By Matthew Strauss
Change is necessary and unavoidable, especially in the landscape of collegiate athletics.
As the St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team forges ahead with one season in the books since the departure of 2012 NBA first-round draft pick Andrew Nicholson, change may be the toughest test. However, they are determined to suppress it. Forced to adapt – as they welcome the challenge.
A member of the team who is arguably dealing with the greatest change is junior guard Jordan Gathers. Typically used by head coach Mark Schmidt as a two-guard (shooting guard) in the past two seasons, Gathers will now be charged with the task of running the offense when regular starter Charlon Kloof is not at the helm.
A big difference with the Bonnies squad last season without Nicholson was an improvement in perimeter shooting, something that came as a pleasant surprise. In 2011-12, the Bonnies made 174 three-pointers, while last year’s squad drained 212. They do not want to stop there either. There is a focus to continue to improve shooting on a squad that shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, up 34.5 percent from Nicholson’s senior season.
“I worked on every aspect, every skill I could, but shooting I really worked on my form and technique and just being consistent in making shots,” said Gathers. Gathers had already seen improvements in his shooting from his freshman year to last year’s sophomore season. He shot 42.4 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long range last year. Those numbers were 33.9 percent and percent respectively in 2011-12.
Another noticeable change between last season’s Bonnies and the 2012 Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions was their ability and willingness to get out and run. Coach Mark Schmidt had them consistently pressing and they were constantly looking for opportunities to score in transition. This style of play fits perfectly with Gathers’ strengths. His quickness and defensive ability are two aspects that initially attracted Schmidt about Gathers.
The Bonnies reduced turnovers last season by an exorbitant 60 giveaways, only turning it over 393 times last season compared to 453 in 2011-12. In this sense, the California native is also an obvious choice to complement Kloof as the quarterbacks of the court. Gathers has had an assist-to-turnover ratio of greater than two for each of his two seasons at Bonaventure, good enough for a career ratio of 2.33. Schmidt knows that the ball is safe in Gathers’ hands.
Replacing Kloof off the bench will be no new territory for Gathers, who has appeared in all but one of his collegiate games. In those 60 games, Gathers has started only 15 of them. It is important for this team to come out of the gate strong. The past two seasons Gathers has been a bright spot when the conference season comes around. All three of Gathers’ double digit scoring efforts in his career have come in conference matchups.
With regards to the position adjustment, Gathers is confident he is ready for the new role. He is excited for the challenge and said that the transition is going very well and Coach Schmidt and the coaching staff and his teammates are helping him adjust very well.