By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
After St. Bonaventure’s exhibition dismantling of Mansfield last Saturday, Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt called the contest (if you want to call it that) the team’s “second quiz.” The first quiz was the closed scrimmage against Kent St., while tonight’s season opener against the Binghamton Bearcats was seen as the first “exam.”
To pass the first real test, the Bonnies will have to learn from last December’s victory in Binghamton’s Events Center, where they only led the Bearcats by four at the half and pulled away in the second half for a 69-51 win.
The Bearcats’ leading scorer from that game, Nick Madray, transferred to Eastern Michigan, but everyone else who played is still on the roster. That young group includes five sophomores- forwards Willie Rodriguez, Dusan Perovic and Bobby Ahearn along with guards Romello Walker and Justin McFadden. Rodriguez and Perovic are particularly dangerous, as both averaged double-digit points last season.
“They were a young team last year,” said Bonaventure guard Marcus Posley. “They gave us a little fight at their place last year. We didn’t play the best game but this year we’re looking forward to them coming here. We should be fine.
“I felt like we got relaxed last year. We kind of rushed our offense; we took quick shots, one pass and shoot. This year we’re trying to make them work and make them defend.”
Getting relaxed is not allowed in Schmidt’s offense this year, as the small-ball Bonnies are looking to score the ball as fast as possible. After the Mansfield game, Schmidt noted that he wants a faster tempo than the team displayed. As a result, Posley said practice this week was conducted at a quicker pace as well.
“The more that you push them and keep them on their heels, the more it works to our advantage,” he said.
The pace of play starts with the point guard as the floor general, and Posley said that freshman point guard Nelson Kaputo is adapting well to the system.
“I’ve noticed that when we get Nelson in the lineup, (he’s) learning to push the ball more,” said Posley. “In the past he was timid and didn’t know rotations and where to be with spacing, but (he’s) been a leader, telling guys where to go and pushing the ball.
“Schmidt really wants to do that, so once we get that down pat, we’ll be really hard to beat.”
As for the first-game jitters, Schmidt acknowledged that his players will have them and said they should have them every time they hit the court.
“Hopefully they’re nervous, they should be nervous before every game; if they’re not nervous there’s something wrong with them,” Schmidt said. “They should be energized every game because we only have 30 of them. There’ll be nerves, but hopefully the exhibition game got some of the young guys’ nerves settled.”
Opening night means some nerves for the coaching staff as well since the first game is tough to prepare for. There are no recent tapes to analyze, no box scores to peruse. Add in the fact that the four freshmen, redshirt or true, are complete unknowns and you have many mysteries on your hands going into the first matchup.
“You go into the unknown,” Schmidt said. “You don’t know what the opponent’s going to do, there’s no tape on them, so the first game is always a big concern… we’ve got a fight on our hands.”
Every team is a work in progress going into the opening weekend of college basketball, but Posley said the team is starting to come together.
“We’re just working on our team defense and executing plays,” he said. “Some guys looked like they didn’t know the plays too well (in the exhibition game), so executing is a test for us.
“Watching practices after the exhibition game, we’ve been executing all the plays that (Schmidt) put in front of us. There have been minimum mistakes, and that’s a big step for us. Our rotations have gotten a lot better too from a week ago, so I’m I have a lot of faith in us.”