Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation

By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

Watching the raising of the Atlantic 10 and NCAA Second Round banners on opening night last year had to be tough for the freshman on the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

Fighting for playing time on a senior-laden roster was even harder than missing out on a historic run in March.

Dion Wright played in 13 games last season but only averaged about five minutes per game. His best performance came on March 2 vs. Dayton. Wright played only 11 minutes but had 15 points on 6 for 7 shooting.

He took the learning experience in stride and worked hard in the off season.

“I feel like I spent a lot of hours in the gym, and I got better with my jump shot and my strength,” Wright said. “I think last year I weighed about 210 lbs. I’m at about 218 lbs. right now.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation”

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Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Staff Looks To Runs In The Future

[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Allen Iverson may have given practice a bad name, but it’s where most college basketball players improve each season, and that’s exactly what Matthias Runs has in front of him.

Last week, the NCAA ruled the 7-foot forward from The Netherlands was ineligible to play this coming season, but he would be able to practice with the team. The experience he will gain is going to be immeasurable.

“It’s critical,” Bonnies assistant coach Dave Moore said about Runs’ practicing. “You are going up against a guy that is bigger and stronger then you every day, so you’re either going to die or get better. We’re excited that Matthias is going to be able to practice and develop with us.”

Developing players outside of games is nothing new to the Bona coaching staff. Last season witnessed the immediate growth of two freshmen — Jordan Gathers and Youssou Ndoye.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt always states that the best thing about freshman is they become sophomores, but he saw both of his freshmen take significant strides during the course of the season.

And the foundation for both of their success came down to the hours spent during practice.

For Ndoye, it meant going toe-to-toe with future first-round NBA draft pick and Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson.

“Youssou really took it as a challenge and got better and better every day,” Moore said of the energetic big man. “You saw the results at the end of the season with the contributions he made.”

Ndoye, following a rocky beginning to the season in which he was plagued by foul trouble, showed his true ability when he took over an overtime game against University of Rhode Island for a critical victory.

In the game’s final 77 seconds, Ndoye dunked, drew a charge, blocked a shot and grabbed the game’s final rebound.

Ndoye’s trajectory is exactly what Moore and the rest of the Bona coaching staff has in mind with Runs.

“Those guys (in the Canarias Basketball Academy) know how to work,” Moore said of where Runs played last season. “They are already used to being worked as hard as they can, so it helps shorten the learning curve.”

Demitrius Conger, the Bonnies leading returning scorer, said being able to practice is key for the European big man.

“For him coming over from Europe, it’s a really different game, but to have that year to get ready helps,” Conger said.

Runs agreed, saying he has already seen the differences.

“It’s way more physical,” Runs said of what he’s experienced. “I’m bruised up every time I’m getting off the court.”

But Moore said the Bonnies latest CBA import has what it takes to be special.

“There is not too many people on the planet his size that can move the way he can move,” Moore said of Runs’ natural ability. “It’s exciting to be able to work with.”

While Runs needs to get stronger, the excitement around the coaching staff about the talent he possesses and the work he puts in can lead to greater success.

“We want him to be a pro,” Moore said of Runs.

If that happens, then St. Bonaventure fans will have even more reasons to cheer in the coming years and help warm up those long and harsh winters in Western New York with victories.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

Ryan Doberstein (@FlyinRyan324) of FRFphotos.us took photos from St. Bonaventure’s 81-61 victory against Rhode Island Saturday at a sold-out Reilly Center.

Youssou Ndoye Excites Bona Fanbase

[Photo courtesy of Tony Lee ]

By Tim Harfmann, Staff Writer, @Timharf

Facing Rhode Island on the road, Bonnies fans thought they were watching another game slip away as senior forward Andrew Nicholson fouled out with 3:36 remaining in overtime. 

 To make matters worse, senior forward Da’Quan Cook also fouled out of the game with 1:38 remaining and the Bonnies only up by a single point.

With two of their big men no longer available for the game, head coach Mark Schmidt turned to Youssou Ndoye to step up for the Brown and White. 

The freshman answered the call.

In the last 77 seconds of the game, Ndoye slamed down a powerful, two-handed, dunk to give the Bonnies a 67-66 lead. He then drew a charge, recorded a steal and grabbed the game’s final rebound in a 72-66 Bonnies victory.

Ndoye would not have made such an impact earlier this season.

“Youssou (Ndoye) started off a little slow and now he’s really starting to understand where to go and how to play within our system and what we expect,”  assistant coach Dave Moore said of Ndoye’s improvements. “Now he lets his instincts take over.”

