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Making Waves: Former Jefferson star defying expectations at St. John’s

Freshman phenom: Shamorie Ponds has had an immediate impact at St. John’s this season, averaging just over 17 points in 33 minutes per game.
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It’s all going according to plan.

Shamorie Ponds has surprised the of majority of the college-basketball world this season, jump-starting a St. John’s program that was nothing short of woeful last year. The Red Storm freshman — and former Thomas Jefferson standout — may have seized the spotlight quickly, but he isn’t letting the moment overwhelm him.

“It means a lot to me, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates or my coaches,” Ponds said. “I’m a freshman and they’ve helped me out through this process.”

Ponds is the first to deflect the attention away from himself. He is quick to point out that he’s only a few games into his college career, but his stats in those same few games are amongst the best the entire country.

He was named Big East Freshman of the Week for the third time on Jan. 2 — fresh off a 26-point performance in St. John’s victory over No. 13 Butler on Dec. 29. It was the second time Ponds notched 26 points in one game and his sixth performance netting 20 points or more this season.

He followed up with a 15-point game at DePaul as St. John’s notched its third-straight win and second Big East victory. The Red Storm won just one league game last season, and Ponds is a big reason for the turnaround.

“We’re improving,” he said. “We’ve improved from our conference wins last year, and we’re just going to keep getting better down the road.”

Ponds’s ability on the court has been obvious throughout the season — he sinks step-back threes with an ease that belies his age and is more than willing to drive the lane against players with twice his experience. But it is his mindset — both on and off the court — that has his teammates and his coaches certain he is primed for an historic freshman season.

“He doesn’t really show a whole lot of emotion, but yet he’s a fierce competitor,” said St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. “He’s very focused and has a high basketball IQ. Sometimes he’s so good and so calm that you forget he’s just a freshman. I have no doubt in him.”

Ponds has been the one constant in a St. John’s backcourt that has already faced its fair share of ups and downs this year. Sophomore Federico Mussini missed a handful of games in December after an infection, and redshirt freshman Marcus LoVett was sidelined with an early-year ankle injury.

Ponds, meanwhile, has been consistent — he’s averaging more than 33 minutes a game, seeing time at both point and shooting guard, and frequently lining up against opposing team’s top scoring threats. It’s what he did in high school, and it’s what he always planned to do at St. John’s.

This is the opportunity Ponds always wanted — the reason he picked St. John’s and stayed in New York. He’s always known what he’s capable of on the court, and now, he’s helping change the Red Storm basketball culture. It might not be what people expected, but it’s always what Ponds knew was possible.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s great that my family can come out and watch me, and it’s great playing for such an awesome program like St. John’s.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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