The St. John’s basketball season received a huge boost less than a month before the opening game when transfer Mustapha Heron, a standout player in the Southeastern Conference for Auburn, was given a waiver by the NCAA on Saturday. He will be allowed to play immediately for the Red Storm.
Heron, a 1,000-point scorer and second-team All-SEC player, will not have to wait one season before playing, which usually is required of transfer students. The Waterbury, Connecticut resident petitioned the NCAA for an exemption, saying his decision to transfer was based on a desire to be close to his mother, who is ill.
“I’m incredibly thankful that the NCAA has decided to allow me to play right away closer to home,” Heron said in a statement released by the university. “I would like to thank all of the staff at St. John’s that fought to make this a possibility for me and my family.”
The 6-5 guard will team with Big East leading scorer Shamorie Ponds — who chose to forego the NBA Draft after having tested the waters — in what could be the most dynamic backcourt in the conference. Heron’s addition to the lineup significantly improves the Red Storm’s chances to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the era of coach Chris Mullin.
“We’re very grateful for the NCAA’s decision to grant Mustapha a legislative relief waiver,” Mullin said in a statement. “It is important for Mustapha to be close to his family during this difficult time, so providing him the opportunity to play immediately will be a great benefit as he continues to pursue his personal goals. Mustapha is a high-character young man with loads of talent who will now be able to showcase it on the highest stage.”
Heron led Auburn in scoring last season, averaging 16.4 points. He also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 32 games, all of them starts. Like Ponds, he considered going pro but chose to remain in college. He announced his decision to transfer in late May.