Hatred of losing drives Ayeni

By Justin Myers

For sophomore Josh Ayeni, being a better player for his team and himself was a major point of emphasis going into the season.

“(I’m focused on) just being the best player that I can be and doing my best for the team, so we can win games,” Ayeni said.

The 6-foot-8 forward is looking to build off his strong freshman campaign where he earned 24 starts and played in all 32 games. He finished sixth on the team in scoring with 6.7 points per game and averaged 2.6 rebounds.

He also scored in double figures 10 times, the most by a Bonaventure freshman in Atlantic-10 play since Andrew Nicholson’s 21 times in 2008-09.

During the off-season Ayeni worked on many things to improve his game.

“I worked on my three-point shot, consistency and just being a better rebounder” he said.

As a freshman, Ayeni worked hard to adjust to the fast pace of Division I basketball.

“I think it’s the pace of going up and down the court,” Ayeni said. “High school ball is slower and college ball is faster and more technical”.

However, one thing Ayeni didn’t have to adjust was his passion.

“I hate to lose,” he said. “I feel like that drives me to play harder every time and try to win”.

Ayeni, a native of Nigeria, grew up in a different environment compared to the United States.

“Obviously the weather is hotter than Olean,” he said. “In Nigeria, when you’re learning to play basketball they only teach big guys how to play basketball. You have to be really tall to play basketball. But in (the United States) you see little kids of all sizes learning to play.”

Ayeni came to the United States in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since.

“There’s some great people here,” Ayeni said. “it’s a great place to be.”

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Men’s basketball: The A-10 needs to go get Wichita State

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

If you had a dollar for every time you’ve seen or heard that the Atlantic 10 is having a down year, how many schools’ season tickets would you be able to afford?

Three notable upsets have occurred in the league over the last two nights: UMass defeated Dayton by 12 and Fordham won at Davidson by six on Wednesday before visiting La Salle stunned Rhode Island, which was previously unbeaten at home, by 12 on Thursday.

To some, these results are a sign of parity and intrigue in conference play. To others, the Dayton and Rhode Island losses in particular are a troubling sign of how inconsistent even the top teams in the league are this season.

There’s one way to strengthen the A-10 going forward when 2016-17 concludes: get Wichita State, which has been considering leaving the Missouri Valley Conference, to join this offseason.

The first mutual benefit to the Shockers becoming the conference’s 15th full member is March Madness. It’s still January, but Dayton, VCU and Rhode Island are the three A-10 teams currently in Joe Lunardi’s ESPN Bracketology, according to his latest posting yesterday. Wichita State (15-3, 5-0 in conference) is the only Missouri Valley Conference team that cracked Lunardi’s field of 68.

WSU wouldn’t breeze through the A-10 like it does in the Missouri Valley, but power conference wins over LSU and Oklahoma, as well as close losses to Louisville and Michigan State would likely put it on the bracket in any situation. The A-10 could be on track for four bids right now, and four teams would put it on par with the Pac-12 and SEC. The critics wouldn’t be lamenting the direction the league was going this year, constantly asserting that it could be a “one-bid league,” which is the college basketball equivalent of getting a 200 on the SAT for just signing your name.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: The A-10 needs to go get Wichita State”

Women’s basketball: SBU falls to VCU in A-10 quarterfinals

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Katie Faulkner

In a matchup where the idea of a neutral site did not apply, “Let’s go Rams” chants echoed through the Richmond Coliseum. After receiving a bye and moving straight to the quarterfinals, St. Bonaventure was unable to avenge last month’s loss to VCU, as the Rams stole the win, 59-50.

After a shaky first half plagued with turnovers, the Bonnies found themselves down 29-15. 14 first-half turnovers by SBU allowed the Rams more scoring opportunities, where they dominated under the hoop for 34 points in the paint. Though VCU had its share of turnovers as well, the Bonnies could not take advantage on the offensive end due to poor shooting.

“Their defensive pace was above our offensive pace,” said SBU coach Jim Crowley. “I think we were hurrying the shots we had and not shooting them with the rhythm we’re capable of.”

The Bonnies shot an uncharacteristic 29 percent (18-of-61) from the field, including going 5-for-29 from long range. Sophomore Miranda Drummond registered a game-high 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Graduate student Emily Michael chipped in with 12 points, while Mariah Ruff added 10 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Senior Katie Healy notched seven points in just 23 minutes of action due to foul trouble. Matea Britvar provided big minutes off the bench and totaled a team-high eight rebounds to go along with two blocks.

