Quote Center: Big East Media Day (St. John's)

New York, NY- Quotes for the St. John’s Red Storm from the 2018-19 Big East Media Day from Madison Square Garden includes quotes from Preseason Big East Player of the Year Shamorie Ponds, Second Team All-Big East’s Justin Simon, Marvin Clark, and transfer Mustapha Heron.

Ralph Bednarczyk to Mustapha Heron: “Did you play a ton of zone at Auburn? Or 50/50 (man-to-man)?”

Heron: “A little bit, mostly man (to man)”

Bednarczyk: “You individually, you played most of a 3”

Heron: Well, mostly on wing, but they were interchangeable, all the same stuff.

Derrell Bouknight to Marvin Clark II: “In your senior year, after the transfer, what are you looking forward to the most this year?”

Clark II: “Really, I have experience in this conference. For me, to take the game to the next level, and maximizing my potential, and the time I put in the gym this summer. The main thing, is winning. I learned a lot from Izzo (Coach Tom Izzo- Michigan State). I came to the conference, and had to learn how to become a big time player, and now I’m ready to do just that in terms of winning.”

“At tip off, you said to the fans I promise we’ll win this season”

Clark II: “I think we have a great addition in Mustapha (Heron) Shamorie, Justin. Were like the last three here from Shamories class. Adding on Heron, we haven’t skipped a beat, and it feels like he’s been here since day 1. The four of us playing unselfishly, and playing team basketball defensively. We should be able to get over the hump.”

Elaborate on “sacrifice”

Clark II: “I knew at an early age what the sacrifice was. I learned from others making mistakes. Being here now is crazy. It definitely is a proud moment. I won’t be too proud until I and we bring this program something, and be apart of something special. I think this year there is no excuses.”

Clark II: “A lot of people, a lot of friends who i grew up who took the easy road, who dove into the streets, into what was cool or hip. Me personally early on, that wasn’t the path I didn’t want to go down, and I knew its going to take hard work to get out of here. I want to be the one to get out of here on my own. Everyday I show my siblings, everybody can take the easy route. Anything that is worth doing, is going to come with difficulty, and adversity. I was blessed with realizing that early on.”

Deeper Team, Dwayne Wade’s motto, “One Last Dance” do you have a motto as well?

Clark II: “I would probably say, this is the missing piece of the puzzle. This is the team that will revamp everything that St. John’s basketball is all about. I haven’t really thought of a way to sum it up in a statement. But I will try to figure that out.”

Zachary Mahabir to Mustapha Heron: “What about the style of play and the general feel of basketball do you want to carry over from the SEC and from Auburn to St. John’s?”

Heron: “I feel like playing at Auburn last year playing the same style of basketball, small ball.”

“How do you feel the reception towards you, do you feel not a lot of attention has been brought on to you here at St. John’s?”

Heron: “I’m not an attention seeker or anything. I’m here to play basketball, but its been so far so good.”

Zachary Mahabir to Marvin Clark II: “Do you feel like you were able to make a big impact on the culture of the program so far?”

Clark II: No question, I won’t really feel like Ive had that big of an impact this season. I definitely feel an improvement with our culture since Ive gotten here. The comroratee on the team, and the new guys that have came in. I remember stepping on MS’s campus and having guys like Travis Trice and Branden Dawson lead me and now I’m in that role.

“How did the transfer from Michigan State to St. John’s weigh on you during your sophomore year?”

It’s definitely a big step. A career move, not easy and unsettling for me at first because of the memories and relationships I’ve built at Michigan State but coming here accepted me with open eyes. The coaches and the students, along with the faculty members. It has been an easy process. The city is crazy. Something I wanted to take on, and also I wanted to challenge myself, and step outside of the role and propel myself into a bigger role. I have bigger dreams and aspirations for myself. It’s a tough move, but grinding everyday, and having Coach Mullin to guide me, I think it has made the process a lot easier.

“How has Coach Mullin grown in his time here”

He now has 3-4-5 guys that he’s had for longer than a year. It’s not easy to take a program from the ground up, and it is not an easy task. I think Coach [Mullin] has done an amazing job with that. Everyday he gives up daily life gems, about adversity he’s faced. On the court, he preaches nothing but confidence. And he’s done a phenomenal job, and I think a lot of coaches in that regard, kind of model themselves after that.

Brendan Myers to Marvin Clark II: “What do some of the newcomers bring to the table. and what have you noticed?

Clark II: “I think L.J. is gonna surprise and shock a lot of people. He’s a very talented, and athletic, and lean, kinda resembles me a little, but not as strong. A lot more athletic, very long to shoot it. He will be a guy that will be playing a few different positions for us, and will be coming off the bench for us. There will be no slack, we have a lot of guys like that. Our three freshman and Mikey Dixon have shown and grown this offseason. Marcellous is a strong player really reminds our team of Draymond a little bit in terms of rebounding, and how he posts up too. He put a lot of time in his three point shot, He will be able to space the floor a lot. We expect Sedee, Mikey, and L.J. to make early impacts.”

Kevin Connelly to Shamorie Ponds: “How much production the four of you will bring to this team, what about the young guys and the depth you guys have for the first time in quite a while.”

