The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Courtside: Brooklyn’s finest ready to conquer Queens

Shamorie+Ponds+comes+to+Queens+as+one+of+the+most+highly-touted+Red+Storm+recruits+in+years+%28Photo+Credit%3A+RedStormSports.com%29.+
Shamorie Ponds comes to Queens as one of the most highly-touted Red Storm recruits in years (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com).

When Chris Mullin accepted the position as head coach of the basketball team at his alma mater, St. John’s University, the first thing he stressed was how he wanted to re-build the Queens program by dominating New York City.

Once upon a time, St. John’s was filled with city players, like Mullin himself or Mark Jackson. But recently, the Johnnies haven’t focused on the top talents in the tri-state area. Instead, the best city players have headed to high major schools across the country, searching for stability and more exposure.

Enter point guard Shamorie Ponds.

The 6’1,” 170 pound point guard from Brooklyn, NY committed to St. John’s over two other Big East schools, Creighton and Providence, and one Big Ten program, Minnesota, last fall. He is the second highest ranked recruit in New York in the class of 2016 and is as flashy of a point guard as you will find on the East Coast.

While Ponds is not the first New York based player to commit to Mullin in his one plus years at St. John’s, he is certainly the most highly touted.

Ponds cited the hometown connection when speaking about his commitment, but the guard was also intrigued by the program’s positive atmosphere.

“It was family oriented,” Ponds said at St. John’s Media Day on Oct. 27. “The coaches made me feel welcome. I just got used to the family environment and I really gelled in with my teammates and we just had a bond.”

Like Mullin was in his playing days, Ponds is a lefty guard with an ability to light it up with his jump shot. He beams with confidence every time he steps on the floor and plays with a sense of fearlessness.

However, Ponds isn’t just searching for individual success. He wants to help St. John’s become a nationally relevant program again; similar to how dangerous they were when Mullin led the Johnnies to their only Final Four back in 1985.

“I basically wanted to come to this program to turn it around,” Ponds said. “I want to make more New York kids stay home. There’s no reason to [leave the city], stay home and showcase your talents for this city.”

Ponds has the opportunity to play in front of his family and friends, put his skills to the test in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and get coached by a Hall of Famer who grew up in New York.

Playing for your own city is something that most players dream of. However, it could also come with many distractions and pressure, something that Ponds does not feel headed into the 2016-2017 campaign.

“There’s no pressure,” the freshman said. “I just block it out and play my game, play for my teammates and my coaches. And basically just win.”

Ponds’ successful high school career is one of the main reasons why he is so composed. At Thomas Jefferson High School, Ponds was the leader of a team that won its first PSAL championship since 1954. He won co-MVP honors in the championship game against Abraham Lincoln after dropping 31 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and five assists.

He earned First Team All-State, was named New York’s 2015-2016 Player of the Year by USA Today High School Sports and scored over 2,000 points in his high school career.

On top of that, he represented the city in the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic, which was held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ponds scored 17 points and had two steals in the game, putting forth some beautiful ball handling moves and floaters around the rim.

And despite not playing a single game in college, Ponds is already earning high praise from fellow Big East coaches. He was selected as the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year at Big East Media Day a couple weeks ago and is one of the most intriguing newcomers in the conference.

“He’s a talented young kid,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley, who recruited Ponds during his high school career, said at Big East Media Day. “He’s a high octane scorer, an elite level passer. He’ll probably have some bumps and bruises early but once he learns the rhythm and speed and how physical our league is, he’ll be an elite player in this league.”

But Ponds doesn’t want this to be the only successful accolade he receives in college.

“It was an honor,” Ponds said. “I can’t be satisfied with that award because I want to do more as a team. I want to get to the tournament, Big East Championship, [awards] like that.”

Ponds’ unselfishness lends itself perfectly to the point guard position. He is a terrific passer, elite in transition and more importantly, he’s a perfect fit for Mullin’s pace-and-space system.

“[Ponds] has a very natural instinct for the game,” Mullin said. “He plays within himself. He plays with any combination of guys. He has a really easygoing personality and I think his game reflects that, where he really figures out how to fit in no matter what group he’s playing with.”

Mullin continued, “He’s done a good job and he has gained some respect from his teammates right away. He’s a joy to be around and he’s a really nice kid.”

At Thomas Jefferson, Ponds was the go-to player. Now in his first year at St. John’s, he won’t be the only focal point of the offense. Between the depth and versatility that the team possesses and the plethora of guards in the backcourt, Ponds may not receive all the attention right away. That will likely open up more opportunities for the guard to flourish from the start.

“We start from pushing each other in practice,” Ponds said when asked about the healthy competition in the backcourt. “We can’t get better without each other. We just help each other.”

St. John’s top recruit may not start from the get-go due to the return of Malik Ellison and the addition of Marcus LoVett, but Ponds is set to have a major role from the first game of the season in November to whenever the Johnnies finish up their season in March. He’s also one of the faces of the program moving forward.

If Mullin is able to take the next step in the St. John’s rebuilding process, he needs Ponds to serve as a trendsetter for fellow New York recruits.

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Carmine Carcieri, Co-Sports Editor
Co-Sports Editor: Carmine is a senior Communications major who hopes that his section will give St. John's students the best inside insight into all athletics on campus. He hopes to give students a different perspective than other mainstream New York media outlets. He has been with the Torch for three years. [email protected]
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