that I may be selected between the late-first and mid-second round," Sampson said. "But the important thing is I am in the mix and I know I can earn my way up the draft board."
The loss of Sampson is a major blow to the St. John's program, which Lavin has been trying to rebuild since taking over in the spring of 2010.
Lavin took the Red Storm to the NCAA tournament in his first season, with a senior-laden group recruited by his predecessor, Norm Roberts. Since then, St. John's has failed to make the NCAA tournament three consecutive years.
50mAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy