The commitment of Queens native Moe Harkless to St. John's kickstarted a surprisingly talent-rich recruiting class for Steve Lavin & Co for 2011. While the speedy small forward was seen as a big get for the Red Storm, the program probably wasn't expecting him to break out in his freshman campaign and declare for the draft. However, after scoring 25 in a losing effort against Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament, it quickly became evident that Harkless would be a first-round pick.
As a fairly raw but intriguing talent, Harkless' draft status is based largely on upside rather than what he can contribute to an NBA team in 2012/13. The 6'8" forward was charged with the task of playing at the 4 for St. John's this past season, not unreasonable for a player of his size but still out of place for someone with his skill set. Harkless, for the most part, did just fine in this role and averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per contest as he played out of position. On an NBA court, Harkless undoubtedly projects to the small forward position.
There were plenty of games in 2011/12 where Harkless looked like an elite scorer. Just ask the Duke Blue Devils, who watched the forward drop 30 points off of 13-of-21 shooting (plus 13 boards) in late January. Harkless put together this and other strong offensive performances with his ability to slash to the basket. Meanwhile, he has yet to show that he has much in the way of range. If Harkless hopes to produce consistently at the next level, he'll have to develop his jumper in order to keep defenders honest.
So where does a hyper-athletic small forward with significant upside fit on this draft board? Likely just outside of the lottery and behind the likes of Baylor's Quincy Miller, who offers similar promise but with a sweet shooting stroke. Currently, DraftExpress has Harkless going at No. 22 while the latest mock draft from Chad Ford of ESPN.com pegs him at No. 24. Wherever Harkless lands, you can expect the partisan crowd at New Jersey's Prudential Center to give their nod of approval.