The Bonnies opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run, but Healy was forced to sit after picking up her third foul. SBU was able to cut the VCU lead to 46-43 in the fourth quarter, but the Bonnies could not capitalize on the offensive end.

“I thought when we had fought and gave ourselves a really good chance, we kept thinking we had to make it all up in one shot,” said Crowley. “I think we got in our own way a little bit with frustration on missing some open shots.”

Nine players put points on the board for VCU, a team that relies heavily on constant substitutions. The Rams credit their quick rotations as the key factor to maintaining a high level of intensity on the defensive end.

“[Defense] is our calling card,” said VCU coach Beth O’Boyle. “We really take pride in it and emphasize it and I’m lucky that our players have bought [into the idea] that defense wins championships.”

The hockey-style subbing not only helped fuel 22 bench points, but also took advantage of the Bonnies’ lack of depth.

“We thought our depth was really going to be a factor and that we were going to try and push the tempo,” said O’Boyle. “We had to get the ball over halfcourt as fast as we could to make them run and chase us on the offensive side, so that when they came back down on offense it was tiring them out.”

Junior Ashley Pegram was one rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Adaeze Alaeze’s six points put her over the 1,000 career-point mark. The senior also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Juniors Keira Robinson and Isis Thorpe notched nine points apiece for the Rams.

The Bonnies will wait to hear about a potential postseason bid.

Atlantic 10 comments on Bona seating change

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The Atlantic 10 has weighed in on the new courtside seats St. Bonaventure is putting in the Reilly Center.

The controversy over putting seats in front of the Bona student section died down after athletic director Tim Kenney explained the move’s safety implications, but there was still some confusion over the conference’s silence in the matter.

When reached for comment this week, A-10 Assistant Commissioner Drew Dickerson said the decision was St. Bonaventure’s and was not forced by the conference.

“The conference discusses student-athlete, staff and fan safety/sportsmanship annually at every business meeting; this includes in-arena and on-campus field facilities,” Dickerson said. “Each member institution decides how best to manage their own facilities with respect to seating, safety and security.

“SBU’s new in-arena seating plan should not be confused with the conference’s commitment to safety (and) sportsmanship as this not a new topic, and it will continue to be an important discussion for the conference.”

Dickerson’s comments make it clear that there was no order that SBU add these seats. Rather, Bona felt this was the best way to manage the Reilly Center with respect to “seating, safety and security.” For Kenney and his staff, it was a peaceful resolution to avoid discipline down the road, as the conference seems to have been patient with the “Reilly Rowdies” for quite some time.

Men’s basketball: Richmond (Away) Preview

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

After a tough loss to Dayton on Thursday night, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies hope to regroup against the Richmond Spiders on Sunday at 3 in the Robins Center.

Both teams are 1-1 in Atlantic 10 play. The Spiders, who come into this one at 8-7 overall, lost by 14 at Davidson last Saturday before defeating George Mason 75-65 at home Thursday night.

The Bonnies and Spiders split their home-and-home last year. SBU won by double-digits at home, but lost a two-point heartbreak in Richmond’s house.

Who will win the 19th meeting between these schools? Here’s the breakdown:

The Coaches:

St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 115-114 as Bonnies coach, 3-7 against Richmond.

Richmond- Chris Mooney. 174-139 as Spiders coach, 9-5 against Bonaventure.

Key players for Richmond:

Kendall Anthony- 5-8 senior guard. Anthony is one of the smallest point guards in Division I, but he’s also one of the best. At just 5-8, 140 pounds, he’s not an intimidating presence, but his quickness and athleticism make him a special ballplayer. He has scored 15.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the floor, with a 37 percent mark from three. Since Cedrick Lindsay graduated last spring, Anthony shouldered the lead scoring responsibilities and has done a fantastic job. He had 28 in the win over the Bonnies last season, including the game-winning jumper with five seconds on the clock. The Spiders go as Anthony goes.

Terry Allen- 6-8 junior forward. Allen will have to use his all-around repertoire against the Bona big men. He leads Richmond in rebounding at 5.5 boards per game and is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting. He gets the job done on both sides of the floor and has been on a hot streak lately, with double-digit points in the last three games.

Alonzo Nelson-Ododa- 6-9 junior forward. Ododa is the defensive-minded big man of this Spider team, with 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game to go with 6.1 points a contest. He struggled mightily against Bona last year, going 3-16 from the floor over those two games. The matchup with Youssou Ndoye is going to be a real challenge for him, and his performance may be the difference between a win and a loss.

