NEW: Schmidt, Kenney react to DePerro’s passing

photo: Jeremy Castro

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As the St. Bonaventure University community watches its basketball teams conclude their seasons, and the university’s spring sports teams begin their seasons, they will do so with heavy hearts.

On Monday morning, Dr. Dennis DePerro, the university’s 21st president, died after spending months battling COVID-19. The news was a significant blow to the university, but also to the athletic department.  

DePerro’s commitment to the athletics at St. Bonaventure was steadfast, and to athletic director Tim Kenney, this commitment was profound and demonstrated in his character. 

“He exuded what it was, what this place is about. His kindness, his personality, he knew the student athletes,” Kenney said. “You don’t see that with a lot of presidents at times, and he knew them.” 

DePerro had a special connection with student-athletes at St Bonaventure. Having two sons who played soccer at Providence College, DePerro understood what it means to be a student athlete.

“He understood athletics, and that couldn’t be understated enough,” Kenney said. “A lot of the student-athletes I saw today…. they couldn’t believe it,” Kenney said. 

Faculty in the athletic department took the news with the same sorrow as the athletes. With his passing, the department knew they lost someone who was more than their boss. 

“He was our boss, but he was more of a friend. It’s very rare in this day and age that you have that,” Kenney said. “The person you knew was the way he led; there was no ego involved with that.” 

Mark Schmidt, head coach of SBU’s men’s basketball team, emphasized his own relationship he had developed with DePerro.  

“He was a friend. He was a guy that I could walk into his office at any time and sit down and talk to,” Schmidt said. “He really supported athletics, in particular men’s basketball.” 

Schmidt was appreciative of his leadership, and acknowledged its power within the basketball program.  

“It starts from the top, and when the top guy believes in athletics and its mission and believes in basketball and the importance of it, you’re in a good spot.” 

Dr. DePerro’s understanding of athletics translated to his leadership. DePerro was even-keeled and never overreacted, according to Schmidt. He made it a point to be approachable, and this tightened his bonds with the players and the coaches.  

“As a boss, that’s the kind of guy you want. Someone that’s always gonna be there with you, you know, in good times and bad times,” Schmidt said. “He had a doctorate degree, but he didn’t act like he had a doctorate degree; he was just one of us.” 

The men’s basketball team had DePerro’s cardboard cutout specially placed at the Reilly Center for Monday night’s game against Dayton, and the team wore commemorative stickers bearing his initials. Schmidt and the Bonnies will head to Richmond this week for the A-10 tournament, but will dedicate the rest of their season to DePerro. 

“He knew how important athletics is to this university,” Schmidt said. “He understood how important basketball is to this university, and he was as supportive as any person on this campus.” 

SBU community mourns death of late president

photo: St. Bonaventure University

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Dr. Dennis DePerro, the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19. His passing was announced in an email sent to the SBU campus community Monday morning.

“Our hearts are broken, and we send all of our love, support, sympathies and condolences to the DePerro family on their loss, especially Dennis’ wife, Sherry, and his two sons, Andrew and Matthew,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, acting president of the university. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

Zimmer, SBU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, has served as acting president since mid-January. 

“What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days,” said Tom Missel, SBU’s chief communications officer. “He had a unique gift. I loved that man with all my heart. I know there are thousands of people who would say the same thing. His humanity, his insight, his ability to listen to all sides, his sense of humor – all of that made him a great leader.” 

John Sheehan, president of the university’s board of trustees, also expressed condolences to the DePerro family. Sheehan noted DePerro’s strong connection with SBU alumni.

“Our alumni adored (DePerro), and the relationships he forged at every college he’s worked run deep, especially at Le Moyne, where I know his loss will be deeply felt,” Sheehan said. “Please keep Sherry, Andrew, Matthew and the entire DePerro family in your prayers. The university will do everything it can to support them.”

The university’s flag will fly at half staff through March, according to Zimmer. 

DePerro tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve before being admitted to a Syracuse hospital Dec. 29. DePerro assumed the presidency on June 1, 2017, and led the university through the admission of its three largest freshman classes in 11 years. 

Funeral arrangements will be announced when they are available. Cards and letters can be sent to the president’s office. 

COLUMN: Howard’s animated ejection embodies college basketball’s newfound intimate, relaxed setting

photo: La Salle University athletics

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When referees ejected Ashley Howard from a nearly empty Reilly Center on Tuesday, the words he directed toward them could be heard throughout the arena.

The officiating crew issued Howard, head coach of the La Salle men’s basketball team, a double technical foul in the first half of the Explorers’ loss to St. Bonaventure at the Reilly Center. Visibly unhappy after a possession on his team’s offensive end, Howard proceeded to let referees know how he felt about their performance thus far.

With few watching from the stands, Howard stormed off the court in a profanity-filled tirade, much of which could be heard from press row in the arena’s upper seating sections. We heard it. The teams heard it. The ESPN+ television crew producing the game heard it.

Everyone in attendance heard what Howard had to say, even when he came back into the arena after previously exiting and shouted an expletive toward the officials.

However, in a non-COVID year, would Howard have behaved the same way in front of a near-capacity crowd? His words would not have been heard throughout the arena had there been 5,000-plus Bona fans reacting to his ejection.

My ability to hear Howard’s words exemplifies the unique setting in which college basketball is being played this year.

The atmosphere of college hoops games has been undoubtedly less formal than in years past, especially at the Reilly Center, where fan attendance has not been allowed this season.

Coaches and team personnel wear sweatpants and quarter-zip hoodies instead of suits. Players start chants in support of their teammates on the floor. The only non-artificial noise in the arena comes from the benches and the public address announcer.

It’s a much more intimate production than in years past, and more relaxed.

Howard didn’t face a raucous, drunken Bona student section on his way off the floor Tuesday. Instead, he was greeted by bleachers of cardboard cutouts that had no rebuttal for what he had to say.

After the game, Howard returned to the floor for a lengthy conversation with Bona head coach Mark Schmidt. The two shared smiles and a couple laughs, seemingly brushing off the events that unfolded just hours before.

In previous years, this exchange may not have taken place, either. At least not on the court less than 30 minutes after the game ended.

College basketball is being played under unprecedented circumstances at SBU and beyond. Howard’s ejection, and the subsequent reaction that it prompted, demonstrates this.

SBU president still hospitalized with COVID-19; Zimmer to serve as acting president

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University announced on Monday that Dr. Joseph Zimmer, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, was named SBU’s acting president in place of Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

DePerro has been battling COVID-19 since being admitted to a Syracuse hospital on Dec. 29, where he was recently placed on a ventilator. In a release, the university said that DePerro is in serious but stable condition.

“It’s important that we have, during Dr. DePerro’s absence, a leader overseeing the business of the university,” said John Sheehan, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. “The (board) has complete confidence in Dr. Zimmer.” 

Zimmer told the campus community that his priority is to continue DePerro’s work until the president is healthy enough to return.

“My role now – in collaboration with our senior management team and faculty leaders – is simply to keep us moving forward in the positive direction we have been headed since [Dr. DePerro] came on board as president in 2017,” Zimmer said. 

Dr. Anne Foerst, chair of the university’s faculty senate, said that the senate will continue to work with Zimmer achieve this goal. 

“Dr. DePerro is in the thoughts and prayers of the entire university community, including the faculty, and we look forward to him making a full recovery,” Foerst said. “The faculty senate has and will continue to work constructively and productively with Dr. Zimmer, for the benefit of the university and its students.”  

Zimmer also conveyed a message to the campus community as it continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With COVID-19 still consuming our thoughts and plans this semester, and the president working hard to recover, I’m asking every member of the Bonaventure community to support each other during this challenging time and to continue to keep our students’ needs at the forefront of everything we do – and, of course, to keep Dr. DePerro in your prayers,” Zimmer said. 

