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QUEENS, N.Y. - Head men's basketball coach Steve Lavin announced the beginning of his 2011-12 St. John's basketball recruiting class, as eight heralded student-athletes have now signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) to join the Red Storm for the 2011-12 season. The early signing period began Wednesday, Nov. 10, and concludes on Wednesday, Nov. 17. As the 2010-11 squad has nine scholarship seniors and is carrying one open spot, Lavin could sign as many as 10 student-athletes by the time this class takes to the court next fall.
To date, St. John's first wave of recruits under Lavin is made up of six freshmen that are rated as consensus top 100 prospects by recruiting services - Amir Garrett (Los Angeles, Calif./Findlay Prep(Nev.), Maurice Harkless (Queens, N.Y./South Kent (Conn.), D'Angelo Harrison (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles), Norvel Pelle (Compton, Calif./Price), Sir'Dominic Pointer (Detroit, Mich./Quality Education Academy (N.C.) and Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster Academy (N.H.) - one under-the-radar front line player with New York roots in Dwight Meikle (Uniondale, N.Y./ Quality Education Academy (N.C.) and a highly-regarded junior college point guard, Nurideen Lindsey (Philadelphia, Pa./Overbrook/Redlands C.C. (Okla.), who is expected to have three years of eligibility when he joins the Red Storm next fall.
"This class, which will become one of the largest signed in collegiate basketball, comprises the foundation of the St. John's program moving forward," said Lavin. "The arrival of the 2011-12 class, along with an elite returning talent in Dwayne Polee II, is the core group that will carry the Johnnies into the future."
The Red Storm's incoming class is currently rated No. 2 in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 3 by ESPN.
Amir Garrett F 6-6 190 Fr.-H.S. Los Angeles, Calif. (Findlay Prep)
Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 - 11:23 a.m.
"Amir Garrett is a special talent. His length, explosiveness, quickness, and highly-skilled game make him an ideal fit for our system of play," said Lavin. "Amir was clearly the most tenacious prospect that we evaluated in the 2011 recruiting class and his highly competitive nature will be critical as we build our program."
Garrett is rated as high as the nation's No. 51 overall player and the No. 14 small forward by recruiting services. With superior athleticism and a prototypical frame, Garrett is a tenacious offensive threat who specializes in transition with hard drives to the rim that result in show-stopping dunks. He is also a hard-nosed defender who has a penchant for swatting away shots in transition. Garrett transferred to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) after leading Leuzinger High (Lawndale, Calif.) to the California Interscholastic Federation SS Division I-A championship in 2009-10. As a junior, he averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He was named CIF SS Division I-A Co-Player of the Year and tabbed for the first-ever Cal-Hi Sports all-state team. The Long Beach Press-Telegram named Garrett to its 2010-11 Best In The West First Team, along with fellow St. John's incoming freshman Norvel Pelle. An accomplished left-handed pitcher, Garrett has also garnered interest from Major League Baseball scouts with a fastball in the low-90 m.p.h. range. His travel teams are Double Pump and Belmont Shore. Garrett's coach at Findlay is Mike Peck.
"Amir has a non-stop motor, and is very athletic and rangy. He can do it all," said Todd Simon, Garrett's assistant coach at Findlay. "He is an elite defensive player already, and he works at game-speed at all times. He is a good role model for the younger kids on campus, and shows genuine care for his teammates. He will fit right in with that new group at St. John's. He is learning how to play with a handful of high-major players already, and he can do so many different things and can play so many positions. The new staff at St. John's will be able to move him around."
Maurice Harkless G/F 6-8 190 Fr.-H.S. Queens, N.Y. (South Kent (Conn.)
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 - 1 p.m.
"Maurice is the best player in New York City. He is an excellent athlete, highly-skilled and versatile enough to contribute at multiple positions. Our staff is pleased with the signing of Maurice because it is especially vital for St. John's to secure the top talent in the New York-New Jersey metro area," said Lavin. "In terms of attracting top New York City talent, Maurice is going to be our `pied piper.' His choice in coming to St. John's will lead other elite local talent back to New York City's college basketball program."
Rated as high as the nation's No. 41 prospect overall and the No. 11 small forward by recruiting services, Harkless is a complete basketball player and an extremely skilled local talent. The 6-8, 190-pound swingman averaged 16.5 points per game and 11.5 rebounds at Forest Hills High School in Queens as a junior in 2009-10. An athletic, rangy shooter with great length on the defensive end of the floor, Harkless was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Hoop Group Elite Camp in Reading, Pa., this past summer, and led his New York Panthers AAU squad to a top four finish at the Fab 48 event in Las Vegas, and the Desert Duel title in Phoenix, Ariz. Harkless is spending his senior season at South Kent School (Conn.), playing for Kelvin Jefferson.
