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Mustapha Heron, an Auburn transfer, commits to St. John’s

The transfer guard waits on an medical hardship NCAA waiver to find out if he will play next season at his local school

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s received some good news this evening: Mustapha Heron, a talented scorer for the SEC regular-season champion Auburn Tigers, has chosen to transfer to St. John’s during his official visit, which started today.

He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Heron is an offensively aggressive 6’5” wing who was a five-star player coming out of high school in Connecticut. He was heavily recruited by St. John’s, but chose the plains of Alabama instead. Now, with an ailing mother just an hour and a half away by car, Heron has chosen to play for Chris Mullin’s team, which also sees star point guard Shamorie Ponds back in the fold.

Both Heron and Ponds participated in NBA Draft workouts and interviews before withdrawing their name from NBA consideration last week.

While St. John’s may still have an issue with size on the floor, Mullin likely has a squad with more talent than he has had in his three previous years.

With Heron, Justin Simon and Ponds, the team has three players ranked in the top-50 of their respective classes, with additional experienced talent in Sedee Keita (transferred from South Carolina) and Marvin Clark II (transferred from Michigan State), along with high-scoring Quinnipiac transfer Mikey Dixon and JUCO transfer LJ Figueroa. Sophomore Bryan Trimble Jr. and freshmen Greg Williams, Jr., Josh Roberts and Marcellus Earlington round out the roster.

The Johnnies may have lost a defensive lynchpin in Tariq Owens, but the mighty offensive struggles have new options as the staff and players look for solutions.

All of this hype depends on whether the NCAA grants Mustapha Heron a waiver from sitting out as a result of transferring closer to his ailing mother.

The NCAA may be relaxing some of the hard and fast transfer rules [see: Ole Miss FB, Isaac Copeland’s transfer]; what may have looked like a request the NCAA explicitly said would not result in a grant of immediate eligibility may look more realistic. Given previous timelines, we can expect the waiver request to take months, likely with an appeal in the Fall, like Copeland’s transfer.

Mustapha Heron is a solid rebounder who averaged five boards per game to go with his 16 points per contest. He draws a lot of fouls and free throw attempts, and despite his three-point shooting percentage dropping, is still a solid scorer who is enough of a threat from the outside.

If he can play, the Red Storm stand a chance of being a top-half team in the weakened Big East, which they will need to achieve for NCAA Tournament consideration. If Heron needs to sit on the sideline, the team is still good — but without the defense-reshaping slashing threat of Heron to open up space for teammates.