As of Tuesday, no further updates have been given on the president’s condition. Cards and well wishes for DePerro can be sent to the president’s office.  

UPDATE: Holmes named A-10 player of the week; Bonnies to play at Fordham on Wednesday after GW cancelation

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Whoever said the core of St. Bonaventure’s men’s basketball team was a “Big 3” must’ve forgotten about Jaren Holmes, who on Monday, was named the Atlantic 10’s ‘Player of the Week’.

The junior guard had a dominant performance in the Bonnies’ 83-57 win against Saint Joseph’s last Wednesday. 

Holmes shot 14-for-22 from the field for 38 points, along with 10 rebounds and three assists, against the Hawks. Eight of his 22 makes were from beyond the arc. Holmes attempted 12 three-pointers on his own in the game, a statistic made significant when considering that SBU, as a team, has only attempted an average of 18 three-pointers per game this season.  

Beyond the incredible shooting performance from Holmes on Wednesday, it was his ability to shift momentum that likely won him this honor. While the Bonnies started out slowly against the then 0-8 Hawks, only leading by four at halftime, Holmes took it upon himself to take over early in the second half. 

Holmes, on his own, went on a 9-2 run in just over three minutes, single-handedly stretching St. Bonaventure’s eight-point lead to 15.  Holmes was, in a word, unstoppable.

He’s second in the Atlantic 10 and tied for 34th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, hitting over 52% of his shots beyond the arc, and is ninth in the conference in overall shooting percentage.  

“We’re not playing great, but we have some veteran guys,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said on Tuesday. “Guys that really care. It’s a blessing that we have guys that know the system, because we haven’t practiced a ton.”

The Bonnies’ momentum for the week would stop on Wednesday, however, as Friday night brought the postponement of their scheduled game against George Washington, which was supposed to be played Saturday at noon in the Reilly Center. 

Per a statement from George Washington athletics, the Colonials had a positive test within their “Tier One” personnel, forcing the game to be rescheduled. 

Tier One personnel includes all team members who have “frequent close contact” with players, including coaches, medical staff, managers, and student-athletes themselves. No further information has been made available as to when the game will be played, or if it will be played at all. It is also unknown, as of Tuesday, who at GW tested positive. 

“We haven’t had a lot of practice time, especially going five on five, so we just try to get better in all our areas,” Schmidt said. “More chemistry; getting guys more reps. We had an extra day of practice and tried to improve because we aren’t near where we need to be.”

College basketball has had nationwide issues containing the COVID-19 pandemic this season, despite strict protocols put in place prior to the season. The A-10, however, has taken a beating at the hands of the virus. Ten of the league’s 14 schools have had to postpone and/or cancel men’s and/or women’s basketball games so far this season.  

“I don’t want to look at it as we’re the only team that’s going through this,” Schmidt said of the cancelations. “The team that we’re playing tomorrow (Fordham), I think they were quarantined for 46 days. Some people have had it worse, but you’ve got to take it one day at a time and can’t feel sorry for yourself.”

The Week Ahead 

While the virus prevents us from telling exactly what is ahead for this week, the Bonnies are scheduled to play at 1-3 Fordham on Wednesday at 2 p.m., before returning to the Reilly Center to play 3-3 Duquesne on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Bonnies’ game against the Dukes was moved from Saturday to Friday, to be the A-10’s national game that will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

Fordham’s schedule has looked similar to Bona’s this season, as a COVID-19 shutdown in late November derailed the Rams’ non-conference schedule to the point where they were left unable to play any games before A-10 play began. SBU played two conference games this season.

But for how little they’ve played this season, the Rams have been outscored by a collective 53 in the first half of their four games. In stark contrast, the Bonnies have outscored opponents by 30 points in the first half alone.  

