Shamorie Ponds is Chris Mullin’s most important recruit to date.
Not only is he the highest-ranked New York City player to land with St. John’s since Steve Lavin grabbed Maurice Harkless out of Queens in 2011, but Ponds is now the test case for what Mullin can deliver for local phenoms who stay home.
He couldn’t have picked a better candidate.
There are more talented kids around the country than Ponds, but few have the intangibles and backstory of the Thomas Jefferson guard.
Ponds was not projected to be a Top-50 player when he came in as a freshman. He worked his way there. He just cracked the top 100 as of this spring. But the assumption that other players were better than him was what motivated him to up his game, according to Jefferson coach Lawrence “Bud” Pollard.
It drove Ponds to work his way up from No. 100 in the rankings to No. 41 in six months. St. John’s isn’t getting a ready-made pro, but rather something better — a kid who is willing to work as hard as it takes to get there.
That is important, because Mullin will be demanding when it comes to giving maximum effort, and Ponds won’t have any problem with that, according to his current coach.
“He’s a low-maintenance guy,” Pollard said. “Very appreciative, very humble, and he’s just a great kid.”
Mullin has talked about how he is looking for kids who want St. John’s, ones that don’t need to be begged to come. Ponds certainly is the type of kid Mullin is looking for. His father Shawn Sr. said the family was split 50-50 on whether it was best for him to stay home or experience life away from New York City. But Ponds, on the other hand, never doubted what he wanted — to join the Red Storm and learn what Mullin could teach him.
Ponds stuck with Mullin and St. John’s and is willing to be the guy who helps lure a few more local to Jamaica.
The Red Storm is recruiting former Kennedy star Bashir Ahmed, Archbishop Stepinac’s Jordan Tucker, and former Christ the King star and Canarsie native Rawle Alkins to add to its incoming class next year.
“I guess I can set the example because I’m the first to do it.” Ponds said. “I can probably get some local kids to stay home.”
Ponds is the only one of those recruiting targets playing in New York City this season. Red Storm fans can easily watch him play, follow his progress, and see first-hand what they are getting next season. His tangible nature will only endear him to the St. John’s fan base. Right now, he is the face of Mullin’s promise to make St. John’s a major player in local recruiting again.
They couldn’t have asked for a better kid with a better story to be just that.