[Youssou Ndoye soars for a dunk last season against Rhode Island – Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]
By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13
After losing the production of Andrew Nicholson and Da’Quan Cook from last year’s team, St. Bonaventure turns to Youssou Ndoye to supply the force inside.
The Brown and White have a deep and experienced team, but one that lacks bigs. The 7-footer from Senegal is the only active Bona player taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster.
“We are very limited as far as bigs and size,” senior guard Michael Davenport said.
And in a league full of talented big men, the Bonnies needed Ndoye to develop his game and he has done just that. Attending the same big man camp that turned Nicholson into a star, Ndoye has already improved greatly.
“He used be like that tripod right there that skinny, but in the summer he took a lot of time to work on his body,” Davenport said as he pointed toward a skinny cameraman. “He’s gained a lot of muscle.”
But the gained muscle won’t prevent Ndoye from picking up the cheap fouls that made him find a spot on the bench. Davenport said that it’s up to everyone on the court to help their big man out.
“The other four guys out there have to protect Youssou because at all times we need him out on the floor,” Davenport said. “We don’t need him in foul trouble. That comes with staying up on defensive assignments.”
Ndoye excited the Brown and White faithful last year with the energy and raw ability he brought to the floor, but his goal was to turn the raw ability into sustained talent.
“I went to the camp that Andrew (Nicholson) used to go for the last three years,” Ndoye said.“I spent like a month lifting, conditioning and basketball stuff. I wanted to get better in all areas of my game.”
And it seemed like he did just that when the Bonnies took on Mansfield this past weekend during their exhibition tune-up. While the Mountaineers are a Division II school, it was still obvious how much the Bona big man improved.
Ndoye shot 5-for-8 from the field for 14 points in just 21 minutes of action. And two of those points may have come on the most impressive dunk one will ever see.
His footwork was better around the basket, his shot seemed to fall easier and his extra strength helped him dominate the smaller opponent
Head coach Mark Schmidt said that while most freshman do not play well, he liked the way Ndoye continued to develop in tough circumstances.
“He wouldn’t have played a lot last year if Marquise (Simmons) didn’t get hurt, but he learned,” he said. “The only way you gain some experience is by playing and getting into the fire and getting your feet wet and I thought he did a great job as the season went along and as he played more he got better.”
And that experience will only help Ndoye and St. Bonaventure defend their Atlantic 10 Conference title.
“I think that first year was a tremendous learning experience for him and it gave him some confidence because there was times during the season that he played really well and that’s going to be a carryover hopefully to this year,” Schmidt said.
However, the Bonnies do not need Ndoye to dominate to win games, they just need him to be himself.
“We’re not expecting him to replace Andrew — no one is going to replace him. We’re expecting him to be Youssou,” Schmidt said. “To be able to run the court, score inside, play that physical game, be a guy that we can rely on and be a guy that can do the dirty work for us inside.”
And if Ndoye can do just that, the Brown and White faithful will be witnesses to plenty of wins in the Reilly Center and the continued development of a talented big man.