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NETS WORKOUT: A look at three prospects the Nets scouted last spring, led by Shamorie Ponds

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Of the 70 or so prospects the Nets worked out before last year’s Draft, a number went back to school. Bryan Fonseca was at Barclays Center Tuesday night for the Legends Classic where three of them showed off their wares. Which ones are sleepers?

St. John’s v Villanova Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Barclays Center has hosted the Legends Classic every year since the arena opened in 2012. In that time, only one college player made it from the four-team Classic to the Nets roster.

And that’s Jarrett Allen.

It was the first time the Nets center had played at Barclays. Although his Texas Longhorns lost both games – and he didn’t play particularly well, averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds, lower than his final season averages of over 13 and 8 – all turned out okay. Very much okay.

You just never know whether the scouting trip from HSS Training Center to Barclays is going to produce anything, but Nets scouts are always there. Which brings us to this year’s Classic, where the crop of four were St. John’s, VCU, Temple and Cal. More importantly, that meant we saw Quinton Rose of Temple, along with Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron of St. John’s.

And so have the Nets.

All three were brought in for pre-draft workouts this past spring before returning to school. Coincidentally, all three are now juniors, and none of them were invited to last year’s pre-draft NBA Combine, which evidently had no effect on the Nets level of interest. They work out a lot of players and keep updating their database.

Here’s our new report on the three...

Shamorie Ponds

Ponds – the dynamic, Brooklyn-born point guard – was MVP of the Legends Classic.

The 6’1” Big East Preseason Player of the Year entered the NBA Draft following a successful sophomore year (individually) and was evaluated by organizations prior to returning to St. John’s on May 30.

Ponds worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers and, the reason why we’re here, the Nets. Ponds was actually one of the first Net workouts last spring, and the team was one of his first visits as well.

“They just told me to stick to playing my game. Don’t change up anything,” the Brooklyn native said of what NBA teams told him, following an 82-79 victory over the University of California on Monday, where he had 32 points on 15 shots.

“Consistency, shooting better, taking better shots and developing a playmakers mentality,” he later added, regarding specifics of what pro scouts looked for.

And regarding that playmaker’s mentality, Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin says Ponds is already there. He highlighted a six-assist game last Friday, a 84-65 St. John’s win over Rutgers, as an example.

“Rutgers people told me that not only was he making good plays, but the way he stayed in the game when he wasn’t scoring was really impressive. There are not that many guys who can do both … He made some beautiful passes last game. Other guys were going and he kept us lined up. It was as unselfish a game as I’ve seen him play since he’s been with us and he was very effective,” said Mullin of Ponds, who shot 3-for-10 that day, but continued to create for others.

“Shamorie’s come back with a very open mind and he wants to win. He wants to make plays that win. If that means scoring the ball, he’ll do it. On a given night, if you need him to be a pure point guard, he’ll do that. That’s really a part of his game that has not been seen yet.”

Mullin adds that Ponds’ playmaking and overall progression is only the beginning of what his junior campaign portends. Perhaps that bodes well for his NBA prospects as well.

“Shamorie obviously can score the ball, everyone knows that,” Mullin said. “He’s a high level passer. I thought tonight he had to score so he did. He’s the type of player that doesn’t have to score to influence the game, but when he needs to, everyone knows he can. His playmaking is special.”

One NBA scout who was in attendance was also complimentary of Ponds. According to Zagsblog, the scout said of the 20-year-old:

“He can really score from all three levels and is comfortable using both hands to handle and finish [which] helps with the diversity in his game. He’s really fun to watch when he’s cooking like that.”

Most mocks have Ponds going in round two in this year’s draft.

Quinton Rose

Rose isn’t a big name in NBA circles, but when has that ever steered the Nets away? (Remember how mad fans were when Caris LeVert was a first-round pick in 2016?)

Rose isn’t that guy, at least we don’t think. A native of Rochester, New York, he currently projects as a first rounder, but in 2020 – according to nbadraft.net, which would imply he remains through his senior season at Temple.

What we do know is that Rose worked out with the Nets in May, along with four other teams: The Celtics, Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

The athletic 6’7”, 185-pound wing had a bounce-back showing on Tuesday at Barclays. After having his worst game of the young season – a pedestrian eight points on 4-of-15 shooting in a loss to VCU – Rose led the Owls with 23 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Rose also had four steals.

Strength and defense have been his focus.

“The biggest thing I’ve gained was my mindset. Last year I would kind of take plays off and now I understand that I have to go hard at all times,” said Rose, who led the Owls with nearly 15 points per game one year ago, following the 76-59 victory over Cal.

“I just have to get stronger, take better care of the ball and (improve my) three-point shooting,” he added, regarding what scouts told him.

His head coach Fran Dunphy later added that he’s seen improvements from Rose, especially on defense.

Rose returns having been an All-American Athletic Conference Honorable Mention last season, and a preseason First-Teamer this season.

He also casually dropped an, “I love it,” talking about playing in Barclays Center. So there’s that …

Mustapha Heron

The Red Storm wildcard was a non-factor in the Red Storm’s win over VCU on Tuesday, but fared well in the win over Cal on Monday, where he had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, along with 4 assists. Entering the Legends Classic, Heron had been coming off a 27-point outing on 10-of-14 shooting against Rutgers, which followed 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting against Bowling Green State. (The 6’5” attacking guard also shot 8-of-12 on free throws.)

Heron originally attended Auburn but transferred to St. John’s to be closer to his mother, who is suffering from health issues. Heron and his family are from Derby, Connecticut – a roughly 90-minute drive from both Barclays Center and Carnesecca Arena. (Yes, that’s possible. It’s New York.)

As a result, Heron was granted a waiver by the NCAA to avoid having to sit a year due to his transfer.

Heron played and started in all 64 of his games at Auburn over the last two seasons. He averaged 15.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, shooting 44 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from three, and 78.6 percent from the free throw line. He also earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2017, and was named All-Conference Second Team last season by the Associated Press after posting over 16 points per game.

Testing the waters before the 2018 draft, Heron worked out with the Nets, Nuggets and Cavaliers, and was expected to hire an agent, but elected to simply switch schools.

“He’s a huge asset for us and a big addition to our team,” Chris Mullin said of Heron at Big East Media Day. “Well-rounded player, big-time scorer, very physical, very strong, mature young man. I think we’ll put him in the post quite a bit, he’s very good down there … a guy who at the end of shot clock could get his own shot.”

Ponds is number-one on this medal stand, but all have promise at the next level. The Nets seem to think so.