Heading into their first campaign under the direction of Head Coach Mike Anderson, Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa have been recognized by the conference’s coaches with spots on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team, it was announced on Thursday morning.
The release of the Preseason All-BIG EAST squads coincided with the conference’s annual media day at Madison Square Garden, the home of the BIG EAST Tournament since 1983. The Red Storm was picked to finish ninth in the league’s annual preseason poll.
Heron and Figueroa are both coming off stellar debut campaigns in red and white, helping the Johnnies win 21 games and make the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
Heron ranked second on the team and 13th in the BIG EAST in scoring a year ago, pouring in 14.6 points per game on 44.0 percent shooting from the field. He led the Johnnies and ranked seventh in the league in three-point field goal percentage, converting on 40.3 percent of his chances from beyond the arc. The Auburn transfer scored in double figures 23 times in 31 appearances with six outings of 20-plus points, including a season-high 28 points in the Red Storm’s overtime win against Butler on Feb. 12. Just five days later, he played a key role in the Johnnies upset of Villanova, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help the Red Storm upend the defending national champions at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Figueroa finished third on the team and led all BIG EAST newcomers in scoring last season, averaging 14.4 points per game to go along with a team-high 6.4 boards per contest, the latter of which was good enough for 10th in the league overall. He also ranked third in the conference in steals with 1.8 per game. The versatile 6-foot-6 wing led the team with a 51.3 field goal percentage, including a 38.3 percent success rate from three-point range. He reached double figures in scoring 27 times in 34 appearances while leading the team and ranking sixth in the BIG EAST with six double-doubles, including a 19-point, 10-rebound effort against Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament.
Their Preseason All-BIG EAST honors are the latest in a long line of accolades for both Heron and Figueroa. Heron, a Second Team All-SEC selection at Auburn in 2017-18, was named to the All-Met Second Team this past spring for his efforts in leading the Johnnies back to the Big Dance. The Waterbury, Conn., native also earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2016-17. Figueroa, a Third Team All-Met honoree, garnered NJCAA Division I First Team All-America recognition in 2017-18 after leading Odessa College to a 28-5 record and a spot in the national title game.
Seton Hall (77 points), led by Preseason Player of the Year Myles Powell, edged out Villanova (76) by one point for the top spot in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Pirates’ prognostication ended a streak of five consecutive top spots in the preseason poll for the 2016 and 2018 national champions. Xavier (52) came in third while Marquette and Providence (50) tied for the fourth spot. Georgetown (49) and Creighton (45) came in sixth and seventh, respectively, while Butler (21), St. John’s (19) and DePaul (11) rounded out the preseason predictions.
For more information on the St. John’s Athletics department fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: