The St. John’s Red Storm won their Big East leading 13th conference award of the season this week as freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named Big East Rookie of the Week for the sixth time this season.
Sampson now trails conference legends Carmelo Anthony (10), Allen Iverson (9) and Troy Murphy (8) in his pursuit of becoming the greatest rookie in conference history, and as the freshman leader in points (14.8) and rebounds (6.6), he seems to be a lock for Big East Rookie of the Year.
Not only has Sampson been maturing for the Johnnies, who have won six of their last eight games, but he’s stepping up into a leadership role as he averaged 19.5 points and 6 rebounds last week against Connecticut and Syracuse. Although UConn doesn’t have much of a front-court, it was impressive to see the 6-foot-8 Ohio native go for 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting against one of the tougher interior defensive teams not only in the conference, but in the nation.
Along with his young teammates, Sampson has grown accustomed to a physical brand of basketball in Big East play, and have earned themselves a 7-5 record thanks in part to Sampson battling on the boards and taking higher percentage shots than he was at the start of the season.
Sampson leads the Johnnies into Louisville for a Thursday night match-up as the No. 12 team in the country is looking for a pick-me-up after their five-overtime loss to Notre Dame last weekend. With Gorgui Dieng being almost as feared of a shot blocker as Sampson’s teammate Chris Obekpa, I’m sure the freshman will bring his A-game for this Big East showcase.