By John Fanta
BROOKLYN — This wasn’t just any 30-point performance from Shamorie Ponds. Yes, it came under the bright lights of the Barclays Center in his home borough of Brooklyn. But it wasn’t even that which stood out the most from the outburst from the BIG EAST Player of the Year frontrunner.
“We have so much depth that it could be anybody, any given night.”
Those words. They come from the same kid that scored 16 of the final 22 points for St. John’s in the Red Storm’s 82-79 Legends Classic Semifinal win over California.
It’s those words that signify the maturation of Ponds, and the Red Storm, which has expectations of making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015. While St. John’s had its backs against the wall in a game they needed to win, trailing Cal (Kenpom #162) by seven with six minutes to go, Ponds lifted the Red Storm on his back and willed them to the title game. His head coach spoke volumes on the difference Ponds has showed him as a junior.
“He’s the type of player that doesn’t have to score for us to win now,” said Chris Mullin. “Tonight, he had to score, and he did. The numbers may change on a given night, but our daily (routine) has to be the same.”
It’s one thing to say it, but Ponds has put those words on display, after just scoring eight points to go with seven assists in the most impressive performance of the early season, an 84-65 rout at Rutgers.
“That was the most unselfish performance of his career,” said Mullin of Ponds’ output in Piscataway on Friday.
The junior guard got the Barclays crowd going with just over five minutes to play, pulling up for a triple to cut Cal’s lead to 67-65. Making a pair of free throws after getting fouled on back-to-back possessions, Ponds and the Red Storm found themselves up 75-74 with just less than 90 seconds to play.
With the shot clock winding down, at the top of the key, Ponds crossed over and hoisted from three, drilling the triple and sending the Johnnies crowd that packed more than half of the lower bowl into a frenzy. The Bears could not recover from it, as Ponds put the finishing touches on the win.
While Monday night meant that Ponds needed to score for the Johnnies to get it done, it’s clear that there’s a new attitude for him and the rest of this program.
“His maturity and experience are showing,” Mullin said about the star lefty guard.
“He wants to win.”