Pro Bonnies have huge opportunity at NBA Summer League

By. Isaiah Blakely

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball program will be well represented in this year’s NBA Summer League

While, the Bonnies backcourt duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley  went undrafted, they were signed by teams. Adams was signed by the Atlanta Hawks on a two-way deal which means he will most likely be playing a lot of his games with the Hawks’ Gatorade-League (G-League) affiliate the Erie Bayhawks. Players who sign two-way contracts can spend no more than 45 days with the NBA team that signed them to a two-way deal.

Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz signed Mobley to play on their summer league team. The Jazz were one of the teams to bring Mobley in during the pre-draft process for a workout which obviously went well enough to where they wanted to take a closer look at him this summer.

Both Mobley and Adams’ pro careers start this evening in Utah and will have the chance to play each other in the last game of summer league in Utah on July 5 before the Las Vegas Summer League begins on July 6.

The Denver Nuggets signed 2016 graduate, guard Marcus Posley, who was a major contributor for the Bonnies in 2015 and 2016. While Posley also went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, he was selected in the NBA Development League (Now Gatorade League) Draft with the 22nd pick of  the second round by the Sioux Falls Skyforce, a Miami Heat affiliate. Posley averaged almost 10 points a game. This past season he played in Greece with Koroivos.

Additionally, former SBU forward Demetrius Conger, who graduated in 2013 was signed to play on the Boston Celtics summer league team. Conger has played in a variety of countries overseas including Italy, Greece and Australia, among others. He recently signed with Joventut Badalona in Spain. Conger and Posley play against each other on July 7 in Las Vegas. On July 8, playoffs begin.

All four Bonnies have an opportunity make an NBA team or at least potentially play with an NBA team’s G-League affiliate.

Adams has the most job security because he signed a two-way contract.

The Hawks summer league roster contains a lot of guards so it will be interesting to see how much time Adams gets this summer. But playing right away in summer league for Adams is not as important as it is for Mobley.

The Jazz have a few roster spots open and potentially have some availability at the guard position if guards Dante Exum and or Raul Neto (both restricted free agents) do not come back to the Jazz. Mobley should get some playing time potentially behind the Jazz’s first round pick Grayson Allen. Half of the Jazz’s roster are players from non-Power 5 conferences so you expect the Jazz to give all those guys including Mobley a fair shot to prove that they can either make their roster or make a good impression for another team and make their roster.

Posley has the potential to get a solid amount of playing time for the Nuggets because he is one of only three point guards on the roster. The Nuggets’ roster looks pretty solid right now but there could be a spot at the end of the bench for another point guard. In all likelihood Posley is looking to impress another team and show that he has improved since his rookie year in the G-League.

Conger presents an interesting case because he may be looking for an NBA roster spot or he’ll play another year overseas. Having signed with Joventut Badalona in March, if he doesn’t get offered an NBA contract Conger is most likely going back to Spain. For Conger, being on the Celtics summer league team means he’s trying out for other teams. There is one roster spot right now so it would take quite the performance from Conger or any of the players in summer league to make the Celtics roster. This summer league team is full of wing players and so there will probably be a lot of small-ball being played which will allow Conger to show off his versatility. Conger’s success oversees should ensure that he gets minutes to show off his skills against NBA players. The 6-foot-6 forward definitely has a shot to stick in the NBA being an athlete wing is a skillset that teams like.

 

With four players competing in summer league for NBA jobs, these are the times that serve as a reminder of how far the Bonnies program has come, and how it continues trending in the right direction.

 

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Former #Bonnie Conger reflects on his basketball career post graduation

By Aime Mukendi, @Sir_Aimezing

Nearly two years after being named to the Atlantic 10 All-Championship team, Demitrius Conger’s basketball career has reached new heights.

Following Conger’s May graduation from St. Bonaventure University, he worked out for a number of NBA teams — most notably his hometown Brooklyn Nets. Despite failing to make an official roster Conger had an encouraging experience.

“It was pretty fun,” Conger said. “I got to meet and see people who are in the NBA and some of the guys I worked out with got drafted.”

Among the people Conger met was former point guard and three-time NBA champion, Sam Cassell, who he spoke with one-on-one. Conger also saw Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and met with the first-year coach for the Nets, Jason Kidd. A few current players were also at workouts, including Brooklyn’s point guard Deron Williams.

Continue reading “Former #Bonnie Conger reflects on his basketball career post graduation”

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Season Of Missed Chances Ends

[St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt is in disbelief as his team Bonnies team fell to Fordham, eliminating them from the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13


ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — Everything was set up the way Mark Schmidt could have wanted. His St. Bonaventure team controlled their own destiny, win and in, as they faced off against the lowly Fordham Rams.

But this is not a movie and there is no script to follow except the one Bona made along the way.

The Rams, losers of 14 of their last 15 games, came into the Reilly Center with nothing to play for except being a spoiler. And they turned in an Academy Award winning performance, defeating the Bonnies, 76-72 in front of 4,515 fans in attendance for Senior Day.

Even with the loss, the Bonnies (14-15, 7-9) still had hope that they could sneak into the Atlantic 10 Tournament, albeit not in the way they envisioned.

