basketball Edit

Ponds, LoVett Named All-Big East Freshmen

Marcus LoVett (background) & Shamorie Ponds
Marcus LoVett (background) & Shamorie Ponds (Marcus LoVett (background) & Shamorie Ponds)

Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett took very different paths to their new home on Utopia Parkway. The former capped a remarkable high school career with championships in the New York city and state AA postseason tournaments, while the latter received national fanfare early in his high school days as a YouTube sensation.

Despite both joining the team at separate times — LoVett redshirted last season as a partial qualifier and Ponds headlined St. John’s 2016 recruiting class — they were named unanimously to the Big East All-Freshman Team on Sunday after “tremendous freshman seasons,” joining Creighton’s Justin Patton, Villanova guard Donte Divincenzo, and Markus Howard of Marquette.

“They improved as the season went on,” said coach Chris Mullin of his starting backcourt. “Statistically, they were above average. Congratulations to them.”

Together, Ponds (17.6 points per game) and LoVett’s (16.4 ppg) offensive output of 34 points per game was the second-most in the country by any combination of freshman (No. 8 Kentucky’s one-and-done duo De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk totaled 36.7 ppg).

LoVett finished an up-and-down season in good standing compared to the rest of the conference. The 6-footer from Indiana was eighth in field goal percentage (47 percent) despite hoisting a considerable amount of shots on broken possessions or late in the shot clock. His 16.4 ppg placed No. 7 in the Big East while he dished out 3.8 assists per game, fourth-best among of fellow conference players.

And somehow, St. John’s received even more production from another first-year player in Ponds, who appeared and started in all 29 games as he led the entire Big East in minutes played (1,045). His steadfast productivity — 17.6 ppg (5th-most in the Big East), 4.5 rebounds (third-highest on the team), 3.1 assists (team second-most) — has placed him as a frontrunner for Freshman of the Year honors, which rival conference coaches pegged him for in the preseason.

“Absolutely. No question,” Mullin said of Ponds candidacy for top freshman honors after the guard dropped 29 points in the regular-season finale. “I don’t think there is a question about it. That was a career-high in points and he’s played probably 20 better games than he did today. That just shows you how well he’s played. He’s a really good scorer but his game is really about everything else. He’s always going to get his points but when he’s sharp and moving and active on defense, that’s when he becomes really special.”

With LoVett controlling the offense as the lead ball handler and Ponds primarily spotting up as 3-point shooter, the statistics between the two resemble those responsibilities. Take a look at the splits per 100 possessions, which provides better context than per game averages because stats are weighted equally per 100 team possessions.

Per 100 Possessions, per sports-reference.com:

Ponds: 28.2 pts, 7.2 rebs, 5 asts, 3.4 steals, 2.9 turnover, 117.8 ORtg, 105.2 DRtg

LoVett: 27.5 pts, 5.1 rebs, 6.3 asts, 2.4 steals, 4.4 turnovers, 112 ORtg, 108.9

While points are about even, Ponds has shown he’s an above-average rebounder. Meanwhile, LoVett naturally found more assists as he was created scoring opportunities on set plays or off the dribble — and that also leads to a higher risk of turnovers.

What’s most noteworthy is the offensive and defensive ratings (the measure of how many team points scored and allowed per 100 possession with the player on the court). St. John’s was better offensively and defensively with Ponds on the court compared to with LoVett on the floor. But the contrast in net rating (Ponds’ plus-12.6 to Lovett’s plus-3.1) highlights Ponds’ importance to this team.

LoVett, who earned the moniker “Bright Lights,” undoubtedly runs the boat, but the driving force to the engine through one season has been Ponds. Regardless, though, there's a win-win option for Mullin as he looks at his backcourt over the next few seasons.