Top prospect to play NCAA hoops, pro baseball at same time

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Findlay (Nev.) Prep star and St. John's basketball signee Amir Garrett might seem like a likely candidate to idolize athletic wing stars like himself. Given his dual professional goals, an NBA sharp shooter from the past might be more ideal: Celtics general manager Danny Ainge.

Why Ainge? Probably because the former Celtics and Suns star is also the last significant player to reach the top flight of both baseball and basketball, taking turns in the Blue Jays outfield before moving on to basketball.

While the skills needed to excel at football and baseball intersect enough to make the two-sport professional venture more traditional, Garrett -- who was's No. 68 overall prospect in the country in the Class of 2011 -- will be embarking on the relatively unique pursuit of chasing a professional career in both the MLB and NBA, after a recent agreement with St. John's yielding an opportunity for Garrett to play summer baseball for the Reds organization, after Cincinnati selected the future Red Storm swingman in the 22nd round of the draft.

"Man, all I can say is it's a blessing," Garrett told after he was drafted. "It's just a great feeling to get a call like that. I give glory to God. That's all I can do."

He can also thank the St. John's basketball program, which worked with Garrett, a key component of its loaded Class of 2011 recruiting class, to ensure he would show up on the school's Queens campus and play basketball next fall.

Of course, not being picked in the first 10 rounds of the draft probably helped ensure that Garrett would maintain a dual focus, at least for now.

"If he went high, it would have been one or the other," Garrett's father, Darrow, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which first reported that Garrett would play both sports starting in 2012. "We love [St. John's basketball coach] Steve Lavin, and I told everyone it would have taken a lot to just walk away from him. This way he can still play basketball at St. John's and do the things he wants to be able to do."

While there may be a number of things that Garrett wants to do, there are ample reasons to believe that he has brighter prospects in baseball, despite the focus he has placed on basketball in recent years. As reported by Prep Rally's college basketball brother blog, The Dagger, Garrett threw an astounding 89 mph in his first pitching workouts when he picked up a baseball for the first time in months, then ramped that speed up to an even more impressive 96 mph just weeks later … in front of nearly 40 Major League Baseball scouts.

Between his size and velocity, plenty of baseball talent evaluators think Garrett could eventually be a David Price-like superstar. Until then, he'll keep plugging away at both the sports he loves, with the hopes that maybe he might be lucky enough to duplicate the success that Ainge and a previous few before him have accomplished.

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