COLUMN: Blakely looks back on time at SBU; leaves underclassmen with departing message

photo: Jeff Uveino

By Isaiah Blakely

First and foremost, congratulations to the Class of 2020. We made it! Today is very special for all for us despite the circumstances. We have worked very hard to get to this point and I hope everyone enjoys the day.  

Today is bittersweet. I want to be overjoyed and excited about the accomplishments and the great feat I have achieved of finishing college. And I am happy and grateful that I have made it this far, but I had this feeling last night that I just had a little bit left in the tank. I didn’t get to just go all out and enjoy the final stretch of college before getting thrusted into the real world. 

It’s clear that I haven’t been able to find a sense of closure since I left campus for the last time on March 23. I’ve just acted like it never even happened and that this whole time being a way from campus is like an extended vacation. But today, the Class of 2020 becomes a part of the fantastic alumni of St. Bonaventure University. I’m excited for that. 

I’m excited to eventually come back to campus and see what has changed and see old friends at the place we once called home. All of that will be great, it’s just tough that we didn’t get the swan song we deserved.  

I know coronavirus has taken the entire world by storm. And that there are much bigger issues going on than schools losing out on graduation. My main message is to everyone who isn’t graduating to really live it up and enjoy every moment. I took for granted the end of my time at Bonaventure. I assumed I had almost two months left of college, and then it was taken away.  

I know it’s a cliché that every senior tells the freshmen, but your four years at St. Bonaventure University really fly by. All I’m saying is to just be grateful for the time you have and enjoy the moment because you never know what could happen, and your college career could be over.  

I am forever grateful to all my friends, professors and Bonaventure community as a whole for this unique experience. We created a lot of memories, and I’m going to miss everyone a lot. It’s a family like atmosphere that is tough to find anywhere, and that is what I will cherish the most. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 again. We’re going to do spectacular things in the real world, and I can’t wait until we all get back together. 

COLUMN: Myers reflects on time at SBU; how COVID-19 changed senior year

photo: Jeff Uveino

By Justin Myers

Your senior year in college is not something you can redo in life. You only get one chance to make the lasting memories you’ll never forget before heading into the real world. But for this year’s class, we don’t get that opportunity.  

When the Coronavirus became more serious back in March, there was a lot of uncertainty about not only my classes senior year, but the safety of society .

During my senior year at St. Bonaventure University, I was making memories with everyone at school because I knew in that May it would be all over. Whether that was taking a trip to Toronto to see the Bonnies play, game nights at my apartment, or doing activities on campus, I made sure to do everything I wanted before it all ended.  

With the school year being cut two months early, there were so many more memories that were supposed to happen. That was the part I was looking forward to the most, even though I was dreading the end of college.

For the past 3 years, I saw senior classes before me get their last spring weekend, last time on campus, and last goodbyes before they headed into the real world. With my senior year being cut short, that’s the part that hurts the most.  

Like every other college student in America, I had to adjust to being back home and being taught online for the rest of the semester. I know it was rough on everybody, but especially us seniors, as we had to give rushed goodbyes to people who have been part of our lives for the past four years. 

Being at home has given me a lot of time to reflect on my time at St. Bonaventure. When alumni told me that being at SBU for 4 years will be the best years of your life, they didn’t lie.

Bonaventure has helped me develop relationships with professors, faculty, and friends that will last a lifetime. For that, I will always be thankful for all the memories I had time to make while being at school.  

While today is a happy day for the class of 2020 as we start the new chapters of our lives, it is also a sad day because I won’t be able to walk the stage with my classmates. Even though we won’t be together today I will cherish all the memories we made during our four years together. Hopefully one day we can get the graduation we deserve. 

Once a Bonnie always a Bonnie. 

American interest in Korean baseball shows power of sports

photo: Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

By Jeff Uveino

As the waning hours of Monday night crept into the early hours of Tuesday morning on the east coast, many American sports fans found their attention focused half way around the world.

It wasn’t until earlier that day that sports television giant ESPN announced that it would be broadcasting games from the Korea Baseball Organization, or the KBO.

