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College Basketball: St. John's Red Storm Regular Season Awards Heading into the Big East Tournament
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13 Mar 2019 10:06 AM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds was a first-team All-Big East selection. (Image Source: Lance King/Getty Images)

With the college basketball regular season behind us and the conference tournaments underway, here’s a look at the 2018-19 St. John’s Red Storm:

MVP: Guard Shamorie Ponds, Junior

He’s the straw that stirs the drink in Jamaica, Queens. Shamorie Ponds averaged a team-high 19.8 points per game and also led the team in assists (5.2 APG) and steals (2.6 SPG). He’s the go-to scorer in crunch time, as well as their primary playmaker. Ponds has the quickness and ball handling skills to breakdown defenses to get himself into the lane to score, as well as find his open mates spotting up behind the arc. At his best, he’s making a living at the free throw line. When Ponds shoots at least eight free throws, the Johnnies are 6-1, including their wins over Marquette (twice) and Villanova. He’s also capable of knocking down the three-pointer and when he’s on, he can stroke it from well beyond the arc. When he’s on, he’s also proven he can take over a game, going over 30 four times this season with 54 points in two games against Marquette.

Top Newcomer: Forward LJ Figueroa, Sophomore

The expectation was Auburn transfer Mustapha Herron would be the guy, but instead LJ Figueroa was unquestionably SJU’s second-best player this season. The junior college transfer acclimated himself to the DI game much quicker than most people expected, as he contributes in every aspect of the game. He can slash to the rim, create his own shot, pull up from mid-range, and drain it from downtown. Figueroa finished third on the team in scoring (14.6 PPG), first in rebounding (6.3 RPG), second in steals (1.9 SPG), and third in assists (1.8) while shooting a team-best 52 percent from the field. He was arguably the team’s most-efficient player.

Freshman of the Year: Guard Greg Williams Jr., Freshman

Three freshman saw playing time this season and none made a major impact. Big man Josh Roberts has made a late push as their most important freshman heading into the Big East Tournament, but guard Greg Williams Jr. leads the 2018 class in games, minutes, points, assists, and steals. Still finding his shot, Williams is an elite athlete who can both finish strong around the rim and make a spectacular defensive play.

Sixth Man of the Year: Guard Bryan Trimble Jr., Sophomore

This is more about the lack of depth coming off SJU’s bench than Bryan Trimble’s development. At midseason, it would have been transfer Mikey Dixon but his decision to leave the team leaves Trimble as their best bench player. He leads the remaining group with his 2.5 points per game and he does have a skill that can help the club in the postseason. The sophomore is a decent three-point threat, as his 35.4 percentage from beyond the arc is respectable and equivalent to Shamorie Ponds.

Defensive Player of the Year: Guard Justin Simon, Junior

The versatile swingman is often asked to guard the opponent’s best scorer, regardless of position, which is a big reason why he was named the Big East’s defensive player of the year. You could find Justin Simon hounding the opposing team’s point guard at midcourt, as well as banging with the bigs in the paint, in the same game. Unfortunately, because the Johnnies lack size and depth, the team must ask him to defend power forwards and centers much too often. The combination of speed, quickness, athleticism, and length for a 6’5” guard allows him to be a tough on-ball defender who makes opponents work hard to get their points.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: danmogollon@gmail.com.

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