Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ponds caps off sensational sophomore season with Haggerty Award, becomes third SJU winner since 2014

Shamorie Ponds' breakout sophomore season resulted in Haggerty Award for Brooklyn guard, becoming third St. John's player to be recognized as metro area's best in last five seasons. (Photo by the New York Post)

In the midst of an 11-game losing streak to begin Big East Conference play this past season, one constant remained as St. John's struggled to find its footing: The dynamic abilities of Shamorie Ponds.

Once the Red Storm did get off the schneid, with captivating victories over a pair of Top 5 teams in Duke and eventual national champion Villanova, Ponds' transcendent play was the primary catalyst behind the surge. A 44-point outburst against Marquette in mid-February only enhanced the nascent stardom, and cemented his claim as the best talent the New York metropolitan area had to offer.

The local basketball writers concurred Wednesday morning, voting Ponds as the winner of the Haggerty Award, presented annually to the best player in the New York area as judged by a vast cross section of local media. The Brooklyn guard becomes the 23rd St. John's player to receive the honor, and the third in the last five seasons after D'Angelo Harrison and Sir'Dominic Pointer were recognized in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Ponds is also the sixth sophomore winner, and second in three seasons, joining Seton Hall's Isaiah Whitehead, now a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

"It's big," Ponds told Zach Braziller of the New York Post upon hearing he had won. "It's big for St. John's, big for me. I was confident with what I did, even without the team's success. I think I had an overall solid year."

Overall, St. John's has seen one of its players win the Haggerty Award 27 times in program history, with Dick McGuire and the late Malik Sealy having won it twice; while Ponds' head coach, Chris Mullin, did so three times while becoming the then-Redmen's all-time leading scorer.

Mullin also becomes the second former winner to coach a fellow Haggerty recipient, following in the footsteps of his college teammate, Mark Jackson; who coached Hofstra's Charles Jenkins -- like Mullin, a three-time Haggerty winner -- for two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, the NBA franchise for whom Mullin played 13 of his 16 professional seasons.

Ponds' second season at St. John's saw him average 21.6 points per game, which led the Big East for the year despite finishing second in conference-only scoring to Butler's Kelan Martin. Ponds supplemented his offense with 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, and improved his two-way capability with 70 steals, second in the conference behind his teammate and backcourt partner, Justin Simon.

Even before Marcus LoVett's injury and eventual departure from the team, Ponds began to blossom after a freshman season that culminated in MBWA Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the All-Met first team, reaching the 20-point plateau in six of St. John's first nine games en route to an 8-1 start. After shaking off a knee injury early in the Big East season, he reclaimed his spot on the conference's main stage with 37 points in a narrow loss to Villanova on January 13 at Madison Square Garden and followed that up with 33 points in a road game at Georgetown one week later, a harbinger of what lied ahead in a stretch of take-charge leadership not seen in New York or the Big East since Kemba Walker led the University of Connecticut on their dramatic run through the conference tournament and national championship in 2011.

Ponds' season-defining tour de force began with 31 points in a losing effort against Xavier at Carnesecca Arena on January 30, and intensified four days later with 33 points in the Red Storm's cathartic 81-77 victory over Duke before a capacity crowd at the Garden on February 3. Four days after that, Ponds managed only 26 points, but was equally as instrumental in St. John's defeating top-ranked Villanova on the road by a 79-75 final. His best -- and most memorable -- salvo came on February 10, when his aforementioned 44 points at the expense of Marquette broke a Carnesecca Arena record that had stood for nearly three decades when Sealy registered 43 points in 1990, and served as the highest point output for a Red Storm player since Marcus Hatten -- also a Haggerty winner -- recorded an equal amount against Rutgers in 2003.

Currently in the midst of testing the NBA Draft waters, a decision he announced last month, Ponds has workouts scheduled with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, per Braziller, and is reportedly 60-40 with regard to leaving St. John's -- with the higher percentage leaning toward remaining in the draft -- although that figure can change based on whether or not he is invited to the NBA Draft Combine. The deadline to withdraw from consideration is May 30.

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