By: Jeff Uveino
Las Vegas, Nevada to Olean, New York.
2,269 miles separate the two cities. One lies in the middle of a desert, the other nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.
Jalen Poyser chose this change of scenery when he left the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to play basketball for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. But it wasn’t the freezing Olean winters that attracted him.
Poyser was drawn to the program Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt has built since he arrived at SBU in 2007 — one that has won at least 20 games each of the last three seasons and was an NCAA tournament team in 2017-18.
“They hold you accountable here,” Poyser said. “Coach Schmidt is a perfectionist. He demands you to be the best player you can be, and that’s something that helps me.”
Poyser, a 6-4 guard from Malton, Ontario transferred to SBU following his sophomore season at UNLV. Due to NCAA rules, Poyser sat out the entire 2017-18 season, giving him two seasons of eligibility for the Bonnies.
Poyser was rated a 3-star recruit out of Orangeville Prep by ESPN and 247Sports, and received offers from Oklahoma and Rhode Island, along with UNLV.
In two seasons at UNLV, Poyser appeared in total of 64 games, including 21 starts his sophomore year. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.4 points per game and 2.6 assists per game, and was an 80% free throw shooter.
Poyser hopes he can take what he learned at UNLV and bring it to St. Bonaventure.
“You always have to be ready for the moment,” he said. “No matter what conference you play in you always need to be aggressive and have a winning mentality. Because no matter what school you go to, the end goal is always to go to the (NCAA) tournament.”
While he couldn’t play last season, Poyser watched as the Bonnies made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012 and got their first NCAA tournament win in 48 years from a 65-58 victory over the UCLA Bruins.
Poyser said he learned a lot from watching Atlantic 10 co-player of the year Jaylen Adams and first-team all-conference selection Matt Mobley lead the team.
“I watched the way they carried themselves on and off the court,” he said. “I saw different ways I could score on the floor and got to read opposing teams’ defenses.”
With Adams and Mobley gone, the Bonnies will look for new faces to lead the way. Poyser discussed strengths he brings to the team and his readiness to take on a large roll.
“I want to be an all-around player, whether I’m passing the ball, rebounding or scoring,” Poyser said. “Basically do a little bit of everything.”
Coach Mark Schmidt is no stranger to finding successful transfer players.
Matt Mobley transferred to St. Bonaventure after two seasons at Central Connecticut State. Marcus Posley, SBU’s leading scorer during their 2016 season, had transferred from Ball State. Current Bonnies senior Courtney Stockard transferred from Allen Community College.
Poyser hopes he can be the next transfer to thrive in Schmidt’s system.
“Those guys are great players and had great careers here,” he said. “I’m hoping I can do the same myself.”
Poyser and the Bonnies will open regular season play against the Bucknell Bison on November 7.
“These guys know what we’re up against,” Poyser exclaimed. “I want to help the team get right back to the tournament.”