When St. John’s hired Chris Mullin as its head coach in March, there was optimism he could strengthen the Red Storm’s local recruiting efforts. Tuesday offered the clearest indication yet that Mullin could have more success landing prospects from New York than his predecessor, as guard Shamorie Ponds announced his verbal commitment to St. John's.
Ponds picked the Red Storm over Providence and Creighton. He also had been considering Minnesota but decided earlier this month to cancel a planned official visit to the Twin Cities. St. John's had been viewed as the favorite to land Ponds, and his commitment seemed even more secure after the Friars secured a pledge on Monday from three-star guard Maliek White.
Ponds, who attends Thomas Jefferson High in Brooklyn, was among the fastest-rising prospects in the country this year. He leapt more than 50 spots in the 2016 version of the Rivals150 after impressing with his play on the Elite Youth Basketball League circuit. With his grassroots team, the New York Lightning, Ponds averaged 16.1 points and 2.9 assists in 22 games this year.
A skilled scorer, the 6-foot, 160-pound Ponds is renowned for his ballhandling and ability to create off the dribble. “A scorer at heart, Ponds has some Russ Smith in him because of his willingness to fire away from deep, quickness and fearlessness when attacking the paint,” Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, wrote of Ponds in June. “He is also a very good on-the-ball defender.”
Rivals.com currently ranks Ponds No. 42 among players in the class of 2016.
Prior to Tuesday, St. John’s had not landed a prospect from New York as highly regarded as Ponds since small forward Mo Harkless in 2011.
In the years since then, the Red Storm failed to land standouts from the city such as Chris McCullough (Syracuse) and Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall). The addition of Ponds, then, is a promising sign that under Mullin—a Brooklyn native who starred for St. John’s in the 1980s—the Red Storm could become a bigger factor in the recruitments of some of the area’s top players.
How will Ponds fit in when he arrives next year?
This off-season, St. John’s rebuilt its roster with a nine-man recruiting class featuring two four-star point guards, Italy native Federico Mussini and Morgan Park (Ill.) High’s Marcus LoVett. Still, the scoring-minded Ponds is talented enough to compete for playing time early in his college career, and Mullin could make good use of his scoring ability whether he starts or anchors reserve units.
In the class of 2016, St. John’s is also pursuing (among others) Rawle Alkins, a five-star shooting guard who transferred from Christ the King in New York City to Word of God Christian (N.C.) Academy this summer.