Shamorie Ponds and Myles Powell became good friends while playing against each other on the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit.
Ponds competed for the NY Lightning, while Powell played for the NJ Playaz.
Both guards then committed to New York-area schools within two weeks of each other in September 2015. The 6-foot-2 Powell, a Trenton, N.J. native ranked No. 81 by ESPN.com, chose Seton Hall over UConn, VCU, DePaul and Pittsburgh on Sept. 19.
10 days later, the 6-foot-1 Ponds out of Brooklyn chose St. John's over Providence, giving Chris Mullin's program its highest-rated recruit since since current Trailblazers forward Maurice Harkless committed in August, 2011.
On Saturday, Ponds and Powell will lead their squads into a high-profile matchup when Seton Hall (9-3) hosts unbeaten St. John's (12-0) in the Big East opener for both schools.
"It will definitely be fun," Ponds said. "We haven't had a conversation about the game yet, but I am pretty sure the next few days the buzz will be growing and he is probably going to hit me up and talk trash. It's brotherly love."
Both players are leading candidates for Big East Player of the Year, and both are on the radars of NBA teams.
Powell ranks second among Big East scorers behind Marquette's Markus Howard (25.0 points per game) at 23.1 per game. During a recent stretch, he scored 28 points apiece in wins over Rutgers and Kentucky, and also dropped 27 at Maryland, giving Seton Hall an impressive non-conference résumé for the NCAA Tournament.
In the Kentucky game, his double-clutch 3-pointer from the left corner in the final seconds sent the crowd -- and a national television audience -- into a frenzy and seemed to win the game. Kentucky's Keldon Johnson then hit a game-tying 3-pointer from halfcourt, sending the game into overtime, where Seton Hall eventually won on a big shot from sophomore Myles Cale.
"Great scorer," Mullin said of Powell Thursday. "He seems to make contested shots look easy. I know he's a kid that really worked on his fitness and conditioning. He's their leading scorer and he can really get it going. Big -time scorer, plays well without the ball, is a heck of a player."
Perhaps in a bit of hyperbole, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Thursday on a conference call that Ponds was the second-best player in the country. When a reporter asked if he meant second-best behind Duke freshman Zion Williamson, Willard said, "After Myles Powell."
The Preseason Big East Player of the Year, Ponds is fourth among Big East scorers at 19.6 points per game while ranking first in assists (7.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.79).
"What I love about how Shamorie's playing this year is he is playing with such poise and confidence," Willard said. "He's really playing the game at an NBA level, which I mean is he's not forcing shots. He's getting everybody involved. He's playing at a pace that when he needs to attack, he can attack anybody in the country. I just think he right now is by far one of the elite players in college basketball."
Ponds and Powell won't necessarily be guarding one another in this game, but Willard is looking forward to the matchup.
"I think Shamorie and Myles are two of the elite-level players not only in this conference, but in all of college basketball," Willard said. "And I think it's going to be a real treat seeing those two on the floor battling each other just because Shamorie's assist-to-turnover ratio is so impressive, his shooting percentages are so impressive. I think what he does for them, getting everybody involved and controlling the game is very similar to what Myles does for us, and Myles is not only scoring the ball at a great rate but he's getting a lot of guys involved and getting guys in the right spots offensively.
"So I think you're looking at two of the elite-level players in college basketball going up against each other Saturday night."
Both Ponds and Powell have attracted interest from NBA personnel, too.
Ponds is currently projected as the No. 32 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, per ESPN.com, although his size is an issue for NBA decision-makers.
"Possible second-rounder," one NBA executive said. "Wish he was bigger but he is having a fantastic year."
Said a second NBA scout of Ponds:
"He's got a chance. He's got some D'Angelo Russell but not as big ,though. So that's the risk, you can be an average athlete with some size like Russell and [Allonzo] Trier. At 6-1 it's a bit tougher, especially since he's more wired to score. I'm curious how he'd balance play-making and scoring surrounded by better players."
Meantime, Powell is not projected to be drafted this year but could always try out for some NBA teams like Ponds did last year and see what type of feedback he gets.
The second scout said Powell could land in the NBA on a Two-Way Contact.
"Hes a Sean Kilpatrick-like lead guard but he'll be on that fringe of the G League/Two-Way Contract," the scout said.
For now, the Big East season looms and Ponds and Powell are ready to do battle, with the ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament in March.
"Yes," Powell said, "that's always the goal."