Queens sports fans will be on edge the next two weeks, and for once it won’t have anything to do with the Mets’ injured list.
The fortunes of St. John’s upcoming season will be hanging in the balance, as star wing Julian Champagnie decides on his future. Will he keep his name in contention for the NBA draft and embark on a lifelong dream? Or will he return to school for his junior year to lead his hometown school to what he hopes is a huge season, and improve his draft stock?
“I haven’t made any set decisions. Everybody wants to chase their dream and I want to chase my dream as well,” the Big East’s leading scorer said on Thursday from Chicago, where he was taking part in the NBA Draft Combine. “I’m going to go about this process that way. … But as of right now I’m really not focused on school. I’m just focused on the NBA right now. If I feel like that day comes, it’s time for me to go back [to St. John’s], then I’ll go back. If I feel like it’s not, then so be it.”
The 6-foot-7 sharpshooting Champagnie has interviewed with the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves and Warriors, among others, while in Chicago. He has had one workout so far, with the Celtics, and has four more scheduled following the combine, with the Nets, 76ers, Pacers and Bulls. The Indiana workout is set for July 7, Champagnie’s deadline to decide on his future.
The Brooklyn native, who shot 38 percent from 3-point range this past season, has repeatedly said the decision by his twin brother Justin, a former star at Pittsburgh who has signed with an agent and already decided not to return to school, won’t factor into what he decides. The two are different. Justin, who is rated similarly to Julian, is more impulsive; Julian is more patient and calculating.
If the rising junior stays in the draft, he likely would be a mid-to-late second-round pick this year in what is a loaded draft, multiple scouts told The Post. At the next level, he will play on the wing, and needs to improve his athleticism, ball-handling and on-ball defense, the evaluators said.
“What’s he going to lose by going back?” one of the scouts asked. “I don’t see how he has a bad season unless he just doesn’t make shots.”
Champagnie has previously told the St. John’s coaching staff he would only stick in the draft if he thought he had a good chance at being a first-round pick. When asked if that has changed, he backed off on that stance somewhat.
“I haven’t really picked and played with numbers yet. I’ll do that with my people before I go to my Indiana workout,” said Champagnie, who averaged 19.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks last year and led St. John’s to a fourth-place finish in the Big East. “I’ll just weigh out the odds, honestly.”
Champagnie said he has received a lot of support from his teammates and coaches at St. John’s, in particular head coach Mike Anderson. Obviously, the Red Storm would like Champagnie back (his return would make them a projected top-four in the league), but he has heard only encouragement as he goes through the process of getting evaluated and making the most of it. His mindset for now is to treat each workout as if he will be entering the draft, and see where that takes him on July 7.
In the meantime, St. John’s and its fans wait on a decision that will go a long way toward determining what kind of season 2021-22 will be.