Just 13 miles away from the St. John’s campus and on the intersection of Flatbush Ave and Atlantic Ave sits the Barclays Center, the site of this week’s Legends Classic. The 19,000-seat arena served as a theatre for Brooklyn native Chris Mullin and the St. John’s Red Storm who put on two performances by defeating Cal on Monday night and narrowly defeating VCU to win the tournament on Tuesday.
The star of the show was Brooklyn’s own Shamorie Ponds who treated the crowd to a tournament record 67 combined points in the two-day tournament. On both days, Ponds carried the Red Storm, dropping 32 points against Cal and 35 points, including a game winning layup, against VCU in the championship game.
“He’s put on a show,” Mullin said about Ponds’ performance during the tournament. “I haven’t seen a guard play like that in 48 hours.”
Ponds’ performance in the tournament has been something Red Storm fans have grown accustom to throughout his three-year career at St. John’s. Last season, Ponds played a key role in knocking off both Duke and Villanova in February while also scoring a Carnesecca Arena record 44 points later that month against Marquette.
“Shamorie’s the best player I’ve ever played with,” sophomore L.J. Figueroa said when asked about his teammate’s performance. “It was just incredible to watch it myself, it just felt unreal.”
Although Ponds saw a lot of success this week at the Barclays Center, he has seen his fair share of heartbreak there as well. In Ponds’ freshman year at St. John’s, he had a chance to lift the Red Storm over LIU Brooklyn. His last second shot bounced off the front of the rim as the Red Storm fell 74-73.
That was not the case Tuesday night as Ponds had the ball in his hands with the Red Storm down one with just under 10 seconds to go in overtime.
“Go score or get my teammate open,” Ponds said when asked what goes through his head when the game is on the line.
With the two back-to-back wins, the Red Storm are now 5-0 on the season and are one of only three teams in the Big East that remain undefeated. Early in the season however, the Red Storm have faced a lot of adversity, having to pull off comebacks in three games this season as well as having star big man Sedee Keita go down with a knee injury.
“We have a lot of new faces so it’s really more getting familiar with each other, getting comfortable with each other,” Mullin said. “It’s a work in progress.”
The Red Storm now have a week break as their next game comes against Maryland Eastern Shore next Tuesday at Carnesecca Arena. With conference play looming on the horizon, Mullin and his team are focused on the present.
“I’m really not looking that far ahead,” Mullin said. “I do know games like this bring your team together.”