Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Photography.
By David Cordova
When you’re from New York City, the one place that you dream of playing in is none other than one of the most prominent athletic cathedrals in the world, a place that is also called the World’s Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. It is a place that can hold nearly 20,000 people and when there’s a big game to be played, it gets to rocking.
Shamorie Ponds knows all about that. The 6-foot-1 freshman guard from Brooklyn puts in plenty of work on that court every game for the St. John’s Red Storm. “Playing in Madison Square Garden, when you have your family and friends backing you up, there’s nothing like it,” says Ponds.
His game is one that has fans excited, because you never know what kind of moves he’ll come out with, but one thing is for certain, he will give you a good show. Even in summer events such as the Dyckman Tournament in Inwood or the Tri-State Classic in Harlem, the crowds are always lined up to see him perform, as they know they are in for a treat. But then again, he’s quiet and soft-spoken, and never needs to brag about what he does. Then again, his journey started in Brooklyn.
The left-handed guard first made his name at Thomas Jefferson High School in the East New York section of Brooklyn. As a freshman, he was part of a team that led the Orange Wave to a PSAL junior varsity city championship.
Then in his sophomore year, Ponds made a strong introduction to the city, as he moved up to the varsity and averaged 15.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, as he led them to the PSAL city championship game at the Barclays Center, where they would lose by one, 55-54, to Cardozo. Then as a junior, he stepped his game by averaging 27.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He led the Orange Wave to another deep playoff run, but it would then end in the PSAL semifinals, by ten, 83-73, to eventual city and state champion, Wings Academy.
Outside of school, Ponds had started to get noticed by major schools, due to the Orange Wave playing in tournaments outside of the city. Throughout the spring and summer of 2015, he would then make appearances at camps such as the Pangos All-American Camp in Carson, California, the Nike Basketball Academy in Los Angeles, and the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Virginia. When asked about his camp experiences, Ponds said, “I mean, the top competition was there, so I had to showcase my talent and prove to people that I was one of the top players in the country also.”
But there was another experience at another camp, the Adidas All-American Camp, which took place on the campus of LIU Post, in the Long Island suburb of Brookville, New York, in July, in which he really showed that he arrived. Throughout the three days of the camp, with college coaches present, he dazzled in every game that he played.
But in a special event at the legendary Rucker Park in Harlem, which was part of the camp’s festivities, he showed that he could compete with the best. On a night in which there were Division I college coaches present, Ponds showed off his scoring prowess, and also met face-to-face with current Oregon freshman guard, Payton Pritchard, in what would be one of the best moments of the game.
With Rucker Park MC E.J. Da Mayor on the sideline calling the game, Ponds went to work, hitting Pritchard with a crossover that left him in his tracks, while getting to the cup easily, scoring a layup. “I don’t know, it was an all-star game,” says Ponds with a laugh, “I was just trying to show the fans, what they were trying to see.”
After that, Ponds would go on to compete in two big events in his native borough of Brooklyn, which would be the Under Armour Elite 24 in August 2015 and the Jordan Brand Classic in April 2016. Both were events in which he was able to showcase in front of a home crowd and also put on scoring displays for the public, which also earned him praise from many of the local fans. After that, his play then earned him plenty of praise from said fans, which led to plenty of hilarious memes of him on social media, including one of him holding a bible.
With those summer experiences out of the way, he set his sights on doing just one thing: winning a city championship as a senior. That being said, he helped lead Jefferson to a 26-8 season, winning the elusive PSAL city championship, the first for the Orange Wave since 1954, and also a New York State Federation championship. He also reached the 2,000-point plateau in his career and finished the No. 36 in the ESPN Top 100 rankings in the Class of 2016.
When asked about winning that championship and going out a winner as a senior at Madison Square Garden, Ponds replied, “It feels amazing, I still think about it every time I come in there. We were in this same locker room last year, so it’s amazing.”
On his legacy on the high school scene: “I mean, as far as Jefferson, being able to win one [ a championship] since 1954, winning one in 2016, it feels great to be a part of history.”
With high school done, college was next on the horizon. In late September of 2015, Ponds chose St. John’s as his collegiate choice, over other teams in the Big East, such as Creighton and Providence. He was the first major recruit from New York City to commit there since Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless in 2011.
When asked about why he decided to stay local, Ponds said: “I mean, it was family-orientated, there’s nothing like Coach Mullin, and the players, they came to my games, so it was just a family atmosphere.”
Ponds also gets a chance to learn every day from one of the best in Red Storm head coach, Chris Mullin, a Hall of Famer, a seventeen-year NBA veteran with the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers, as well as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic squad, which is forever known as the Dream Team, which won gold medals in Barcelona, Spain. When asked about what it’s been like playing for such a legendary figure, Ponds replied, “It’s a blessing, his knowledge and what he knows can help you a lot in the future.”
So far things have started out well for Ponds at the school in Queens. Before the season, he was picked to be the Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year. Throughout the season, he didn’t disappoint, as he would end up leading the Red Storm in scoring with 17.4 points per game, as well as 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
His outstanding play would earn him Big East Freshman of the Week five times this season, and it looked like he would end up winning the Freshman of the Year Award. And then in the first week of March, the winner would end up being Creighton forward Justin Patton. But then again, because of his great play, Ponds would still make the Big East All-Rookie Team. When asked about his freshman year overall, he said, “I mean, it’s a blessing. But I’m not satisfied with the accolades, I just want to win.”
Although Ponds achieved plenty of accolades this year, the Red Storm is still in its rebuilding mode. Prior to his arrival, St. John’s went through a dismal season last year in Mullin’s first season, which only produced eight wins. This season, they would make a six-game improvement from last year, going 14-19, and making it to the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament before suffering a season-ending loss to Villanova, the No. 2 team in the AP poll. Being that he is a part of their rebuilding crew, there is no doubt that Ponds will continue to do great things in the Red Storm.
Next year, with the nucleus of Ponds, Tariq Owens, Bashir Ahmed, Kassoum Yakwe and Marcus LoVett coming back, there could be a chance of them making an impact and returning the program to the top of the Big East Conference. Right now, it’s time to get back in the lab and prepare for that. What does Ponds have to say about the future? “Me in the future, I want to make it to the NBA, so hopefully, that’s what the future brings.”
Highlights of Shamorie Ponds:
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of JMBV.
Courtesy of Next Up Recruits.
Courtesy of 2EZ Gang.
Courtesy of Hoop Diamonds.
Courtesy of Primetime Hoops.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.