Harkless' decision to come to St. John's means that the highest-rated player from New York City in the 2010-11 class will be joining Polee, the highest-rated player from Los Angeles from the 2009-10 class, in the St. John's program.
"Maurice is a highly skilled wing with an incredible basketball I.Q.," said Jefferson. "On top of being a great player, he is a leader and a hard worker. St. John's is not only getting a great player but a great student and a great person."
D'Angelo Harrison G 6-3 186 Fr.-H.S. Sugar Land, Texas (Dulles)
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 - 1 p.m.
"D'Angelo is a dynamic combination guard. He is a prolific scorer and clearly one of the best shooters in the nation," said Lavin. "He plays with intelligence and intensity. He puts tremendous pressure on opposing defenses because he is constantly in the attack mode. Texas has become a hotbed of basketball talent, and it is our hope that D'Angelo is the first of many players from the Lone Star State to make the trek to the Big Apple for their collegiate careers."
Harrison, a 6-3, 186-pound athlete known both for his deadly accuracy and ability to get to the rim, averaged 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals as a junior in 2009-10 at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, playing for coach Mike Carrabine. Last season's Houston Chronicle Player of the Year is known for his explosive first step, long-range game and his ability to fill up the stat sheet, and is rated as high as the nation's No. 9 shooting guard and No. 41 overall prospect by recruiting services.
"D'Angelo is extremely excited to be headed to St. John's," said Carrabine. "He has a great personality and will fit in well with the large group of newcomers. We are confident he will lead us to good things down here as a senior before coming up to New York."
He plays AAU basketball for the Franchize All-Stars and is coached by Terrul Henderson.
"D'Angelo is a conscientious student. He is not only knowledgeable on the court, but in the classroom as well," said Henderson. "He spends a lot of time individually working on his skills, his shooting and ballhandling. That's what separates him - his drive to be successful."
Nurideen Lindsey G 6-3 185 So.-J.C. Philadelphia, Pa. (Overbrook/Redlands C.C. (Okla.)
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 - 3:37 p.m.
"Nuri is a unique talent," said Lavin. "He possesses an excellent basketball intellect, tremendous point guard skills and an ability to put up big numbers offensively. With regard to intangibles, he is a fierce competitor who will bring both experience and maturity to our team."
At 6-3, 185-pounds, Lindsey is a formidably-built floor general with outstanding ballhandling, playmaking and scoring skills. Lindsey's ability to get to the rim as a lead guard is evident, as he threatened the legendary Wilt Chamberlain's scoring totals as a prep player at Philadelphia's Overbrook High School, and now averages 28.0 points per game, 7.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. In his Redlands debut - his first organized basketball game in two seasons - he scored 48 points with 10 assists and five rebounds against Fort Scott C.C. (Kansas). Lindsey is on track to graduate with an associate's degree from Redlands in the spring of 2011, but would arrive at St. John's with three years of NCAA eligibility remaining. His coach at Redlands is Yaphett King.
"I think he's an extremely competitive point guard that has great intangibles in terms of his athleticism and ability. He's got a chance definitely to play ball in the next level," said King.
Dwight Meikle F 6-9 185 Fr.-H.S. Uniondale, N.Y. (Quality Education Academy, (N.C)
Friday, Nov. 16, 2010 - 11:30 a.m.
"Dwight is a New York native returning home. He is a long, highly-skilled athlete who really shoots it well for his size," said Lavin. "His versatility and ability to play the power and small forward positions make him a great fit for the future of our program, in terms of our game-planning."
Meikle is an extremely-skilled forward and his perimeter game makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents. He utilizes his long frame and athleticism as an imposing shot blocker who can swing the momentum of a game with one dominating swat. Through five games in 2010-11, Meikle is averaging 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks for Quality Education Academy where he is teammates with fellow St. John's recruit Sir'Dominic Pointer. His coach at Quality Education Academy is Isaac Pitts.
"He's a matchup problem for everybody he faces because of his length and ability to stretch defenses with the 3-ball," Pitts said. "He's very skilled and athletic."
Norvel Pelle F/C 6-10 200 Fr.-H.S. Compton, Calif. (Price)
Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 - 10:18 a.m.
"Norvel's size, length and athleticism makes him as critical a piece to our class as any," said Lavin. "Good teams are built from the inside out, and his ability to run the floor, rebound, block shots and finish around the basket will be essential to our establishing an interior presence."
