Thursday, October 25, 2018

St. John's Ponds Named Big East Preseason Player Of The Year

Shamorie Ponds at Big East Media Day. @StJohnsBball.

St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds became a star last season when he led the Red Storm to wins over Duke and Villanova. He led the Big East Conference in scoring at 21.6 points per game and broke the St. John’s sophomore scoring record

Since then, the accolades have poured in for Ponds, and he received the biggest one yet on Thursday morning, when he was named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year.

Ponds is the first St. John's player to earn the honor since Malik Sealy shared the award with Alonzo Mourning prior to the 1991-92 season.

On Tuesday, Ponds received votes for the Associated Press Preseason All-America Team, it was announced on Tuesday, and he was named to the Bob Cousy Award Preseason Watch List earlier this month.

On Thursday morning at Big East Media Day at The Garden, Ponds said of what receiving Preseason Player of the Year means to him, “My whole life I’ve felt like I was overlooked. These accolades definitely are a blessing and I couldn’t have accomplished this without my teammates. It goes to show how much the hard work has paid off and coming from where I came from, nothing was given. I’ve had to earn everything.”

Ponds had one of the most memorable seasons for a Red Storm player as a sophomore in 2017-18. In addition to leading the Big East in scoring, the  Brooklyn native also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, becoming the first player in program history to average at least those numbers over the course of an entire season.

A First Team All-Big East selection and AP Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore, Ponds captured the national spotlight last winter with one of the most impressive stretches in program history. After dropping 31 and eclipsing the 1,000-point mark during a closely contested loss to No. 6 Xavier on Jan. 30, the sophomore scored 24 of his game-high 33 points in the second half during the Red Storm’s thrilling upset victory over No. 4 Duke at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 3. A few days later, Ponds poured in 26 points at No. 1 Villanova, keying the Red Storm’s first victory over a top-ranked opponent in 33 years. When the team returned home to host Marquette three days later, Ponds put on quite the encore, scoring 44 points in a win over the Golden Eagles. His 44 points were tied for the fourth-highest single-game total in program history and broke the scoring record for Carnesecca Arena/Alumni Hall previously held by Sealy.

Simon, who played his first season in Queens last year after transferring from Arizona, burst onto the season as a redshirt sophomore in 2017-18. The Temecula, Calif., native averaged 12.2 points per game to go along with a team-best 7.1 boards and 5.1 assists per game, the latter two of which ranked fifth and second, respectively, in the BIG EAST.

The team’s leader in double-doubles with nine with more than a few instances of narrowly missing a triple-double, Simon’s length and athleticism allowed him to establish a reputation as one of the top defenders in the NCAA. He led the BIG EAST and ranked eighth nationally 2.5 steals per game. His 82 swipes on the year were good enough for the fifth-highest total in program history for a single campaign.

Here is the rest of what Ponds had to say on Thursday morning at The Garden:

On what he looks forward to this season: “We’re all definitely looking forward to winning this season. Coach has been preaching on locking in on the defensive end. We know we have the offensive weapons to compete with any team in our league. Team defense is what we look to improve on and that will be the difference when it comes to wins and losses. This team can go really far if we play to our potential.”

On things he personally wants to improve on this season: “My goal is to become a better leader. One of the things that I’ve been trying to work on is being more vocal on the court this year, especially as a true point guard. I’ve grown as a player after each year as a member of this team. My experience coming into this year brings more responsibility and leadership on my end. Focusing on the little things this offseason has also helped me focus on being a better player on both sides of the court.”

On how he’s contributed to the culture of basketball in New York City as a member of the Red Storm: “I pretty much made my decision to come to St. John’s to represent the city that I’m from and pave the way for New York City high school prospects to stay home and play at an elite level. I’ve been trying to prove that you don’t have to leave New York City in order to get recognized on a national level. A winning season this year will really help attract local prospects to the program and make them consider staying close to home.”

On the team’s young depth: “With this team, you can put out any lineup on the floor and expect the same production. This team is very loaded. We expect a lot of guys to play some valuable minutes this season. With our young depth, we expect to do some special things this season. ”

On entering this season with high expectations: “There’s a lot of hype coming into this season and we know that. We kind of feel like we have a bullseye on all of our backs. All of the other teams in the Big East know that we have a hungry and talented roster this season. Despite all of this, it’s important that we stay focused and level-headed. If we do that, we can be one of the better teams in the league this season.”

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