Keys to victory for Richmond: The Spiders are not going to win this contest if they lose the rebounding battle the way they have in nearly every game this season. They are the fifth-worst rebounding team in the nation, while Bonaventure is 46th-best behind Youssou Ndoye, a top-five rebounder in the country. Being better on the glass is top priority. If they aren’t, the gameplan is simple: shoot lights-out from behind the arc like every successful team has against the Bonnies. That’s your only hope if you don’t rebound the basketball.

Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: You don’t need Dick Vitale or Jay Bilas to tell you what the Bonnies need to fix right now; perimeter defense is an obvious Achilles’ heel. Dayton, who came in to Thursday’s game shooting a pedestrian 33 percent from three, went 14-24 from behind the arc against the Bonnies. They looked like the San Antonio Spurs, passing the ball around the perimeter and taking advantage of Bonaventure’s slow defensive rotation to bury open shots. If the Bonnies are going to win on Sunday, they cannot allow the Spiders to have the same three-point shootout. Richmond is shooting at a 32 percent clip from outside, but Anthony, T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones are legitimate threats. Clamping down on them by rotating quickly is vital to victory.

Prediction: Predicting a Bonaventure basketball game has become an unenviable and unpredictable task. On paper, the Bonnies should win this game. The rebounding advantage is squarely in their favor, and Richmond has not had an impressive win yet. Bonaventure also showed they can bounce back from a loss in a road environment when they beat UMass, and I think they bounce back again. It won’t be easy on the road (it almost never is), but SBU will get back on track. 77-72 Bonnies

 

 

 

 

 

Jaylen Adams named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

St. Bonaventure guard Jay Adams has already accomplished two rare feats this season. The first was cracking the starting lineup as a freshman, which he did on opening day. The second came on Monday afternoon, when Adams was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week.

Since the 2008-09 season, only three Bona freshmen have won the conference’s weekly honor for first-year players: Adams, Matthew Wright and Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson won the award six times en route to winning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.

Adams averaged 13 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists over the two games last week, scoring 19 in the win over Jackson State and scoring seven points with four assists in the win over Niagara. He was 5-12 from three and 11-12 from the free throw line and helped the Bonnies grab two needed wins.

“I’m kind of excited,” Adams said. “It’s a good accomplishment, the earliest accomplishment, but it just means I’ve got to keep working.

“Really, my teammates have put me in this spot. I just hit a bunch of open shots, but I really couldn’t do it without my teammates.”

“(The award) is great,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “You get those individual awards but they’re more team awards; if we weren’t winning games we wouldn’t get those. But he’s played really well as a freshman. He has some poise and it’s a credit to him and his teammates–You play the guys who have earned the minutes in practice, and he earned it.”

There are many strengths to Adams’s game, but every freshman endures growing pains and needs to make improvements.

“He can score and he’s produced,” Schmidt said. “He’s gotta do a better job of handling the ball and have a better assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s gotta defend better and have a more consistent effort, playing hard all the time because you can’t play up and down in waves.”

The 6-1 point guard from Baltimore has relished the opportunity to start. The comfort he has shown in such a pivotal role has spoken volumes.

“I was just hoping I was gonna play, so being able to start, I was really excited,” Adams said. “And knowing (Iakeem) was going to play alongside me, I knew it was going to be a good one-two punch.

“I just want to get better, no matter what my role is. I just want to help the team prosper in whatever way I can. At the end of the day, I just want to get better… I’m working on playing defense and being a better leader as the point guard.”

The Bonnies are entering a difficult three-game stretch, hosting the de facto Big Four championship against the 4-1 Buffalo Bulls on Wednesday before they go on the road to face Ohio and Pittsburgh the next two Saturdays.

Buffalo is a formidable opponent, with their only loss coming at no. 1 ranked Kentucky, who they were leading at halftime. Ohio and Pitt are not starting out as great as they have in the past, but any road game is a challenge, especially considering the Bonnies have not played a true road game yet.

“We just have to play hard,” Adams said. “When we play hard and play defense, we’re at our best. We get a lot of points of turnovers so I think defensively that’s what we have to do.

“It’s definitely gonna be a tough game. We play a lot of tough teams, but going into this one it’s personally a different mindset. As a team we have to come out and play as hard as possible, the hardest we’ve played all year.”

For the Bonnies to have positive results in the toughest games of their young season, they will look to their freshman at the point to provide the necessary energy and leadership.

