St. John’s Freshmen Garrett, Pelle, Sampson Ruled Ineligible by NCAA

Before Steve Lavin took over as St. John’s head coach in May 2010, the Red Storm had been out of the national spotlight for nearly a decade.

But, with a team assembled by his predecessor, Norm Roberts, the Red Storm went from a 13th place in the Big East in 2009-2010 to 5th place in Lavin’s first season as a head coach. This aided Lavin in signing a nine-man recruiting class that was ranked #3 in the country by ESPN. St. John’s will appear on national television seventeen times this upcoming season.

When you’re in the national spotlight, you have to take the good with the bad.

Pelle is the ranked by ESPN as the #1 center in the 2011 class. His loss will be felt the most by young Red Storm team.

In a report filed today by Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, St. John’s freshman Amir Garrett, Norvel Pelle, and JaKarr Sampson have not been academically cleared by the NCAA, making them ineligible to play for the Red Storm in the fall semester of the 2010-2011 school year.

Over the summer, all three players attended Northeast Prep in Philadelphia, taking classes, in a attempt to gain eligibility from the NCAA. St. John’s staff is hopeful that the NCAA can resolve any eligibility issues and allow them to attend the school by the spring semester, which could be as early as December.

“We will continue to work with the NCAA in an effort to review Amir, Norvel and JaKarr’s cases regarding their eligibility,’’ Lavin said in a press release. “Our student-athletes and their families have been patient and cooperative throughout this review process. We are hopeful that Amir, Norvel and JaKarr will be able to join us on the court this winter, and in the classroom when the 2012 spring semester begins.”

But, as new as this case seems, history can be the wisest teacher.

In 2007, Norm Roberts had two incoming players, Derwin Kitchen and Rob Thomas, who were initially deemed ineligible by the NCAA. Thomas eventually qualified by the spring semester, while Kitchen waited nearly two years before the NCAA granted him permission to play college basketball with Florida State. Roberts coached St. John’s for six seasons and is highly regarded for cleaning up the St. John’s program and bringing in kids with great integrity.

More recently, other high-major programs have been burdened by the same problem.

Kansas, Arizona State, Ohio State, DePaul, and Maryland all have players who were not cleared by the NCAA. Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Jamari Taylor and Braeden Anderson all have eligibility question marks, along with highly-touted Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson.

Amir Garrett’s father, Darrow Garrett, told CBS’s Jeff Goodman that his son fully intends to enroll at St. John’s, saying, “Mark my words. [Amir] will be eligible.”

The futures of Norvel Pelle and JaKarr Sampson are still taking shape.

Check back on JohnnyJungle.com for more news, as this story develops.