Suddenly, thousands of baseball enthusiasts who had been deprived of the sport due to the postponement of Major League Baseball’s season became interested in South Korea’s premier baseball league. And, every major sports media outlet scrambled to put out a story that would help readers become familiar with the league.

Thursday marks 55 days without a ‘major four’ professional sporting event being played in the United States, and 190 days since MLB played the last game of its 2019 season.

Under no other circumstances would American sports fans be inclined to follow the KBO. After all, the product put out by MLB is widely regarded as the highest level of baseball in the world, and most weeknight Korean games start at 5:30 a.m. eastern time— perhaps the worst possible time for most in the US.

However, in a time when live sports are nearly impossible to come by, Korean baseball played in the middle of the night with no fans in attendance is oddly attractive for disciples of the sport, myself included.

You’d be hard pressed to find American baseball fans who followed the KBO before this week. Now, names such as the Samsung Lions, Kia Tigers and Lotte Giants suddenly carry weight.

American interest in Korean baseball not only shows the desire that we have for sports to return, but also the power of sport, which on several hours’ notice, caused thousands to stay glued to their television screens late through the night to catch this phenomenon.

Naturally, if one is going to follow a sports league, they will pick a favorite team. After some brief research, I was drawn to the Changwon-based NC Dinos. Despite lacking a championship in nine KBO seasons, the Dinos feature several bona-fide stars.

Catcher Eui Ji Yang was the league’s batting champion in 2019, hitting .354 with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in. Outfielder Min Woo Park wasn’t far behind, batting .344 with six homers, 45 runs driven in and 18 stolen bases.

Outfielder Aaron Altherr, who played in over 350 MLB games from 2014-19, signed with the Dinos this past offseason, as did Drew Rucinski, a former Miami Marlin.

Now-Washington National Eric Thames became a breakout star in KBO with the Dinos, winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2015 after posting a .381 batting average with 47 HR and 140 RBI.

The Dinos led the KBO in home runs in 2019, and their games are sure to feature an abundance of the league’s signature ‘bat flips’ that are not typically seen in the North American game.

The Dinos began KBO action on ESPN by beating the Lions, 4-0, on Tuesday’s Opening Day. The game was the first of six that will have aired live on the family of ESPN networks throughout the week.

While late-night KBO may not be the ideal fix to the baseball cravings of US fans, it will have to do for now as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

And, I will say, as I struggled to stay awake on Monday night to watch a baseball game played over 6000 miles from my home in upstate New York, I found the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove to sound comfortably familiar.

Column: Hudson, Bona softball players react to ongoing pandemic, canceled season

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Akim Hudson

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — COVID-19, Coronavirus or whichever you prefer to call it, has struck the United States and has sent waves of peril and panic from coast to coast.

Unless one has been living under a rock, they can observe the effects of Coronavirus.

No, I don’t mean the biological and anatomical effects and so forth, I mean the fact that approximately every square inch of the United States is paused. The New York State government was one of the first states on the quarantine wave, practically setting an hourglass on the fate of the St. Bonaventure school year.

But before I even breakdown how that went, I can’t just subside the termination of all sports in the world, yes literally the world.  

I remember, it was a Wednesday evening, I was just finishing a workout at SBU’s Richter Center, then I get a notification from ESPN reporting that the remainder of the NBA season has been suspended.

The NBA, being the eminent force that it is, practically made every other sports league play hardball. One by one, they all fell. MLB, MLS, even the damn NASCAR shut down.

I personally blame Rudy Gobert, but that’s neither here nor there.  

With all the sports leagues shutting down, reality sunk in and we all knew the inevitable NCAA shut down, but everyone avoided the elephant in the room and stayed as optimistic as they could.

Thursday morning, I attended a (mandatory) SGA meeting where Rob Defazio, director of the center for activities, recreation and leadership at Bona’s, broke the news that the Atlantic 10 basketball tournament had been cancelled, along with all of SBU’s spring sports.

Immediate shockwaves moved through the room.

It was just a sudden moment of shock, like one of those utterly unbelievable moments that couldn’t even elicit any reaction.  

I couldn’t help but feel a robust sense of sympathy for spring athletes for their loss (and empathy because my season for club basketball was also terminated).  

