Knighted at birth by his mother, Sir'Dominic Pointer has blossomed this season into a basketball player as unusual and as inspiring as his name. St. John's coach Steve Lavin variously has described the senior small forward as a "unicorn" for his rare combination of skills, "Swiss Army Knife" and "Costco" for his ability to fulfill multiple needs and "extraterrestrial" because, sometimes, his feats are not of this world.
Just thinking about Pointer, who was named co-defensive player of the year and most improved in the Big East, brings a smile to Lavin. "He's so entertaining to watch play the game, and I'm so proud of his growth and development," Lavin said. "He [is] as memorable a player as I've ever coached.
"Dom is a catalyst for elevating the spirit of team play. Dom is a happy warrior. There's a pure authenticity and an element of kindness that's rare."
Although D'Angelo Harrison is the third-leading scorer in Red Storm history and Phil Greene is the top three-point shooter in Big East games this season, Pointer's all-around play has carried the Red Storm (21-10, 10-8) and likely put them into the NCAA Tournament regardless of how they fare in a quarterfinal matchup against Providence (21-10, 11-7) Thursday at the Garden. He ranks in the top 10 in the conference in points (13.7), rebounds (7.6), field-goal percentage (52.6), steals (2.0) and blocks (2.5) and is 13th in assists (3.1).
Just a year ago, Pointer reached a low, going scoreless in a first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris that he admittedly didn't want to play after missing the NCAA tourney. He told Lavin he might redshirt this season to work on his game.
"It almost happened," Pointer said recently. "I volunteered because I had a horrible year. I'm a team guy. I could come back with a whole new class, and they would have an older guy to fall back on. I was thinking about the future, not just myself, but the program."
It wasn't the first time Pointer was filled with self-doubt. Seven years ago, he left his family in Detroit, including his twin sister, Miz'Unique, to attend Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, a private school that recruits top players to play a national schedule while they work to improve their grades.
"The first day I got there, I played against Quincy Miller," Pointer said, referring to a former Baylor player who now is with Detroit in the NBA. "When I say he destroyed me, it was like I really wanted to say, 'This is not for me.' I wanted to hop on the plane home. I said, 'I can't play with these guys. I can't defend these guys. They're just so much better than me.' "
But because a basketball scholarship was his only means to attend college, Pointer stuck it out and became a dominant player before signing with St. John's. Similarly, he was just as low after regressing last season, but his father, Anthony, suggested he spend a month in the summer working on his midrange jumper with trainer Jeremy Russotti at 1% Basketball Club in Sonoma County north of San Francisco.
Pointer returned to school with an improved midrange jumper -- "my money shot" -- a better work ethic and more confidence. Looking back, Pointer said he worked on his mind as much as anything.
"I was a practice player," he said. "I'd get it done in practice, but when it came to the games, I was a no-show. Now, I'm a gamer. It's a difference."
Describing himself, Pointer said he's a player who always has gotten better and who still has plenty of "upside." But he's not yet satisfied with his transformation.
"Hopefully, we can cut down some nets and make the NCAA Tournament and make some noise there," Pointer said. "However far we go as a team, that's my legacy here. That's our legacy and sending our seniors out on the right note and to say we improved each year over our four years. That's all I could ask for."