Shamorie Ponds liked the idea of playing in the same backcourt with Mustapha Heron from the start. As he was finalizing his decision to go to St. John’s he began lobbying his one-time AAU teammate, who was at Waterbury (Conn.) Sacred Heart High, to join him. It didn’t come to fruition. While Ponds chose the Red Storm, Heron opted for Auburn.
It is three years later, but now Ponds gets his wish. Heron led SEC champion Auburn in scoring last season but transferred to St. John’s to be closer to his ill mother. On Saturday, he received a waiver from the NCAA to begin playing immediately. A Red Storm team already expected to be good has become much more potent.
“We definitely imagine what the winning side will be like,” Ponds said Tuesday. “We have to go out and prove we can do it. We have the talent and all the pieces to do so.”
Ponds led the Big East with a 21.6-point average to go with 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists and was an all-conference selection though the Storm finished 16-17. Heron averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Tigers, who were 26-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The juniors will be together in what should be a dangerous three-guard look with junior Justin Simon.
“We’ve got a lot of talent here,” Heron said. “We have a chance to go really deep and make deep runs in our conference and in the national tournament. Basketball is moving more towards a position-less type of game and we fit that mold perfectly.”
Until Saturday, Heron’s short time at St. John’s was filled with anxious days. He petitioned the NCAA for the waiver but had no idea when or if it would come. He called finding out “definitely a sigh of relief.”
“I’m just ready to get started and go to war with my guys and hopefully this outcome is good,” he added.
“He’s another player that defenses have to really, really account for and pretty much guard him closely,” Storm fourth-year coach Chris Mullin said. “We can put guys on the court at every position that can really score the ball. We can probably put a lineup out there of five guys that can get off the dribble, make a three. So when you have lineups like that it’s going to open up opportunities, open up the floor to spacing and I think we’ll be better.”
Both Ponds and Heron looked hard in the offseason at entering the NBA Draft and it could be their destination after this season. Both worked out for several NBA teams, even once together. It was at one of those that Heron broke the news of his transfer decision to Ponds.
“I feel like we both have a lot to prove, but we definitely are going to show the world what they want to see,” Ponds said. “We’re confident and we’re working every day.”