After that announcement, everyone really began to comprehend just how serious this whole situation was. Over the ensuing couple of days, many left St. Bonaventure, while some stayed until the week came to a halt, constantly pondering, “what’s next?”  

I held a rather spontaneous interview with several spring sports athletes on campus about their reaction to the sudden termination of their season.

Freshmen softball players Shannon Costello and Bella Reese, along with senior softball player Mckenna Holtz, voiced their opinions on the situation.

The first question was obviously how they felt about their season coming to a halt. Costello said that she was “extremely disappointed” about her season coming to a halt, yet she wasn’t “entirely surprised” because she’d already expected shut down after SBU’s weekend series in Maryland got cancelled.

Knowing the intentions of the NCAA were to keep them safe along with the knowledge that she is only a freshman and would have another season, Costello found clarity in the whole situation.

However, her “heart truly broke” for the seniors whose college careers have been vanquished. Which is a perfect Segway to our senior.

Holtz was in an absolute shock when she got the news.

She even took the initiative to meet with Bona coach Mike Threehouse because “part of [her] couldn’t believe it could be real” until further confirmation from him.

Reese had a reaction that was pretty much an exact conjugation of both Costello and Holtz, also in shock and disappointment, but a different sense of disappointment.

Reese’s disappointment was spearheaded by the team’s hard work basically being deducted to futility.

Divulging that there were changes during the offseason that put the team in position to improve, now it felt like the team had spent months constructing some sort of building only for it to be ravaged within a day. 

Next, I asked the student athletes how this pandemic had affected their day to day schedule.

Costello said she went home on the ensuing Saturday and swung at the batting cages, but there “definitely [was] like a void in [her] daily life.” Swinging at the cages just “wasn’t the same.”

After playing three previous seasons, Holt naturally built her schedule around softball. She said she “[doesn’t] know what to do with all [her] free time” and staying active without her teammates being available to go down to the fields with her is a “huge adjustment…[and will] take a long time before [she] can ever get used to not having practice”.

It’s human nature to be very habitual once we get conditioned, and it is very difficult to break that conditioning, I must say, this quarantine is making me go through withdrawals of my own as far as being active goes.

Reese, who redshirted this season, said her schedule wasn’t really that different after the termination of their season, but she was now “left accountable” of her workouts and so forth.

I must say that there was an archetypal response from all three student athletes of utter shock with somber overtones.

This quarantine has set us back as a nation, but when our safety is being put in perspective, whatever is necessary, I suppose I’ll conform. Sympathy to those whose season came to a screeching halt, or whose schedule has been bewildered by this quarantine.  

Stay as productive as you can amid the current circumstances. This is a time to focus on the betterment of yourself, especially health-wise.

Be smart, stay safe, live healthy, and work on yourself. As always, it is an honor to be able to express myself to you all, peace and prosperity, beloved.  

SBU students from infected areas choose to stay on campus during online instruction period

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When St. Bonaventure University made the decision to cancel all in-person instruction from Monday until March 27, it gave students the option to remain on campus.

For some students, the unprecedented situation provided an opportunity to return home until classes resumed.

For others, especially those whose hometowns had been infected by the Coronavirus, it gave them the chance to remain in an area that the virus has not yet reached.

“Students who feel safer staying on campus — and many have indicated that to myself and colleagues — can do so,” said Dr. Dennis DePerro, president of the university, in a letter to the SBU community on Friday. “I’ve received many messages from parents expressing the same sentiment.”

Priscilla Contreras, a junior from New York City, said that staying at SBU was a better option for her than returning home.

“The best thing for me to do is stay on campus because I’m young and could fight off the virus, but if I go home, I could pass it on to my parents, my grandmother and everyone else,” Contreras said. “I don’t want to feel guilty for doing so, and staying (at SBU) is better for their safety.”

Contreras said that if she could not stay on campus, she would have concerns over storing her belongings and being able to get home on short notice.

“If I run out of food, I can easily just go to the Hickey (dining hall),” she said. “How will I able to get home and get all of my stuff with me home?”

As of Monday, there had been nearly 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NYC, and none in Cattaraugus County, where SBU is located.

