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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / May 28.
  • NBA personnel taking notice of St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds (UPDATED)

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds has faced a couple of obstacles when it comes to NBA personnel.

    First off, his size.

    Ponds is officially listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds on the St. John’s roster. In 2016, the DraftExpress.com database listed him at an even 6 feet and 160 pounds.

    “Lacks great size, length or strength for a point guard prospect,” the site wrote. “Not incredibly explosive to compensate.”

    The site also questioned his defensive skills and his ability to create for others.

    “Will need to make real strides as a playmaker and defender over the course of his college career to overcome his average physical tools, but does have some natural talent and instincts to work with,” DraftExpress wrote.

    A year and a half later, Ponds can’t do much about his size but he has made some “real strides” and NBA folks are taking notice.

    “I think he has a chance but needs to stay in school at least another year,” one NBA executive told ZAGSBLOG. “If he were to come out this year, he will be headed to the G League to start his professional career.”

    The latest ESPN mock draft for 2019 released this week has Ponds projected as the No. 34 pick that year.

    Ponds has opened a lot of eyes with his play of late. This week he was named the Big East and Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week. In his last four games, the Brooklyn native went for 44 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in an 86-78 win over Marquette; 26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in a 79-75 win at No. 1 Villanova; 33 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in an 81-77 win over No. 4 Duke; and 31 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 steals in a 73-68 loss to then-No. 6 Xavier.

    Villanova’s Jalen Brunson probably has the Big East Player of the Year award locked up, but Ponds should be in the mix for All-Big East First-Team honors.

    For the season, he’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals. He ranks second in the Big East in scoring and first in steals.

    “I thought Ponds was terrific,” a downtrodden Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke lost on Saturday when his team had no answer for the St. John’s guard.

    “Ponds was really as good a guard offensively as we’ve played against,” he added.

    St. John’s coach Chris Mullin, an NBA Hall of Famer, says Ponds has taken it up a notch in the last few weeks.

    “He’s been effective virtually from day one,” Mullin said Thursday. “He’s scored the ball over the last three weeks or so really well. He seems to be moving really well. He was chipped up a little bit, and we don’t have the deepest team right now so he has to play a lot of minutes, but he looks really fresh physically. He’s getting quick separation, getting to the line, but he’s doing a really, really good job of mixing up being an aggressive scorer and making good decisions. He’s playing at a high level, and he always has been a tremendous player.”

    ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla thinks Ponds has a shot at the NBA down the road.

    “He’s unique, he’s interesting because in a league now that there were 18 players 6-feet and under last year in the NBA,” Fraschilla said this week on The 4 Quarters Podcast. “He’s got an NBA game because he can get anywhere he wants on the court. He’s a very creative player at the college level.

    “The only thing missing when I saw him was a consistent deadly jump shot, but when he’s on he’s as tough to guard as really any player in the country one-on-one. He’s that old-school, New York schoolyard kind of guy, kind of reminds of Nick Van Exel, maybe because he’s lefty.

    “I don’t know if it’s this year or down the road a few years, but I think he’s got a chance to play in the NBA because he’s a quick player already but the ball-handling skills at the college level for sure make him unguard-able. And that quickness and ball skills will translate to the NBA as long as he can consisntely make a jump shot and keep defenses honest. But he’s proving to people that at the college level he’s somewhat unguard-able.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.