University president announces AD’s departure

watson

[Image courtesy of sbu.edu]

By Joseph Pinter, @JPinter93

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Nov. 12) — St. Bonaventure University hired Steve Watson as its athletic director in 2006 to rebuild its basketball programs and bring more credibility to Bonaventure sports as a whole.

Since his hiring, the university has won Atlantic 10 Championships in swimming and men’s basketball, made an NCAA Tournament appearance by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and has completed half a turf fields project for the soccer, lacrosse and softball teams.

Many accomplishments, indeed.

University president Sr. Margaret Carney announced in a press release this morning that Watson has accepted the same position at Loyola-Chicago.

“Steve’s success at St. Bonaventure has opened many doors for him,” Carney said “While it’s always difficult to say goodbye to a senior administrator, we do so with gratitude for his contributions here.”

Watson will remain at Bonaventure for the next 30 days until he formally hands in his resignation, Carney said.

The search for his successor hasn’t begun yet. Later this week, administrators will discuss plans for an interim athletic director and begin planning a search for a permanent one.

“We’ll do a national search, and if we have an internal candidate that person will be a candidate in that search,” Carney said. “But we’ll invite people from all over the country.”

“We’re committed to getting the best athletic director that we can for St. Bonaventure,” said Rick Trietley, vice president of Student Affairs.

Since Watson is a member of the president’s cabinet, Carney will hire the next athletic director, she said.

Until September 2013 Watson reported directly to Carney, but that has since changed. Watson has reported to Trietley, who reports to Carney.

Both administrators don’t expect a change in the structure.

In the university press release, Carney credited Watson with “strengthening our position” with alumni, even “healing some significant relationships.”

“Steve engendered confidence with our alumni, and that’s evidenced in his leadership of the successful campaigns we’ve had to upgrade some of our athletics facilities,” she said. “He also played an active and supportive role in athletics becoming a better partner with other divisions at the university.”

“Our athletics staff and coaches are second to none,” Watson said. “It has been a privilege to work side by side with some of the best in the business. Sr. Margaret gave me the opportunity to come home almost eight years ago and for that I will be forever grateful.”

“I also want to thank the community and alumni for all their support during my time at Bona’s. St. Bonaventure fans and alums have been amazingly supportive of me and my family. While Chicago will be our new home, our ties to this community will always remain strong.”

Athletic department officials were still coming to grips with the news.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to miss him,” said Steve Mest, associate athletic director for strategic communication. “He’s been a constant presence here for seven years. Students, student athletes, all of our staff, the rest of the university, we have become comfortable with him.”

Some of the athletic department’s employees have been at Bonaventure for a long time, so Mest is confident the department is “going to be able to keep things going” until Carney hires a new athletic director.

Watson’s successor will have one less problem to deal with — the men’s basketball program. Watson took over the athletic department three years after a scandal destroyed the program’s reputation and, ultimately, its success. In the four years before Watson came aboard, the men’s basketball team had a 24-88 record under Anthony Solomon.

One of Watson’s first moves was hiring head coach Mark Schmidt in 2007. Schmidt has revived the program, winning the A-10 Championship and making an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. He also oversaw the installation of a new basketball playing surface in 2007– Bob Lanier Court.

“I think as AD, (Watson) deserves the ultimate credit,” Mest said of the turnaround. “I mean he’s the captain of our ship here, so to speak. It was his call to hire (Schmidt). He hired him, he found him.”

Hiring Schmidt will most likely be Watson’s greatest achievement yet.

“Every AD wants to hire the right coach, and then give them the tools they need to be successful. Steve clearly has done that in this case.”

Watson also eyed turning around other programs. He co-chaired a committee to develop a strategic plan for Bonaventure athletics — one that included installing turf fields for the soccer, lacrosse and softball teams.

“(Watson and co-chair Trietley) formed a very strong partnership, worked in tandem together, submitted the plan and put the plan through a complete review by our board,” Carney said. “Our board was very pleased with it. The administration was very pleased with it. We’ve been doing all the work in athletics based on that ever since.”

So far, the soccer and lacrosse turf field has been installed and the women’s basketball locker rooms have been renovated.

Watson moves to Loyola-Chicago, which has competed in the Missouri Valley Conference since 2013. Mest said while Watson was extremely intelligent and funny, among other things, he will miss Watson’s personable side the most.

“I think (Watson) was just one of everybody else,” he said. “He’s a regular guy from Franklinville, New York, and that showed in the way he worked with everybody on a daily basis. He’s not a micromanager by any means.”

