By Joseph Staszewski
Shamorie Ponds gave his future St. John’s teammates one last preview of the help that is on the way.
The Jefferson guard calmly went about scoring 17 points, dishing out two assists and collecting two steals in a losing effort in the Jordan Brand Classic boys’ basketball all-star game at Barclays Center April 15, with four current Red Storm players in attendance. Marcus LoVett Jr., Federico Mussini, Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima were just repaying the loyalty Ponds showed all season.
“It shows that we respect each other,” Ponds said. “I pretty much went to every home game they had, pretty much kicked it in the locker room. We are just trying to get there. It’s a bond.”
St. John’s is coming off an 8-24 season but, like Ponds, expects things to turn around with the infusion of the next recruiting class, of which he is the face.
“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “I feel we have a shot to do well next year with the chemistry we’ve got.”
Ponds would have liked to put on a better show in his hometown as he shot 7-for-15 with just one three-pointer made. He dropped in 15 of his points in the second half once he began seizing opportunities. Ponds scored a quick seven points, including a long trey to pull his team within 88-85 with 10:55 to play in the game. He is the first player from a New York City high school to play in the All-American game since Rice’s Durand Scott in 2009.
“I just tried to stay more aggressive,” Ponds said. “The first half I was shying away from the ball. I had to get more aggressive.”
The crowd certainly was aggressive when it came to Ponds. The hometown fan gave him a nice ovation during introductions. It is a moment that will stick with him as his games shift to Queens.
“It means a lot for a home-town guy,” Ponds said. “I’m just trying to put on a show.”
Queens stars shine in regional game: Former Christ the King standout Travis Atson also shook off early nerves playing in an all-star game in front of plenty of family and friends. The Notre Dame Prep standout and Tulsa-bound wing scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half and grabbed four rebounds to help the New York All-Stars beat their East counterparts 148-128 in the Jordan Brand Regional game.
“I was a little nervous coming out,” Atson said. “I missed my first three or four shots. I calmed down. Second half, I just shot the ball how I always do.”
He put his full game on display, knocking down three threes, attacking the basket and hitting the backboards. It was the way Atson hoped to go out before heading to Tulsa. He played in the five boroughs just three times since leaving Christ the King for prep school after his junior year.
“That’s the best thing,” Atson said. “I’m so happy I went out playing great.”
That is exactly what East Elmhurt native Mamadou Diarra, who attends Putnam Science Academy (Conn.), did, playing in front of his entire family for the first time in more than four years. The UConn-bound forward gave them plenty to cheer about by scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field.
“It’s been actually been since the eighth grade that my parents haven’t seen me play basketball. It was great,” Diarra said. “It was nice to have them all come and support me and I had a lot of fun.”