Anthony Adams, a freshman from Philadelphia, said that being able to stay on campus made him feel safer than if he was forced to leave. As of Monday, there were eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia County.

“Yeah, I think that staying on campus is safer because the virus isn’t here,” Adams said. “SBU is located between two very small towns with little interaction from outsiders, so there’s really no chance of people getting it here.”

DePerro said that he and senior management would meet regularly to determine whether an extension to the suspension of in-person instruction would be necessary.

 

Column: How the Coronavirus took over the Atlantic 10 tournament, and the world of sports, in a matter of hours

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN, NY — When Mark Schmidt and his players took time for media availability on Monday, the Coronavirus’ impact on the Atlantic 10 tournament was an afterthought.

The Schmidt-led St. Bonaventure men’s basketball was set to leave for Barclays Center the next day, with its sole focus on finding a way to win the tournament as the No. 5 seed.

Just over 48 hours later, the conversation regarding the virus and its impact on sports completely changed when a chain reaction of cancellations and restrictions erupted across social media.

Around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, it was announced that all NCAA tournament games would be played without fans in attendance.

As NCAA conferences around the country made the decision not to allow fans to attend their respective tournaments, the Atlantic 10 followed suit at 9:13. About 30 minutes after that, the NBA announced that it was suspending the remainder of its season.

However, the decision that hit closest to home for the Bona community came as No. 8 Massachusetts and No. 9 VCU were set to tip-off Thursday’s A-10 tournament action.

Moments before the game’s noon start, the league announced that its championship tournament would not be played.

As did every other conference in the nation.

In an unprecedented series of events, the world of sports seemingly shut down over the course of 24 hours.

And, as it did, a Barclays Center scene that otherwise would be filled with thousands of A-10 basketball fans from across the northeast turned into a ghost town.

As the league held a press conference shortly after announcing its decision, the heavy mood of the room was one of deflation and disappointment.

“The very precautionary decision-making to protect our student-athletes, all of our support staff, our coaches, our administrators, and the public and family members, is something that I think everybody across the country is doing right now,” said A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade.

Later in the afternoon, the NCAA announced that it was canceling ‘March Madness,’ as well as the remainder of every winter and spring sport championship this season.

By the time media members left the arena on Thursday evening, the entire sports world had seemingly come to a stop.

The conversation in Brooklyn was no longer about the tournament. It was no longer just about college basketball.

A postseason, or entire upcoming season, was taken away from college athletes in a matter of hours. Not to mention the high school and professional athletic cancelations.

VCU coach Mike Rhodes best summed up the emotion of the day.

“There weren’t any dry eyes in our locker room,” Rhodes said. “When our seniors sat down and realized they wouldn’t be putting on a uniform again, that was tough.”

As the Coronavirus’ impact spreads, so will the emotion that enveloped the A-10 on Thursday.

However, Rhodes and UMass coach Matt McCall made light of the situation when asked about Thursday’s game.

I thought Coach Rhodes had a great idea,” McCall said. “He said, ‘Let’s me and you play one-on-one in our suits here and we’ll battle it out that way.”

“I’m for it,” Rhodes added. “That would be good TV.”

 

Atlantic 10 tournament canceled over Coronavirus fears

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN, NY — The remainder of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament was canceled on Thursday minutes before the tournament’s first game of the day was scheduled to start at Barclays Center.

No. 8 Massachusetts and No. 9 VCU were set for a noon tip-off to start the day’s action, until it was announced at 11:59 a.m. that the tournament would not be played due to fears over the Coronavirus.

“It was a very difficult decision, and you can probably hear that in my voice,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said while calling in to the league press conference on Thursday. “The precautionary decision making done to protect our student athletes, family members and the public is something that I think everyone in the country is doing right now.”

The conference had announced on Wednesday night that the tournament would be played without fans in attendance. McGlade said that at that point, she knew that canceling the tournament was a possibility, but hoped that it would not be necessary.

“You always hate to pull people off the court, but the right decision was made, even in the last hour,” said Thorr Bjorn, athletic director at Rhode Island and the chair of the A-10 athletic directors. “This was a preventative decision, not a reactionary one.”

