St. John’s forward LJ Figueroa has announced he will forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA. There is a good chance he might come back to the program.
Unlike their Big East counterparts, St. John’s produced two NBA Draft picks in the 2010s. That’s not to say the university hasn’t produced NBA players. It’s just that they haven’t been in the national spotlight on Draft Day. LJ Figueroa is looking to buck the trend.
The junior forward announced his intentions on declaring for the NBA Draft, per the New York Post’s Zach Braziller.
This announcement comes as a bit of a surprise but it’s the right thing to do. Figueroa’s athletic ability is off the charts. He has a solid three-point shot and has a strong proclivity for attacking the basket. Let’s not forget he led the team in steals averaging 1.9 a game.
However, Johnnies fans shouldn’t be worried about losing the Lawrence, Massachusetts, native to the NBA Draft. Shamorie Ponds tested the NBA Draft waters after his sophomore campaign before ultimately returning to school.
While it’s a newer NCAA rule, the billion-dollar organization finally did right by the players. They can now declare for the NBA Draft but have the option to return to college as long as they don’t hire an agent to represent them throughout the process.
Ponds got his name out there in various combines, but he ultimately came back for his junior season. He left the university after averaging 19.7 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 33 games and hired an agent, forgoing his senior season.
We all know how that turned out. The Brooklyn native was not selected in the first or second rounds and struggled to latch on to an NBA team before the Toronto Raptors signed the guard to a two-way developmental deal. Figueroa is in a much different position than Ponds.
Figueroa is certainly capable of playing basketball at the highest level, he just needs to improve a bit. Maybe in the low post area and rebounding.
While it’s considered a weak draft class, I have not seen Figueroa’s name on any mock drafts. Odds are he will return to St. John’s for his senior season, with a lot of pointers and advice from NBA scouts and executives on what to work on.
“We support LJ’s decision to pursue his lifelong dream,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “This is an opportunity to gain valuable information by going through the NBA pre-draft process to make the best decision for his future.”
Next year’s St. John’s team is going to be special. If you followed the team closely, you could tell the Johnnies were getting better.
More from Empire Writes Back
It all hinges on Figueroa’s return. If and when he comes back to Queens, I think Figueroa will work himself into a first-round draft pick. The program’s first since Moe Harkless in 2011.
On a side note, the Red Storm whiffed on signing Quinnipiac graduate transfer Kevin Marfo, the nation’s rebounding leader, via the NCAA transfer portal. Anderson ultimately lost him to former Marquette coach Buzz Williams at Texas A&M.
It should be noted, the 6-8 big man did have the Johnnies on his shortlist of schools. To me, the fact they were in the running for a player of his caliber only reinforces the hiring of Mike Anderson is already paying dividends for athletic director Mike Cragg.
What do you think about LJ Figuroa’s decision to skip his senior season and enter the NBA Draft? Let us know in the comments section below or on social media.