By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Most St. Bonaventure fans are not over last Friday night’s season-ending loss to the Dayton Flyers in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, and understandably so; the sting of a loss like that lingers for a while. It’s still hard to believe that was the last time Youssou Ndoye, Andell Cumberbatch and Chris Dees will ever wear a Bona uniform, and with no postseason play it seems like the team was under-rewarded for one of the best seasons of the past decade.
The loss was heartbreaking, but the offseason has begun in Olean. Returning players will develop, recruits will ink their letters of intent, and the usual chatter about scheduling, transfers and coaching strategy will ensue among the Bona faithful (it already has).
There will be plenty of reflection on the season that was, but there’s also plenty to look forward to in the coming months. Next season looks very promising for the brown and white, so why not look ahead a bit? Here are five early things to look forward to for the 2015-16 Bonnies:
- Return of the Adams-Posley backcourt. Jay Adams missed the last 10 games of the season with his fractured finger, but he will be raring and ready to go as he prepares for his sophomore season. Everyone knew the frosh had potential, but no one saw him stepping into the starting role from day one and performing as well as he did, leading the Atlantic 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio before the injury. Posley, the other half of the dynamic duo, also exceeded expectations, finishing fifth in the conference in scoring and scoring the two game-winners that made Bonaventure national news for a week. Just as impressive as the individual stats was the chemistry these two developed on the court. When both guards were hitting shots and limiting turnovers, finding each other with perfect passes in the perfect spots, SBU seemed darn near unbeatable. In games that Adams had at least five assists and Posley had 20 or more points, Bona was 4-1. The injury’s impact cannot be understated; if Adams doesn’t get hurt, the duration of Posley’s shooting slump is probably a lot shorter, Iakeem Alston isn’t thrown into an unfair spot and the team has a better shot at winning a few extra games to make at least the NIT.
- Dion Wright adds three-point shot to already-impressive arsenal. The Bonnies’ most consistent offensive threat all year was definitely their junior forward; his ability to get to the cup and finish, as well as knock down a couple of midrange jumpers every game, was instrumental to the team’s success. Everyone in Bona land knew Wright was snubbed from the All-Atlantic 10 team selections, but no one could have foreseen the barrage of three-pointers he had against Dayton. After coming into the game with only one make from behind the arc all season, Bonaventure’s Mr. Consistency hit four threes as part of a 10-of-11 shooting night, resulting in a total of 24 points. Wright looked despondent in the postgame press conference and tweeted afterwards that the loss hurt, saying, “you put your all into something and you come up short.” I expect the loss to be used as motivation for the Carson, Calif. native; he’s only going to work harder after that experience, and that’s a scary thought for the other 13 members of the A-10; one of the most complete players in the league adding a three-point shot makes for a gameplanning nightmare. It would not be a huge shock to me to see Wright back in that Barclays Center press room on March 13, 2016, with the Atlantic 10 championship trophy and a tournament MVP honor in tow.
- Denzel Gregg’s progression. The 6-foot-7 forward from Syracuse had the best defensive performance of his career thus far against St. Joe’s, grabbing 15 rebounds. The way Gregg ended his season was indicative of his growth over the course of the season. After being suspended for the first six games of the season for a violation of team rules, he returned to game action as a man on a mission, earning a starting spot by season’s end. The Bonnies probably don’t beat VCU without his 10 points, including a high-flying dunk off a lob pass from Posley that almost blew the roof off a packed Reilly Center. The athleticism and length Gregg displays on a game-to-game basis, as well as a developing jumper, will make him a mainstay in the lineup for the next two years.
- A highly-anticipated recruiting class. The Bonnies had a very successful recruiting class coming into this season, with Jay Adams and Posley paying immediate dividends and Alston and Idris Taqqee seeing significant time in some games. Next year’s class is taking shape and looking formidable as well. Two players are already signed, Derrick Woods out of Pennsylvania and LaDarien Griffin out of Florida. Woods is a 6-foot-8 forward from Pennsbury High School in Yardley, Pa., the same high school Indiana Pacers forward Lavoy Allen attended before playing college ball at Temple University. Pennsbury’s season ended on Saturday when they lost in the state semifinals to Roman Catholic High School, but Woods was sensational in the tournament, with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the loss and a 22-point, 22-rebound effort in the first round against Cedar Cliff. Before a dominant senior season of high school hoops, Woods played AAU ball with Team Final, where he was teammates with Syracuse commit Malachi Richardson and Villanova signee Donte Divincenzo. LaDarien Griffin is a 6-foot-7 forward from Providence High School in Jacksonville, Fla. He scored 11 as Providence won the Florida State Class 3A Championship game on Feb. 26. The team finished the season at 33-1. The coaching staff will fill more slots over the next few weeks, with highly-sought Canadian power forward Kyle Alexander at the top of the priority list, but Schmidt already has two kids who know how to win that are ready to join the fold.
- Non-conference schedule. Bona’s Dec. 13 matchup against Pitt on ESPNU was one of the most exciting games of the year, with the brown and white falling just short against one of the ACC’s powerhouses. Many fans complained that the rest of the non-conference slate was too weak and hindered the Bonnies’ chances of garnering serious consideration for a bid in the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Their gripes only intensified after calamitous losses to Maryland-Eastern Shore and Delaware, and the debate has raged on through message boards and social media. While matchups against power conference teams are extremely enticing, this was not the season to have the toughest schedule in America. The inexperienced backcourt needed time to get their feet wet against some easier opponents before the A-10 slate, with one very challenging game mixed in. Next season, however, Bonaventure returns four starters with Adams, Posley, Gregg and Wright, and the only player in the lineup who will need time to adjust is whoever fills the five-slot. The experienced squad makes it the perfect time for the coaching staff to find some power conference opponents to play, most likely away from the Reilly Center. The makeup of next year’s ballclub makes it a fantastic year to explore those possibilities.
Next season should be a fun one for Bona Nation, and the offseason will be when it all comes together. There are plenty of storylines to track over the spring, summer and fall.