By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13
Standing at half court, holding a glass encased No. 44 jersey, flanked by family members and Bona coach Mark Schmidt was senior Andrew Nicholson.
As he stood in place smiling at the photographers, he received the loudest ovation of any Bona senior announced during Senior Day festivities. It seemed surreal — people bowing and adoring him for his four years worth of accomplishments.
“That was very special,” Nicholson said. “It meant a lot because it showed what I did here was positive.”
This all happened before the final game of a three-game home stand for St. Bonaventure as they faced off against Rhode Island.
It would be a long day for the Rams (5-23, 2-11) as the Bonnies (14-10, 7-5) led from the first minute to the last in an 81-61 rout in front of a sold out crowd at the Reilly Center.
Nicholson showed why he has been mentioned among Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year discussions with a dominating display of offensive skill.
He shot 12-of-15, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, for 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. More impressive was the array of moves he put on the hapless Rams defenders.
Post-ups, up and unders, mid-range jump shots, fade-aways, dunks and even 3-point shots. It was all on display for the many alumni in attendance.
But it was all symbolic.
Nicholson was the start of a new era for St. Bonaventure basketball. He put the program on his shoulders and elevated it to a respectable level once again.
He was Schmidt’s first big recruit, one that turned into a star and brought attention to the program. With newfound attention also came a better talent level.
Previously, the Bonnies had suffered from a lack of depth and talent, but that has changed this season.
St. Bonaventure lost two players for the season, one a senior starter and another expected to compete for a starting job. That could be crippling to a team, yet here are the Bonnies, still in the midst of things in the A-10.
Why are they still able to compete?
Because Schmidt has filled out his roster with talented players and other teams and coaches are beginning to notice.
After his team’s victory Wednesday night, Temple coach Fran Dunphy had nothing but praise for St. Bonaventure.
“They are going to be a team to be reckoned with come A-10 Tournament time,” Dunphy said. “We feel fortunate to be walking out with a win.”
The Bonnies have talent all over their roster. In fact, seven players recorded at least six-points against Rhode Island.
They have a two-headed monster of Charlon Kloof and Eric Mosley at the point guard position, an offensive spark plug named Chris Johnson who comes off the bench and an athletic big man who regularly incites chants of his name in Youssou Ndoye.
Freshman Jordan Gathers earned his first start yesterday because of the defensive ability he brings to the table every game.
Schmidt regularly goes nine-deep, showing off the depth of his team, and in reality also showing the continuation of an era.
There may never be another Nicholson arriving on St. Bonaventure’s campus, but the talent level continues to trend upward and with that the win total will, too.
[Photos By Kenny Nguyen]