The 6-foot-11 center not only had his finger prints on the win over Rhode Island, but also in a win over Richmond. He also supplied 9-points against Xavier in a loss at the Cintas Center.

Ndoye has played double-digit minutes in each of the last 6 games, at least partly due to Nicholson’s recent foul trouble. 

“It’s huge especially when Andrew gets in foul trouble and we need Youssou in crunch time,” Moore said of Ndoye.” He really comes in and he’s just really active.” 

Nicholson fouling out in three of the past four games has given Ndoye the chance to gain vital experience in conference play.

“The more experience he can get, the better,” Moore said. “We’re going to rely on Youssou and we’re going to need him to be good.”

Ndoye credit’s his senior counterpart for some of his improvements.

“[Andrew’s] been helping me a lot whether it’s doing extra workouts or telling me what to do on the court,” said Ndoye.

The freshman said the coaches having confidence in him, makes him play more confidently. 

“It tells me that I can be special and I need to work harder,” Ndoye said. “When Andrew gets into foul trouble, I have to come in and step up. I’m just trying to do the best that I can do when he’s out of the game.”

The Dakar, Senegal native has improved his scoring from 1.6 points per game during non-conference play to 3.5 points per game during A-10 Conference games. 

He may not be Bonaventure’s leading scorer, but it is Ndoye’s defense that helps the Bonnies stay alive against their opponents.

“Youssou’s not the scorer that Andrew was as a freshman, but the rebounding, the shot blocking, the defense that he gives us, with his natural ability, has been huge for us,” Moore said. 

Moore leads player development for the men’s basketball team and sets goals for each player to accomplish.

So what is left for this freshman to accomplish with eight games remaining in the regular season?

“When we go big and we have size in there, we need him to be dynamite,” Moore said. “When he’s in the game we need him to rebound, run, block shots and get tip-dunks. We need all those activities and everything he can bring.” 

These days Ndoye’s trying to improve his post moves and free throw shooting during practices. 

In fact, he has scored in the last six games.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive, and I’m just getting more comfortable being on the court,” Ndoye said.

Ndoye said the Bonnies are trying to go as far as they can go while taking it one game at a time.  

With each passing game, Ndoye continues to improve, showing the potential that has fans dreaming of the possibilities.

harfmatp10@bonaventure.edu

Lee-aving Nothing Behind: Nicholson is truly one of a kind

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

In a room full of suits and ties, Andrew Nicholson donned his Bonnies tracksuit as if he had practice.

Despite it being the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Media Day, he kept his answers terse as if he had somewhere to go.

The senior forward’s day started around 9:30 a.m. Nicholson said he was exhausted from the event that took place at a Brooklyn, N.Y., hotel.

But after an hour-long flight from New York City and a 90-minute drive from Buffalo, Nicholson finally stepped onto the Bob Lanier Court. 

At around 9:30 p.m., Nicholson began shooting from outside the 3-point line, working on his perimeter game. 

“The jump shot’s not going to get better if I sleep, right?”

————————

Coach Mark Schmidt wanted to talk to the Mississauga, Ontario, recruit before Nicholson left with his parents his freshman year. 

“I told him that I wanted him to get his chemistry degree — that’s really important,” Schmidt said, “but he may not have to use it ever in his life because he has a chance to be pro.”

Nicholson said he was in disbelief that day. Prior to his freshman campaign, where he led all freshmen nationally in field-goal percentage (.602) and blocks (81), practically no one had heard of him, let alone wanted to recruit him. 

“He coached NBA players in the past, so maybe he’s right,” Nicholson said of Schmidt’s analysis. “I’m going to start working at this.”

————————

In 2011 October, I asked Nicholson to say the first word that comes to his mind after each statement:

NBA lottery pick.

“Motivation.”

NCAA First-Team All American.

“Still motivation.”

A-10 Player of the Year.

“All motivation.”

Ask those questions to the scrawny freshman who bench pressed a mere 115 lbs. and squatted 185, those confident answers would have never been said.

Now, as one of 50 players named to the John R. Wooden Award preseason list, the senior truly comprehends his skill set — and works that much harder for it.

According to GoBonnies.com, Nicholson now bench presses 300 lbs. and squats 335. In his junior year, he had 30 points and 13 rebounds against La Salle in the A-10 Championship — the highest championship totals in university history. Nicholson hit back-to-back game-winning jump shots versus Buffalo (Dec. 4) and St. John’s (Dec. 7).

But Assistant Coach Dave Moore, who primarily works with post players, said Nicholson has never let that go to his head.

Surprisingly, though not to the coaching staff, his humbleness has never waivered.

