St. John’s Freshman JaKarr Sampson Maturing Into One of Big East’s Best

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of the season, the St. John’s Red Storm depended on their tough defense and a ton of points from leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison if they wanted a chance to win games.

While freshman JaKarr Sampson has been the Robin to Harrison’s Batman on the offensive end all season long, Harrison’s shooting hasn’t exactly been good as of late, and with St. John’s winning six of their last seven games, a lot of the praise needs to be sent in Harrison’s direction.

The five-time Big East Rookie of the Week has scored 17 or more points in five of St. John’s last seven games (he’s averaging 16.6 points over the stretch), but none may have been more important than the 6 points he scored in overtime in a win over DePaul last week, with D’Angelo Harrison unavailable.

Even though Sampson only scored 13 points in the DePaul win, it was the combination of timely buckets and being there when his team needed him the most that make him not only one of the Big East’s best (if not the best) freshmen, but one of the conference’s best players, period.

The 6-foot-8 Ohio native has displayed the ability to score from just about anywhere inside of the three-point arc, and has even been shooting (slightly) more efficient during St. John’s winning streak than he was previously. And while Sampson will never be as efficient as a more traditional back-to-the-basket big man at the collegiate level, it’s important to what Steve Lavin is trying to do to have two very good scoring options, instead of Harrison when/if he’s on and Sampson when/if he’s on.

It’s been very encouraging to see Sampson step up in the wake of Harrison struggling from the field, as the two are really building confidence off of playing together.

St. John’s next challenge comes on Sunday, when the Johnnies travel to the Carrier Dome to battle No. 9 Syracuse.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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