Watson grew up in Franklinville and attended Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean.

“He asked for and valued our opinions,” Mest said. “So I think as an employee, thats what you’d hope for in a boss.”

pinterjo11@bonaventure.edu

Gregg and Smith Look to Make Sophomore Leap

By Chuckie Maggio, @chuckiemaggio 

It’s not exactly a secret that St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt isn’t the biggest fan of giving freshmen a great deal of playing time. After all, Andrew Nicholson was the only Bona frosh to get starter’s minutes in the Schmidt era, and he was ready for big minutes the second he got to Olean.

Class of 2017 recruits Denzel Gregg and Xavier Smith followed in the line of first-year players who had to watch and learn from the bench. Gregg, a 6-7 forward from Syracuse, N.Y., averaged eight minutes and two points a game. Smith, a 6-8 forward from Plano, Texas, averaged 3.5 minutes and 0.5 points a contest.

They didn’t always see the floor, but the duo had plenty of learning experiences. It’s always an adjustment going from high school to college ball, and the learning curve is steep.

“(The game’s) a lot more physical and a lot faster,” said Gregg. “You just have to put more time into it: watching more film, getting plays printed out by the coaches and studying them; it’s a lot more work than high school.”

“There are a lot more plays,” noted Smith. “You have to be a lot more prepared and focused. You have to listen to what the coaches are telling you because they’ve been here for multiple years and know how the game goes. If you do what they say, you’ll get there.”

Outside of practice and workouts on campus, the sophomores got some valuable experience over the summer to aid their improvement.

Smith and junior forward Dion Wright were invited to participate in six-game European goodwill tours in August. Smith played with players from big-time schools like Villanova, Kansas State, SMU and Santa Clara.

“(The trip) was really helpful for me,” Smith said. “By playing with those players, I was able to compare the level they were at to my own game, and we played against pros who actually got paid for playing.”

While most players stay at Bonaventure for the majority of the summer, Gregg took classes online and participated in a summer league back in Syracuse called King of Kings.

Gregg, who played for Utica Select, got the chance to compete against many former college and professional players; one of the most recognizable was former Syracuse standout Brandon Triche. Alumni of the league include NBA players Jimmer Fredette, Michael Carter-Williams and Kris Joseph.

“It was a learning experience, getting to play against pros and ex-Division I guys,” Gregg said. “It’s good to see where you stand and where you fit. It was fun to play against people who are going what you’re going through.”

The work Gregg and Smith put in this offseason is all part of their aspiration to make the “sophomore leap” this winter. Their roles will be expanded this season, with more minutes and more chances to help the Bonnies win games.

SBU saw a textbook example of a second-year player making the most of his opportunity last year with the aforementioned Dion Wright.

Wright played sparingly in his freshman year, averaging just six minutes of floor time a game with 2.8 points and 1.9 rebounds. However, his work ethic over the 2013 offseason paid off and he improved in every statistical category, playing just under 22 minutes a game and averaging 8.7 points and 4.8 boards. This year figures to be even better for number 21.

Gregg and Smith are definitely in position to make a similar leap in 2014-15, and they are ready for the challenge.

“It’s exciting,” Gregg said. “Nothing’s given to you, but if we continue to work hard we can both make a big jump from our freshman year. Roles are still being earned, so we’ll find out as time goes on.”

“We lost a lot of players so there are minutes on the table. We just have to work everyday to earn them,” said Smith. “As practice goes on, we’ll figure out the best role for each individual.”

The losses of Charlon Kloof, Matthew Wright and Marquise Simmons (48% of the team’s scoring last season) to graduation have led many prognosticators to doubt the Bonnies. SBU was predicted to finish 10th by a panel of Atlantic 10 media members and coaches.

Gregg downplayed the preseason predictions, accentuating the fact that the lack of respect paid to the team is nothing new.

“Last year they were talking about all the players we lost too; it’s something we’re used to,” he said. “All it means is that (we) have to step up to replace what we lost.”

Smith agreed with Gregg. “We got a lot of new players, but we lost a lot of players too. We have to find a way to replace them with our strengths,” he said.

The two sophomores, who have been roommates since they entered the school in the fall of 2013, have big goals for the season.

“Individually, I just want to get better and improve in every statistical category,” Gregg said. “(My) team goal is 20-plus wins.”

“Individually, I want to help out my team with whatever minutes I get,” Smith said. “(My) team goal is postseason play.”

If these two can do what Wright did in his second season, look for the Bonnies to make some major noise come March.