Ponds: “This team you can put any lineup. Sub me out, sub me in. We will still get the same production. We’re loaded. A lot of guys will not have to play a lot of minutes. With this team, were going to do some very special things.”

Michael Slavit to Justin Simon: “What about St. John’s is so attractive to these transfers?”

Simon: “We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of talent. It will be exciting to see everyone out there. Everyone performing. Bringing the crowd and energy to the building. New York is a big part of it. The university and the staff sticks out as a whole, as it did me. I’m pretty sure it sticks out to others as well.”

“In the summer, you were training a lot with Donovan Mitchell, what do you take out of that?”

Simon: “It was really good. We played 1v1, and worked on our shooting, put me through a workout, and got after it. Great seeing him. It was good. It was like old times. Told me about a few things he learned in his rookie year. Things that will help me this upcoming year.”


"In what ways has your game progressed from last year to this year?”

Shamorie Ponds: “I pretty much grew off the court. Going to be more vocal. I’m trying to do all of the little things.”

Zach Braziller to Shamorie Ponds: “The last preseason player of the year was Malik Sealy in 1991, what is your reaction to be the guy this year.”

Ponds: “I know all the guys who’ve come from St. John’s. It’s pretty much a blessing.”

“I spoke to your dad about the professional things you’ve been working on. Eating right, sleeping times, work ethic. Speak about the decisions you’ve taken to better yourself.”

Ponds: “Being a pro. If you want to be a pro, you have to act like a pro. Definitely getting more hours sleeping. No one is watching you. I’m cutting down a lot of sugars. Haven’t gotten a nutritionist yet, but I’m working on it. And I haven’t drank soda since I don’t even know when.”

“Did you picture yourself coming back and garnering all these awards and accolades?

Ponds: “Not at all.”

“What are you going to be telling some of the young guys, what knowledge can you lend to them for this season?”

Ponds: “Be themselves. Don’t try and do something you won’t do. Play your game. Use your talents.”

“What do you think the biggest improvement between the Rhode Island scrimmage and the Maryville exhibition game will be?

Heron: “We will be more comfortable with each other.”

“Two or three talents and weaknesses you guys have this season.”

Clark II: “We will be a scary and hard team to guard. IQ, Athleticism, and length. Need to keep getting better at team defense and rebounding.

“Looking at upsets last season. What did you do in those two games compared to the rest.”

Clark II: “Making sure we spread the ball around. We played great team defense. When were moving the ball around like were supposed to be, we’re a really good team”

“Is it a completely different feel going to practice everyday now with this group, even going back to Michigan State.”

Clark II: “Even at Michigan. This is the most talented team I’ve been on. This is something for us we’ve never had here before. It’s new blood in the program, and a breath of fresh air. New life for the program.”

St. John’s Athletics Quotes:

Head Coach Chris Mullin…

On Mustapha Heron: “He’s a really gifted offensive player. [Mustapha] is a great shooter who’s fundamentally sound. He can play one-on-one and he can play in the post. He’s very strong defensively. He can defend out on the perimeter and down in the post. He also has great experience. … He had two great years at Auburn. He played a lot of minutes and a lot of great games against good teams. That experience is invaluable and you can’t teach that.”


On Justin Simon’s improvement: “Last year, he had a tremendous season for us. He averaged almost 13 points and six rebounds per game. He’s gaining confidence in his outside shot, his free throw shooting. He’s a ball hawk on defense who is constantly forcing turnovers. He’s primed for another great season.”

On dealing with the high expectations this season: “We just have to stay focused and continue to work hard every day. At the end of the day expectations don’t mean anything. Our performance on the court is what really matters. I’ve never paid any attention to what’s being said on social media and as a player I never paid any attention to outside criticism. We just have to practice hard, prepare, and go compete each time we step on the court.” 


On Marvin Clark II: “He had a great season last year and we’re expecting more from him. He’s one of our most experienced players and he brings tremendous leadership to our team. He’s gone through a lot in his life. He learned under a great coach in Tom Izzo before transferring. His experiences, his gratefulness, and appreciation for the game are his greatest qualities.” “He’s been a mainstay at the 4 and 5 for us. When we play small and space out the court, he’s been able to make clutch shots from the wings. I’m looking for him to maintain his aggressiveness each and every possession. Whenever shots are created for him, I tell him to let that ball go. I want him to shoot more 3’s and be more aggressive on defense.” 


On biggest difference this year from last season: “Our biggest difference is our experience. We’ve had rough seasons in the past and our guys have worked hard. The difference now is that we have guys coming back who have played together and adding guys like Mustapha Heron, Sedee Keita, and Mikey Dixon will be a tremendous help. We have a few freshmen and a junior college transfer coming in as well who will make a difference as offensive threats.”


Guard Shamorie Ponds:

On what receiving Preseason Player of the Year means to him: “My whole life I’ve felt like I was overlooked. These accolades definitely are a blessing and I couldn’t have accomplished this without my teammates. It goes to show how much the hard work has paid off and coming from where I came from, nothing was given. I’ve had to earn everything.”