“They’re struggling offensively, but that hasn’t affected their defense and hasn’t affected how hard they play,” Schmidt said. “These kids really play. They’re very good defensively. They take a zillion charges. They’re just hard-nosed kids. Blue collar kids that love to compete. They understand who they are and they play awfully hard.”

Chris Austin has averaged over 11 points per game for the Rams this season, while Joel Soriano has averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The Rams’ lone win of the season came on Jan. 5 at home against Dayton.

As for Duquesne, which is 2-2 in the conference right now, the Bonnies will have to contend against Marcus Weathers. The senior forward is shooting nearly 50% from the floor and averaging 13.2 points per game for the Dukes this season. He’ll face a St. Bonaventure defense that has held opponents to just 41% shooting. 

Those numbers are in no small part due to being ninth in the nation defending against the three, allowing opponents just under 26% shooting from beyond the arc. The good news for the Bonnies is that the Dukes are only shooting just under 29% from there this season.

“In this league or in any league, on any given day, anybody can win games,” Schmidt said. “We’re going down to Fordham understanding that that’s going to be a very difficult game, and hopefully we can play well enough to win by one. This is not an overlooked game.”

Bona-GW postponed due after Colonials report positive test

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Another day and another postponement within Atlantic 10 men’s basketball.  

St. Bonaventure’s contest against George Washington, slated for noon Saturday at the Reilly Center, was postponed Friday amid COVID-19 concerns within the Colonials program.

“George Washington notified Atlantic 10 and St. Bonaventure officials of a positive COVID-19 test result from a Tier 1 staff member in the team’s traveling party on Friday,” a statement released by the SBU athletic department read.

Tier 1 personnel includes student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials. According to the statement, the Colonials men’s basketball program will remain on pause per Atlantic 10 coronavirus guidelines until contact tracing and further testing is completed.  

The cancelation comes a day after George Washington’s game Wednesday against UMass was also postponed due to a curfew in Washington D.C. following that day’s riots at the United States Capitol.  

Both teams have been impacted by the virus on multiple occasions this year, both with opponents dealing with COVID-19 and with cases in the programs themselves. 

SBU’s game against Buffalo last month was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns amongst the Bulls, while the Bonnies were forced to pull out of a tournament at the Mohegan Sun bubble in Connecticut in late November due to a positive test within their Tier 1 personnel.

GW, meanwhile, had a game postponed against William & Mary and a game cancelled against South Carolina due to those programs’ COVID-19 issues. 

The Colonials are next scheduled to play Jan. 13 against VCU in Washington, while the Bonnies will be back in action at Fordham the same day. 

Bonnies begin A-10 play with pair of road games at Rhode Island, Richmond

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Mark Schmidt breaks each college basketball season down into three parts: non-conference play, conference play and the postseason.

For Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, the first part of the season didn’t go according to plan. The team had six of its eight scheduled games canceled due to a variety of COVID-19 concerns, but won both of the games it was able to play.

After beating Akron and Hofstra, the Bonnies enter Atlantic 10 play undefeated for the first time in program history.

“You just accept it and do the best job you can,” said Schmidt, who is in his 14th season as head coach at SBU, of the team’s unprecedented non-conference slate. “We knew this was going to happen. When it happens, it’s like a punch to the gut, but it is what it is. We’re 2-0, and now we turn our attention to the A-10. It would be just like that if we would have played 11 or 12 games in the non-conference.”

Bona begins A-10 play with a pair of road games against two of the conference’s perennial championship contenders. SBU will first travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday, where they will take on the 3-5 Rams.

“(Rhode Island has) got good size,” Schmidt said. “They’ve got high-major transfers. They’re very aggressive offensively and defensively.”

The Rams, who were picked to finish sixth in the league (Bona was picked to finish fourth), have not only already played eight games this season, but have played three games against Power Five conference opponents. URI’s losses include Arizona State, Boston College and Wisconsin, while the Rams own wins over South Florida, San Francisco and Seton Hall.