The news came as NCAA conferences around the nation announced that they would not hold their respective tournaments.

“Two minutes left in the warmup, you’re on the court and locked in, and then no game,” VCU coach Mike Rhodes said. “It’s surreal. The reality of it is, you can’t win every game, but your responsibility as a coach is to keep your players healthy and safe.”

Rhodes said that the decision was especially tough to swallow for his senior players.

“There weren’t any dry eyes in our locker room,” Rhodes said. “When our seniors sat down and realized they wouldn’t be putting on a uniform again, that was tough.”

McGlade, who had called in to from an NCAA Selection Committee meeting, said that she is uncertain whether the NCAA tournament will be the next event to be impacted.

“All of the leadership executives within the NCAA and our committee are very attentive and attuned to everything that’s going on, and looking at all of the impactful information that’s coming on as we are charged with taking care of our responsibilities.”

Atlantic 10 tournament preview: Bona enters as No. 5 seed; faces tough road back to final

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN, NY — For the first time since 2017, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will have to play on Thursday in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

After an 11-7 regular season in the A10, Bona is the No. 5 seed at the conference tournament, which will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, from March 11-15.

The Bonnies dropped their season finale to Saint Louis last Saturday, which erased their hopes of a top-four seed and a double-bye through the first two rounds of the tournament. A win in the game would have landed Bona at No. 4, meaning it would not have had to play until Friday.

“Two of the last four teams that have won (the tournament) have played on Thursday,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It’s not like no one has done it. You’ve just got to be playing well and get some momentum. It’s ‘game seven’ for the next four games, and hopefully we can win those game sevens.”

A year ago, Bona fell just short of winning the tournament, after making a run to the championship game as the No. 4 seed and letting a late-game lead slip away to Saint Louis in the championship game.

Bona returns three starters from that team, including now-sophomore Dominick Welch, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game in three A10 tournament games a year ago. Welch scored 20 points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason.

“It gives me confidence knowing how well I played there,” Welch said. “We’ve let the new guys know that it wasn’t easy, and we’ll really have to prepare. Last year, we got off to a slow start because we weren’t used to the setting and the rims, so (we need to) make sure we get our shots up and are prepared.”

Schmidt said that the experience his team got playing deep into the tournament a year ago can only help it this time around.

“It certainly won’t be a negative,” Schmidt said. “They played well in pressure situations, and the more experience you get the better you’re going to be.”

Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi, both sophomores, also started all three tournament games for the Bonnies a year ago. Lofton averaged over 16 points per game to earn him all-tournament team honors, while Osunniyi averaged seven points and eight rebounds per game.

This year, Bona’s path back to the championship game is anything but easy.

SBU will play either No. 12 George Mason or No. 13 St. Joseph’s at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, with No. 4 Saint Louis awaiting the winner on Friday.

“It’s one game, and we can’t worry about what’s happening on Friday, Saturday or Sunday,” Schmidt said. “If you lose you go home, so our mindset is to prepare the best we can for St. Joe’s or George Mason.”

Then, if the Bonnies can beat the same SLU team that thrashed them, 72-49, on Saturday, they’ll set up a date with No. 1 Dayton on Saturday afternoon.

For players that weren’t around for last year’s tournament run, such as Jaren English, the opportunity to win a championship is exciting.

“We have the opportunity to win a championship, which would band us together as a team here forever,” English said. “Everybody talks about the 2012 team with (Andrew) Nicholson, and it would be a great honor to be talked about as we go on in our careers and come back to Bonaventure.”

The sophomore guard has college postseason experience, as he helped lead Ranger Community College to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I championship game a year ago.

English has since had a breakout year for the Bonnies, averaging nearly 12 points per game this season.

“We want to get down there and show people that they can’t cross us off of their list,” English said. “We’ve got high hopes and we believe that we can win, and that’s all you really need.”

Bona’s game on Thursday will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network, as will its quarterfinal game if the Bonnies advance to Friday.

“Preparation is important, but you’ve got 24 hours after they play,” Schmidt said. “So, the preparation isn’t going to be as important as just going out and playing, and doing what you do best.”

Below is the complete tournament bracket.
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