On what he looks forward to this season:“We’re all definitely looking forward to winning this season. Coach has been preaching on locking in on the defensive end. We know we have the offensive weapons to compete with any team in our league. Team defense is what we look to improve on and that will be the difference when it comes to wins and losses. This team can go really far if we play to our potential.”


On things he personally wants to improve on this season: “My goal is to become a better leader. One of the things that I’ve been trying to work on is being more vocal on the court this year, especially as a true point guard. I’ve grown as a player after each year as a member of this team. My experience coming into this year brings more responsibility and leadership on my end. Focusing on the little things this offseason has also helped me focus on being a better player on both sides of the court.”

On how he’s contributed to the culture of basketball in New York City as a member of the Red Storm: “I pretty much made my decision to come to St. John’s to represent the city that I’m from and pave the way for New York City high school prospects to stay home and play at an elite level. I’ve been trying to prove that you don’t have to leave New York City in order to get recognized on a national level. A winning season this year will really help attract local prospects to the program and make them consider staying close to home.”


On the team’s young depth: “With this team, you can put out any lineup on the floor and expect the same production. This team is very loaded. We expect a lot of guys to play some valuable minutes this season. With our young depth, we expect to do some special things this season. ”


On entering this season with high expectations: “There’s a lot of hype coming into this season and we know that. We kind of feel like we have a bullseye on all of our backs. All of the other teams in the Big East know that we have a hungry and talented roster this season. Despite all of this, it’s important that we stay focused and level-headed. If we do that, we can be one of the better teams in the league this season.”


Guard Mustapha Heron:

On preseason progress: “Focusing on team basketball, playing defense, and getting our defense right because we have enough talent on offense to take care of itself. We are trying to play as fast as we can and get into game shape. We are working on playing fast. We can definitely be a half-court team working on up and down and half-court offense to give you the best of both worlds.”


On transferring to St. John’s: “Playing at Auburn last year and coming to St. John’s this year, we play small ball, same style of basketball with a lot of interchangeable positions, so there wasn’t too much adjustment. A lot of people say that the SEC is like the [NBA] Eastern Conference as far as physicality, size, fast pace and athleticism. St. John’s was the closest school to home and there was a spot open.”


On individual performance and impact: “I’m trying to do everything at a higher level. Scoring the ball, defending, making plays at a higher level. I’m trying to make myself a better playmaker and get other guys the ball more. I think by just being a winning basketball player, making winning plays on both sides of the floor, everything else will take care of itself. I plan to bring intensity, energy, grit and play hard.”


On the team: “I think we all bring something to the table and we’ve got guys who can rebound, create plays, and if everyone is playing their role and position to the best of their ability no matter how long they are out there. I think that’s what winners are.”


On Coach Mullin: “He’s a lefty and similar size as me so I watch a lot of his film and pick out things. In practice it’s non-stop teaching and showing me the ropes. I’ve learned a lot from him so far.”


On Mustapha Heron Skills Academy: “My community is in dire need of somebody to step up and try to better the community. I focus on trying to end gun violence because it’s huge in my community and in a lot of inner cities around the country. We have to try and come together and end it because it’s ripping apart homes and families.”


Forward Marvin Clark II:

On what he’s most looking forward to this season: “I have a lot of experience under my belt and my confidence is at an all-time high. Taking my game to the next step and maximizing my potential is important, but winning this season is the main thing I look forward to the most this season. Me and the guys have worked extremely hard up to this point and with a season of BIG EAST Basketball behind me, I know we’re on the right path to do well this season.”


On what they need to do to produce wins: “I think we got a great addition in Mustapha [Heron]. Since the day he first arrived on campus, it’s felt like he’s been here for as long as we have. He’s going to come right in a make a difference for this team. … We’ve grown as a group and we’re ready to get this team to the next level, which hopefully is the NCAA Tournament.”


On reflecting back to his journey from childhood to present day: “It’s honestly crazy to think about. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way but being here now, it’s definitely a blessing. It’s obviously something to be proud about but I won’t be too proud until I leave the program where our guys know it can be, and that’s at the top of the BIG EAST. We’re poised to do something special this season and we’re excited to get the season started.”


Guard Justin Simon:


On the adjustments the team needs to make heading into Maryville: “Every week we focus on getting better, especially on the defensive end. Over the past week we’ve been focusing on pushing the offensive tempo, finishing possessions, and crashing the boards.” 


On the difference with the offense from last season… “Even with some of the new guys that we have on our team, a lot of our offense will look the same. The style of play will look similar despite having different personnel. We have more versatile playmakers this year and a deep bench so you’ll see a lot of different looks this year.”

On Marvin Clark II: “Since day one, when I met Marvin has been nothing but great things. He’s been that big brother, a leader, and he’s helped me. Our relationship as a whole has been wonderful. Leading [our teammates] and just seeing the development of the program as a whole, sharing those moments with him is huge.”


On some of the players who the media is sleeping on this season… “To be honest, anyone who hasn’t seen St. John’s play before should definitely be tuned in to watch us play this year. Guys like Mustapha [Heron], L.J. Figueroa, Sedee Keita, Mikey Dixon, and our incoming freshmen will make an impact this season. ”

Joseph Jarzynka