URI has lost three games in a row after previously enjoying a three-game winning streak. The Rams have already played one A-10 game, falling at home to Davidson on Dec. 18.

“We’ve got to try to keep them in the half court offensively, and take care of the ball so we don’t turn it over so they can get out on the break,” Schmidt said. “If this is a game that is in the 80s or 90s, they’re probably going to win. We’ve got to try to control tempo as much as we can and do a good job of keeping the ball out of the paint.”

Rhody is led by senior guard Fatts Russell, who has averaged 14.4 points per game and over three assists per game this season. The last time the Bonnies played the Rams, Russell scored 29 points in an 81-75 URI win at the Reilly Center.

“It’s very important for us to take care of the basketball and get shots up,” Schmidt said. “If we can do that and hopefully get some second shots, we’ll be okay. They are a tremendous athletic, physical half-court team.”

Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard averages 9.3 points per game for the Rams, while Antwan Walker, a forward who transferred to the program from Georgetown, averages 8.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

For Bona, Osun Osunniyi has been a bright spot in the middle of Schmidt’s offense. The junior forward/center has averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in Bona’s two victories, while junior guards Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch trail closely behind, each scoring 16.5 points per game over SBU’s young season.

Bona will enjoy the return of transfer guard Anthony Roberts, who missed the team’s first two games due to an extended quarantine period. Roberts averaged 12.7 points per game for Kent State last season.

Despite the lack of in-game reps that the Bonnies have gotten to prepare for A-10 play, Schmidt said that his team is excited to play “no matter who they’re playing.”

After playing URI, Bona will travel to Richmond to play the Spiders, who were the preseason favorite to win the A-10. The Spiders enter A-10 play with a 6-2 record, owning wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. On Dec. 22, Richmond lost at home to Hofstra, a team that Bona had defeated three days prior.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Schmidt said. “We’ve played two games.”

Bona and URI are scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That game can be seen on ESPN+. The Bonnies will tip off against the Spiders at 5 p.m. on Saturday in a game that can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

“These two games aren’t going to tell us how good we are or how bad we are, just like the first two games that we played didn’t tell us how good we are or how bad we are,” Schmidt said on Tuesday. “I’ll probably tell you in three or four weeks where we’re at.”

Buffalo game wiped out by positive test; Bonnies finish shortest non-conference schedule ever

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It was bound to happen once. Twice was a coincidence. But after another cancelation, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is facing a non-conference schedule of only two games.

The Bonnies were scheduled to play Buffalo at the Reilly Center on Tuesday, in what would have been their final non-conference game of the 2020-21 season. SBU had previously beaten Akron and Hofstra to earn its first 2-0 start to a season in seven years. After six game cancelations over the past four weeks, however, the program is also looking at the shortest non-conference schedule in its history.

About 30 hours before scheduled tip-off against Buffalo, the Bulls announced that a member of their “Tier 1” personnel, which includes student-athletes, coaches, team managers and support staff, had tested positive for COVID-19. The program was notified of the test result, which came from its regular surveillance testing in accordance with NCAA guidelines, on Sunday.

This comes just nine days after the Bonnies’ scheduled home opener against St. Francis (PA) was canceled due to a positive test within the Red Flash’s program.

Bona was able to christen the RC for the building’s 54th season against Hofstra, which now could end up being the only non-conference game played there this season. SBU was also scheduled to make a trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble in late November, which was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within Bona’s program.

Unless SBU adds an opponent to its schedule over the next week, the Bonnies’ next competition will be an Atlantic 10 game. Bona is scheduled to play at Rhode Island on Dec. 30 and at Richmond on Jan. 2, before hosting Saint Joseph’s on Jan. 6 in what will presumably be the team’s A-10 home opener.

If this is indeed how Bona’s non-conference schedule will end, it will be the first time the Bonnies will have gone undefeated in non-conference play. This was the first time since 2013-14 that the team started a season 2-0.