Rated as high as the nation's No. 2 center and the No. 19 prospect overall by recruiting services, Pelle utilizes his 6-10, 200-pound frame and superior jumping ability to make him one of the country's best shot blockers and most dominant inside players. He is extremely quick for his size and his high motor around the rim generates a great deal of scoring off the offensive glass. Pelle also has face-up skills in the paint and a deceptive first step to the bucket. He played at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., (the same school that produced NBA standouts such as Tayshaun Prince and Tyson Chandler) from 2007-09. Pelle transferred to Price High School and sat out his 2009-10 junior season due to transfer rules. He continued his skill development as a member of the 2009-10 USA Basketball Developmental National Team. The Long Beach Press-Telegram named Pelle to its 2010-11 Best In The West First Team. Pelle plays AAU ball for the Compton Magic. Pelle's coach at Price is Michael Lynch
"I would say this about Norvel, the athlete -- just a tremendous talent," Lynch said. "I haven't coached any pros yet, but he definitely has the potential to be a pro basketball talent and help the St. John's program. He has some God-given talent, nothing that a weight room or exercising can put in him. It is God-given ability. He is the type of player that can block a shot, make pass, and go up the court to catch that pass at the other end and score. He's multi-talented, he can face up out to 17 feet. He has a nice stroke and can put the ball on the floor. If I had to throw a name out there, he'd be almost in the area of a young version of Kevin Garnett - inside, outside, run the floor and finish."
Sir'Dominic Pointer G/F 6-6 205 Fr.-H.S. Detroit, Mich. (Quality Education Academy (N.C.)
Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 - 1:47 p.m.
"In addition to a well-rounded offensive skill set, Dominic is a dynamic athlete who has demonstrated a propensity at the defensive end of the floor. We envision Dom growing into a role as a defensive stopper. It is refreshing to find a player at his young age that prides himself in defense like Dominic does," said Lavin. "Add to that his ability to slash and score in transition, and it is easy to see why he has the makings of a very special contributor in our program."
Pointer, a 6-6, 205-pound native of Detroit, Mich., is in his second year at Quality Education Academy in Winston Salem, N.C. Rated as high as the No. 14 small forward in his class and the No. 55 prospect overall by recruiting services, Pointer averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.8 assists as a junior in 2009-10. Considered among the most athletic and tenacious defenders at the high school level, and a tremendous rebounder for his size, Pointer possesses versatility on both ends of the floor and improved offensive skills allow him to play at the shooting guard, small forward or power forward positions. His coach at Quality Education is Isaac Pitts.
"The kid has a very high motor. He never takes a play off," said Pitts. "He can shoot the ball, pass the ball and is extremely athletic. He is the fastest player on the floor, and has about a 40-inch vertical."
Jakarr Sampson F 6-7 190 Fr.-H.S. Akron, Ohio (Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 - 1 p.m.
"Jakarr is a long, athletic, skilled basketball player. He has the ability to influence the game at both ends of the floor," said Lavin. "His ability to create off the bounce, slash to the basket and play above the rim gives him distinction among his peers. Jakarr has a strong work ethic and is an eager student of the game."
Sampson, a 6-7, 190-pound combo forward from Akron, Ohio, is rated as high as the No. 6 player at his position and the No. 32 overall prospect in his class. Averaging 14.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds at St. Vincent-St. Mary as a junior in 2009-10 - the same high school attended by NBA star LeBron James - Sampson plays summer basketball for the King James Shooting Stars, named for his hometown hero. The long, athletic, slashing scorer, noted shot-blocker and prolific offensive and defensive rebounder is completing his prep career at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. His coach at Brewster is Jason Smith.
"Jakarr is extremely versatile and will be a excellent addition to the program at St John's," said Smith. "He is a high-character young man, who will be an asset to their community. Jakarr is very coachable and can play and defend multiple positions."
The Lavin Era begins on the road and on national television, as St. John's will take on 2010 NCAA Tournament participant Saint Mary's (Calif.) at the Gaels' home in Moraga, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 2 a.m. E.T. The matchup is the second game of ESPN's third annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, which features 12 live college basketball games in 24 consecutive hours on the network. The Red Storm meets the Columbia Lions in St. John's home opener 40 hours after the Saint Mary's game ends on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. E.T. in Queens.
Fans can be a part of the 2010-11 St. John's hardwood campaign by visiting www.redstormsports.com and clicking here to order men's and women's basketball season tickets.