St. John's close to adding Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron on hardship waiver | Zagsblog
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Saturday / April 4.
  • St. John’s close to adding Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron on hardship waiver

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    St. John’s is close to adding Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron on a hardship waiver for the 2018-19 season, which would provide a massive boost to Chris Mullin’s club entering the coach’s fourth season at the helm of his alma mater.

    The 6-foot-5 Connecticut native transferred to St. John’s in May — as first reported by ZAGSBLOG — and then applied for a hardship waiver because his mother, Thalia Heron, suffered a massive concussion. She lives in West Haven, Conn.

    “He should have a decision this week,” one source close to Heron said Saturday. “It’s the NCAA so you just don’t know.”

    A second source close to the situation added, “The NCAA has been very helpful. The T’s are being crossed and the I’s are being dotted.”

    The NCAA is not permitted to comment on the situation until a decision is rendered, but an NCAA source said, “It’s that time of year, so a decision should be imminent.”

    In May, Bryon Heron, Mustapha’s father, told ZAGSBLOG: “What people don’t know is Mustapha’s mom has been sick for a year. Being home, he wants to get closer to his mom. He knew he had to go back to school. The last month he’s been here and he wants to be close to his mom, where she can see him play.”

    A source close to the family added on Saturday: “Mom is still having her daily struggles.”

    Assuming Heron is granted the waiver, he would provide instant offense and leadership for the Red Storm as it seeks its first NCAA Tournament bid under Mullin. The former St. John’s star is 38-60 in three seasons at the Big East School, and 12-42 in league play. The Red Storm is expected to be a force in a somewhat down Big East this year.

    “Mustapha is a high level basketball talent who we are thrilled to have join our program,” Mullin said in June. “He comes with tremendous experience and has a history of success against top level competition, so we look forward to the impact he can make on our basketball program. Mustapha has all the tools to flourish within our system. He’s a natural scorer with good size for his position and remarkable athleticism.”

    The Waterbury, Conn., native received Second Team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press as a sophomore after averaging 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.9 assists per game in 32 appearances, all of which were starts, for the Tigers.  Just the fifth player in Auburn history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau in his first two seasons, Heron finished sixth in the SEC in scoring thanks to eight 20-plus point scoring performances and 29 outings in double figures.  Heron, who poured in a career-high 31 points against Winthrop on Nov. 24, led the Tigers to their third SEC Regular Season Championship in program history.

    “I’m excited for the opportunity to play for such a storied program,” Heron said in June. “I’m also fortunate for the chance to be close to home, to my mom and family. This has been a stressful last year, so I’m extremely blessed for the chance to play on the big stage in New York City and for Coach Mullin.”

    The former consensus five-star prospect, Heron was ranked as high as 17th nationally by recruiting services coming out of Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn.  A three-time all-state selection who led Sacred Heart to three-straight state titles and a 54-game winning streak, Heron averaged 30 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior in 2015-16.

    Heron was also a standout on the AAU circuit, playing with New York RENS prior to enrolling at Auburn.

    During his time with the Rens, he helped initiate a program where the RENS wore an orange patch on their uniforms to promote awareness of gun violence. Now all teams in the Nike EYBL wear the patch.

    Heron joins a cast of newcomers at St. John’s that also includes incoming freshmen Greg Williams Jr., Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington, as well as transfers David Caraher, LJ Figueroa and Eli Wright. The Johnnies return a core group of veterans for 2018-19 that were the team’s top three scorers a season ago in First Team All-Big East selection Shamorie Ponds, Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon.

    Ponds could be the Preseason Big East Player of the Year when the announcements are made.

     

    RECRUITING UPDATE

    St. John’s will host 6-foot-10 Lawrence Woodmere Academy big man Aidan Igiehon on an official visit Oct. 5-7. Igiehon has already visited Oregon and is currently at Louisville for his second official. Louisville head coach Chris Mack and St. John’s assistant Matt Abdelmassih have both visited Igiehon’s mother in Ireland. He is also being recruited by Kentucky, but has yet to finalize a date for a visit.

    The Johnnies will also host Patrick School combo guard Al-Amir Dawes Oct. 12-14. Dawes is being courted by Providence, Clemson and Seton Hall among others. He has already visited Providence, is at Clemson this weekend and will visit Seton Hall in late October. After missing out on WEsttown (PA) guard Jalen Gaffney, Dawes has become more of a priority for St. John’s.

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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.