For St. John’s and its followers, the exciting and intriguing part about watching Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds start and play together Monday night was that it made everyone eager to see how good they might become. Naturally, the two lefthanded point guards had been ahead of everybody else. They saw a game like this one long before it happened.
That is how point guards operate: they envision plays in advance. And the Red Storm is confident that two point guards are better than one. “You can have five of anything on the floor. If they move the ball and share, they’re going to be fine,” coach Chris Mullin said after having witnessed his two first-year backcourt players score a combined 44 points and thoroughly control a 77-61 victory over Binghamton at Carnesecca Arena.
Sure, they have a long way to go once the Storm moves up from playing mid-majors. But Mullin and his players relish the possibilities. “I’m not giving you a history lesson, but for the most part, if you play five smalls against five bigs, five smalls are going to win,” Mullin said. “Both of those guys are unselfish, they’re very talented. More importantly they don’t overdo it. We talk about it all the time: Pass up a good shot and get your teammate a better shot.”
Ponds and LoVett gave the Storm a double-jolted shot in the arm. “Smallest guys on the floor, but with the biggest hearts and the biggest voices,” the 6-1 Ponds said of his tandem with 6-foot LoVett. Ponds had 21 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. LoVett had 23 points and each had four assists. Both players fueled the full-court pressure that produced a 15-0 second-half run that broke open a four-point game. The point guard pair had a combined three assists in that spurt, which showed something because each has been The Guy for most of his basketball life.
“He can bring up the ball, just like I can. He can handle pressure just like I can handle pressure.” LoVett said. “We don’t worry about any of that. As long as the ball is taken care of, that’s all that matters.”
LoVett was the first to foresee a game like Monday night’s. The Fort Wayne, Indiana, resident had to sit out last season because of an NCAA ruling about his academic eligibility. What did he do with his free time? He repeatedly went to watch Ponds star for Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.
“That just showed me how much he wanted me to play with him. I took that into consideration,” Ponds said, referring to his choice of schools. “This was my only option.”
Hours after new athletic director Anton Goff promised “a new day, a new era” for St. John’s sports, LoVett and Ponds showed that the men’s basketball team’s backcourt is the way forward.