2000-04-05 / Sports

Barkley Leaves St. John’s To Enter NBA Draft

by richard kagan

The announcement did not come as a real surprise. After a tumultous season in which he injured his knee and was suspended twice by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Erick Barkley, the talented sophomore point guard for the Red Storm, is ending his college career.

St. John’s University released a statement on Mar. 25th saying that Barkley would forego his two years of college eligibilty and be available for the NBA draft in June. Barkley, who has had the spotlight of national attention focused on him, and not just for his exploits on the basketball court, is the second St. Johns’s player in two years to give up two years of eligibility to try to play in the NBA. Last year, Ron Artest declared himself available for the NBA draft and was taken in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.

Photo Courtesy SJU Media Guide

Controversial sophomore Erick Barkley is leaving behind college eligibility for the NBA.

According to reports in the local press, one of the reasons Barkley decided to go ahead to jump to the NBA was the fallout of the investigation by the NCAA, which never seemed to end. Barkley missed two games for allegedly swapping cars with a friend. Later in the season, he missed another game because Barkley’s AAU team, Riverside Church, paid part of his prep school tuition.

Barkley still managed to lead the Red Storm in scoring with a 100 average. He also led the team with 127 assists and 84 steals. Barkley was named to the All-Big East First Team this year. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team for the Big East Championship tournament which St. John’s won last month at Madison Square Garden. During Barkley’s two seasons, St. John’s had a lofty 53–17 record for an impressive .757 winning percentage.

Mike Jarvis, head coach of the Red Storm, thought that Barkley was ready for prime time. "Over the course of the past year, Erick and I have spoken on numerous occasions about his future, including life after basketball. I am in support of his decision. I feel he is ready to play in the NBA," Jarvis said, in the statement released by the school.

The Johnnies had quite an exciting season, despite the early exit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Some of the highlights of the past season: St. John’s beat Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke within an eight-day span to emerge as a team to watch out for as the season was winding down. The Johnnies defeated Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the toughest venues for a visiting team in college basketball. St. John’s also captured the Big East Tournament crown, its first since 1986. The Red Storm defeated rival Connecticut three times this year, a rare feat.

One of the more thrilling games this season took place in the Big East Tournament Semi-Finals, when the Red Storm outlasted the tough University of Miami Hurricanes 58–57. The game wasn’t decided until the final second, when Miami missed a free throw and St. John’s rebounded the ball just before the buzzer sounded to advance to the championship game for the second year in a row. This time, the Johnnies were determined to win the game and beat the UConn Huskies, 80–70.

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