LAS VEGAS — As the Houston Rockets' squad of Summer League players left the locker room — really, a storage room tucked under the stands at Cox Arena, a hallway away from the Thomas & Mack Center’s main court — a crowd of reporters surrounded Gary Clark, who had led the team in scoring Tuesday night. A similar group flocked to Chris Clemons, a 5-9 guard out of Campbell University who has averaged 22.3 points per game through the first three games of the summer sessions.
Shamorie Ponds slid out of the room almost unnoticed. The Red Storm star has yet to put on the type of performance that had gotten him this far, the sort of scoring outbursts that had made him a first-team All-Big East selection and an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American in each of the last two seasons at St. John's. His 1,870 points were a record for the first three seasons of any player in school history.
But here, Ponds has averaged just 6.7 points, connecting on just eight of 27 shots from the floor and just one of 12 from three-point range.
“I feel like I can play way better than I’m playing, 10 times better," Ponds said. "But it’s just a learning process, a new environment for me. Just getting adjusted, just getting my feet wet. But when it counts I’m definitely going to be 10 times better.”
Everything counts though for a player such as Ponds who is trying to make his mark. He went to the NBA Draft Combine last summer but pulled his name out of the early-entry candidates. He did it again this summer after his junior season and this time stayed in, but went undrafted.
Signed to an Exhibit 10 contract by the Rockets — a minimum deal that can be converted to a two-way contract, allowing the team to shift him between the NBA and the G League — Ponds is confident he still will make his way forward.
“I’m just trying to play my game,” he said. “I’m here for a reason. They took me for a reason. I just want to be the best version of me. I feel like I’ve been not myself. I feel like I’ve got to get back on track.
“I’m definitely confident. More than confident, I’m basically built on confidence. I’m getting my feet wet here and it’s something new, but I’m definitely going to turn it around.”