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Two-sport standout Amir Garrett opts to focus on baseball

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
NCAA Basketball: South Florida at St. John's
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Feb 20, 2013; Jamaica, NY, USA; St. John's Red Storm guard/forward Amir Garrett (22) gestures after scoring a basket during the first half against the South Florida Bulls at Carnesecca Arena. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the transfers Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus hoped would hasten his rebuilding process will never play a basketball game for the Matadors.

Former St. John's wing Amir Garrett announced Thursday on Twitter that he is giving up basketball to pursue a professional baseball career full-time as a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher. The 6-foot-6 junior was a top 75 basketball recruit in the Class of 2011 and a 22nd-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds the same year.

Prior to Thursday's decision, Garrett had been splitting his attention between the two sports. The last three years, he'd focus on basketball during most of the school year before building up his arm strength again after the season so he could play Minor League baseball in the Reds organization during the summer. 

Garrett has enjoyed ample success at Class-A Dayton this summer, posting a 6-6 record with an ERA of 3.41 and showing better control than in years past. He has struck out 2.4 times as many hitters as he has walked in 113.1 innings, a big reason why MLB.com ranked him one of the 20 best prospects in the Reds organization.

Focusing full-time on baseball will surely only help Garrett progress quicker in a sport in which he has only dabbled in the past.

Baseball was Garrett's first love as a kid, but it took a back seat to basketball in high school as he emerged as a top recruit because of his athleticism, relentless hustle and ability to get to the rim. Garrett earned an invitation to enroll at national basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep as a senior in high school and signed with St. John's soon after that.

Garrett hadn't pitched in an organized game in nearly a full year in spring 2011 when he began working out with College of Southern Idaho baseball coach Nick Aiello to prepare for the Major League draft that June. Aiello was skeptical that Garrett could be even a marginal prospect until he watched the lanky left-hander sling the ball as fast as 96 miles per hour just seven weeks after they began working to strengthen his arm and hone his mechanics. 

"He picked everything so fast I was blown away," Aiello told Yahoo Sports in June 2011. "The next thing I know he's throwing 92 to 96 in front of 40 scouts. It was unreal. It was absolutely the most bananas thing I've ever seen on a baseball diamond."

Whereas Garrett averaged a modest 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds his second season at St. John's, his baseball career seems to have more potential. If he can keep improving his fastball command while developing his curveball and change-up, he at least has a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues. 

It also surely can't hurt Garrett to have an offseason for the first time in years.

Before he transitioned straight from basketball to baseball and then back again. Now he's made his choice, and though it's a setback for the Cal State Northridge basketball program, it seems like a good one for Garrett.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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