Bonnies navigate through preseason, await bubble trip

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Ryan Surmay

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The 2020-2021 college basketball season has already shown that it will be much different than usual. 

This season is going to cause new challenges that teams haven’t faced before, and on the morning of Nov. 11, a new challenge presented itself as St. Bonaventure University announced that there will be no fans allowed at basketball games in the Reilly Center this season. 

“The bench has to be twice as loud now,” said Bonnies junior guard Kyle Lofton. “Give it your all and pick each other up.”

SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said that the Reilly Center is one of the best home court advantages in college basketball, so the team is going to do their best to make up for it by bringing more energy. 

“If you’re a competitor, it doesn’t matter if there’s 10,000 fans or one,” Schmidt said. 

Within the team, there’s a mutual respect as no player wants to be the one to let their guard down. Schmidt has stressed the importance of staying away from large crowds to allow for the season to be completed in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

 “You don’t want to be the one to ruin it for everybody else,” he said. 

The players realize how big of an impact it could be if a positive test occurs. Other schools have been forced to shut down because of outbreaks on their teams. 

“Seeing [other teams shut down] makes you realize it can happen,” Lofton said. “Our first game is in two weeks… if someone gets it, it won’t happen.” 

The team is schedules to kickoff its season on Nov. 25 against Towson in the Mohegan Sun bubble in Connecticut. 

Schmidt and his team has been trying to keep a sense of normalcy with its preparations. He said that that apart from mask wearing, practices haven’t looked too different from previous years.

“We’re doing everything we would have done for the last 31 years,” Schmidt said. “The only difference is I got a mask on. I know some coaches are doing non-contact but we haven’t changed. My thought process is do everything you can off the court, but we’re not going to change what we do on the basketball court.”

Lofton expressed the importance of keeping distanced and solely being focused on basketball for the time being.

“Guys are here to play basketball and are having fun, so it makes it easier,” he said. 

Lofton and co-captain Osun Osunniyi were both voted to preseason all-league teams, as Lofton was named preseason second-team all-Atlantic 10, while Osunniyi was preseason third-team all-league and A-10 all-defensive team.

The team, meanwhile, was picked to finish fourth in the A-10. SBU has finished in the league’s top six each of the past five years.

While this team has no seniors, they have nine juniors who are used to playing big minutes. Lofton, Osunniyi, Dom Welch and Jaren Holmes each averaged over 30 minutes per game in the last season.

“We have juniors but in essence they’re like fifth year seniors,” Schmidt said. “They’ve played a lot of minutes.” 

For the team, there’s a level of anticipation due to not being in a situation like the Mohegan Sun bubble before.

“It’s new,” Schmidt said. “I’ve never been in a bubble but it’s one of the safest things they can do.”  

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