“I don’t think it’s gotten him arrogant,” Moore said of the accolades and preseason talks. “It’s like water off a duck’s back. He doesn’t worry about it.”

Moore said Nicholson was primarily a low-post player in his freshman year; as a sophomore, more of a face-up game; as a junior, his catch-and-shoot game improved dramatically to the point where Nicholson could score anywhere on the court.

“The thing about him is that (basketball) comes to him so easily,” Moore said. “You can show him something one time — and he has it. He picks up things really quickly.”

During Saturday’s unofficial men’s basketball media day on campus, Nicholson took a three with a slight fade during a live scrimmage. No hesitation, despite having 20 seconds left on the shot clock.

Nicholson said he worked on his perimeter game over the summer — and he was proud of the results. Schmidt and Moore said Nicholson worked harder than ever in his four years.

Scoring is finally second nature to Nicholson. If Nicholson sees an opening, regardless of where he is on the court, he will shoot. 

Do you think St. John’s expected Nicholson, a 6-foot-9-inch forward, to hop-step back to just inside the 3-point line to score the game-winning basket? 

“At the core of it, either kids can score the ball or they can’t,” Moore said. “And Andrew had that from day one. I don’t think he realized he had it, but he had it.”

I asked Nicholson what he thought his legacy will be after graduation. He asked for clarification on what I meant as if no one had asked him that question.

He eventually said: “Someone who helped bring the Bonnies back.”

That is his true motivation — to be that person who brought back a positive spotlight to the university.

Nicholson truly doesn’t care about his stats, his records or where he ranks among the greats.

So he shoots threes at night, after a 12-hour day of traveling and interviews. He increased his bench press weight by 160 percent since freshmen year not to look good but to have that stereotypical NBA body. 

Moore said he hopes everyone at St. Bonaventure recognizes how special this is. He said the university might never see another person like this again. 

It’s time the rest of the world gets to see that, too. 

tony.lee@theintrepid.org

Leadership + Chemistry = Success

Seniors aim to guide the Bonnies to post-season success by doing, not talking 

By Tony Lee, editor in chief, @sHecKii

Da’Quan Cook suddenly dashed away from a training session.

His teammates and the strength and conditioning coach looked confused. Everyone knew two more drills were left.

Thirty seconds later, Cook came back, but not alone. He brought a completely exhausted teammate who had his right arm perched on Cook’s shoulders. He gave the underclassman as much leverage as possible just to walk.

After making sure everyone was OK, the players got back the training session. The whistle blew, and Cook, as if he were a freshman with something to prove, finished the workout, finally resting his hands on his knees, profusely sweating, barely catching his breath. 

“I just want to be able to show the young guys what you have to do,” said Cook, who averaged 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season. “(As) far as leadership, I just want to have that good role for them, be someone that they can look up to, and push them every day.”

Last season, the Bonnies had one clear captain and leader, Ogo Adegboye, their lone senior. This season, seniors Cook, Andrew Nicholson and Michael Davenport may have to be the collective leaders.

But they don’t see that as a burden. The seniors said it’s not only a role that they want but also one they will embrace.

“The three seniors, we’re all about the positive vibes,” said Davenport, a guard who averaged 11.1 points and 1.1 steals per game last season. “You don’t have to lead by telling people what to do. You can lead by example.”

Nicholson, one of the 50 players named to the John R. Wooden Award preseason list, said he tries to build team chemistry by eating food, hanging out or studying with his teammates almost every night.

And that’s on top of two daily workouts.

“I’m working hard every day, not taking a second off,” said Nicholson, who averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season. “If I take a day off, somebody else is working that much harder.”

Dave Moore, an assistant coach, said he noticed a big change in the senior class’ leadership tendencies, especially with Nicholson.

“His freshman year, he wouldn’t say, ‘Boo’ out on the practice floor,” Moore said. “He wouldn’t communicate with anybody … Now, you can see him interacting with his teammates — like if a player is down, he’ll put his arm around him and say, ‘Hey, let’s go.’”

The Bonnies have a legitimate NCAA tournament hype this season, arguably a result of the three seniors’ contributions to the program.

Davenport said he wanted to be remembered as someone who shared the spotlight. Cook said he wanted to be remembered as a great leader. Nicholson said he is motivated to take the Bonnies as far as they can.

But all three agreed on one thing: they wanted to be remembered as teammates. 

“Soon as the junior year is over, you get a sense of urgency,” Davenport said. “It’s all or nothing. Especially with ‘Quan and Drew … We want to go out with a big bang.”

tony.lee@theintrepid.org

[Photos by Tony Lee]