Player of the Week
Max Strus, Senior, G, DePaul Blue Demons
It’s been quite a senior sendoff for the 6-6 guard from Hickory Hills, Illinois. Last Friday’s performance against UIC made it quite clear that he is going to be tough to stop this season.
Strus went for a career high 34 points on 10 field goals made and a new career high 13 rebounds in the Blue Demons 90-70 win. Even more impressive, he tallied eight 3-pointers on 16 attempts, a new career high for him and tying a program record. His solid night encapsulates his hot December, where he has totals of 27, 34 and 18 points in three straight wins.
Strus is tops on his team in minutes (35.0) and points (20.1), with the latter ranking fourth in the conference. DePaul has one more matchup, a tough one with Boston College in Chicago, before conference play and Strus should be in full stride before the Blue Demons take on Xavier later this month.
Shamorie Ponds, G, Junior, St. John’s Red Storm
When your team is 11-0 and looking like the top dog heading into conference play in the Big East, it comes as no surprise a Johnnie would wind up here. And for good reason.
Ponds was picked as the preseason Big East Player of the Year. His previous two seasons in Queens, regardless of the team’s results, were fantastic. He is off to a great start this year, averaging 20.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 5.7 apg.
He put those numbers to good use and then some on Sunday against Wagner. Ponds took a modest seven field goal attempts, went 6-6 from the free throw line and finished with 16 points. His other involvement on the floor was even more impressive, with a career high 14 assists and a season high nine rebounds. He almost recorded the first St. John’s triple-double in 20 years.
Jalen Coleman-Lands, G, Junior, DePaul Blue Demons
Jalen Coleman-Lands was supposed to be a very impactful transfer this season for DePaul and he had been. That will have to wait awhile now.
On Friday against UIC, the junior broke his left hand with about 17 minutes remaining in the second half. He underwent surgery and his timeframe for return is TBD.
So far this season, Coleman-Lands has been a nice addition to the Blue Demons and has added a nice scoring touch that was lacking. He is averaging 9.6 ppg on the season and has averaged 12.0 in his previous six prior to the injury. Hopefully the Illinois transfer doesn’t have to sit out long and can get back on the floor soon for his team.
Top 5 Reasons Why St. John’s Will Win the Big East
5. They’re Due
With Villanova stumbling so far this season, the Big East looks wide open come March. St. John’s, even with little testing thus far, looks ready to take the reins. Chris Mullin is due a winning season and more consideration.
4. Turnover Margin
The Red Storm thus far this season have the top turnover margin in the conference, with a positive mark of 5.73. They also are second best in the Big East in turnover to assist ratio at 1.48. Not turning the ball over sets you apart significantly.
3. Defense Is Proven
The defense numbers and results have been good thus far, but not elite like in years past. They are in the top five, however, in just about all defensive stats in conference and Chris Mullin is a defensive fanatic. His guys will be in shutdown mode once the conference play begins, like in years past.
2. Scoring Is Finally There
In years past for Mullin, the scoring has been far too inconsistent and insufficient to really compete with the giants. With the additions of Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa this offseason, they have provided a big punch alongside Shamorie Ponds and Marvin Clark II. An 82.0 ppg mark, if held around that mark all season, is really good and should win them a lot of games.
1. Shamorie Ponds
The preseason Big East Player of the Year is doing wonders. He is proven, established and experienced. He can put this St. John’s team on his shoulders and take them through uncharted waters.