(Photo Credit: Cameron Hurst)
By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
Upon finding out that she had been named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Third Team, Mariah Ruff was overjoyed by the news.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Ruff. “Everybody who has gotten on the (team) has shown that they deserve it, so it’s an honor for me.”
However, with the honor comes the responsibility, and the junior guard out of Oneonta, N.Y. is fully aware of the need for her to perform this year for the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team to be successful.
“I have to play up to what is expected of me now.”
Her coach feels the same way.
“Mariah is going to be asked to do so much,” said Bonnies head coach Jesse Fleming. “She’s not only gotta be a scorer, she’s gotta be a playmaker for us. She’s gotta create not just for herself, but for others. You can’t really ask much more of a player, but for us to be good, she’s gotta play that role and be consistent.”
Ruff is coming off of a season where consistency was her key, averaging 10 points per game, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists in one of the most historic seasons in the history of the program, with the Bonnies advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before being defeated by Oregon State.
However, this year, Ruff is prepared to do even more in the midst of a young team that includes five freshmen and a new head coach.
“I know what game experience is like,” said Ruff. “I know what’s going to work in a game and what’s not. I know that if our pace is bad, that’s not going to work. I know what it feels like to win, to be in a winning culture and to be able to say that we’ve been there and we know what to expect.”
In part with her veteran leadership, Ruff has also been very fond of new head coach Jesse Fleming’s on-court and off-court philosophies.
“He’s manufacturing us points,” said Ruff on the rookie head coach’s new playbook, which differs from Crowley’s open styled offense.
Additionally, according to Ruff, Fleming’s sense of humor has gone a long way in establishing a bond with the girls and lightening up the locker room.
“He’s really funny,” Ruff said. “He has a lot of jokes, and I like that relationship he’s building with us girls. We get to see him at a different level outside of basketball and it builds a relationship.”
As for her expectations this year, despite being projected to finish tenth in the Atlantic 10, Ruff still expects the Bonnies to play at a high level.
“We’re getting better and better and better. We just need to keep getting better and competing.”
If the Bonnies continue to improve, Ruff expects them to be playing their best basketball in March.
“If we’re doing that, then we can possibly win the A-10 and get a free bid into the NCAAs.”