“We just want to get in. That was the goal,” Mark Schmidt said after his team’s loss to Fordham. “We’ll see what happens tonight. We just want to get and hopefully that happens.”

However, Schmidt and Bona’s hopes were dashed at 8:51 p.m. as the buzzer sounded in Charlotte, officially eliminating the Bonnies from the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

A complete and stunning turnaround from last season in which the Bonnies won four out of their last five games in the regular season before winning three straight to capture the program’s first A-10 Title.

But that is a distant memory today as the facts are almost too hard to conceive.

Not only did Bona get handed a cupcake by playing Fordham (7-24, 3-13), they hosted them on their home court on Senior Day, giving themselves more momentum. The hapless Rams had not won a road game since Dec. 10, 2011 against Monmouth and their first A-10 road win since Jan. 28, 2009 when they defeated the Bonnies.

“I just think we didn’t rise to the occasion. We just came in thinking that we were going to beat the team without showing up,” Bona center Youssou Ndoye said. “Like coach said, we need to show up every night.”

Damning words about a team that graduated four seniors, three of which starters, and all important pieces to last year’s title run.

But it’s also been the story of a season filled with missed opportunities.

One shot here, one defensive stop there and the story could have been written different about this Bona squad. While many predicted this type of gloom for the Bonnies’ program following the departure of First-Round NBA Draft Pick Andrew Nicholson, it was not Nicholson whom Bona seemed to miss.

Far too often this season, Bona was outplayed in the paint or dominated on the glass. Lack of not only height in the paint, but toughness spoke loudly. While Nicholson supplied much of the scoring last year, it was Da’Quan Cook who did the dirty work.

It was Cook who would effectively shut-down another team’s big man. It was Cook who would sky for rebounds, both offensive and defensive, to keep Bona in the game. And it was Cook who refused to let the Bonnies be bullied in the paint.

Except that’s what happened all season, including last night.

“The bottom line is that we didn’t play hard enough and we didn’t rebound as a team,” Ndoye said of his teammates. “The bigs didn’t rebound and that’s what hurt as more.”

Against Fordham, Bona was out-rebounded by a 35 to 24 margin, including an absurd 19 to 6 margin in the second half.

But it didn’t stop there.

The Bonnies were out-scored in the paint by a 42 to 28 gap and lost the second-chance point battle, 21-9.

“We didn’t deserve to win,” Schmidt said emphatically. “Fordham played better. We didn’t defend them and we didn’t rebound with them. When you don’t do those two things, you are going to lose.”

Heart-breaking. Demoralizing.

Two words that Bona fans have used a lot this season and used again last night. But take those two words and the season into perspective.

St. Bonaventure’s Matthew Wright had a 3-point attempt at the end of regulation go off the side of the iron against Canisius. Chris Johnson had the same happen to him at Arkansas State. Demitrius Conger had it happen against La Salle.

The point?

Just a few inches the other way in each game and Bona could be looking at their season a lot differently. The loss of Nicholson, supposed to hinder the offense, did not happen. The Bonnies ranked fifth in the conference in scoring and second in 3-point field goal percentage.

And while Bona graduated four seniors, there is still talent left on this roster, something many did not predict once Nicholson graduated.

Photo by Daulton SherwinPhoto by Daulton Sherwin

Ndoye’s development this season was a major story-line and he saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 17 points against Fordham. The Senegal native, already a menacing force for opposing guards driving the lane, has plenty of untapped potential.

Jordan Gathers, a key player last season for his defense, saw his offensive production increase when he attempted his shot. Gather set a career-high against Richmond with 18 points, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, becoming the first Bona player in 16 years to attempt seven shots without missing.

Even Dion Wright put together a career-high performance himself with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Charlotte. The freshman always was active on both the offensive and defensive ends and once he grasps Schmidt’s playbook, he can be Conger-like in his production.

While Bona’s season ends in disappointing fashion, one must look at where this program came from. Expectations are heightened and talent is abundant because of the impact seniors like Conger and Davenport had on the program.

“It’s disappointing. I feel bad for our seniors,” Schmidt said after the game. “You never want to go out that way, losing at home in your last game.”

As one season ends, another begins, bringing with it more expectations and chance to continue build the Bonnies into a perennial contender, one shot, one defensive stop and one rebound at a time.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Receive A Boost From Gathers, Drop Duquesne

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[Charlon Kloof draws the Duquesne defense into the middle of the paint during St. Bonaventure’s 68-60 victory in the Reilly Center – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — If St. Bonaventure wants a chance to defend their Atlantic 10 Conference Championship in Brooklyn, these are the games they need to win.

The Duquesne Dukes entered the Reilly Center holding an eight-game losing streak and were the only team in the Atlantic 10 to still be winless. The Dukes also had not won in the Reilly Center since 2009, making them the perfect recipe to get the Bonnies going.

And the Brown and White certainly feasted on the Dukes, early and often, in a game that was never in doubt, winning 68-60 in front of 4,991 boisterous fans.

“I think you saw a team in St. Bonaventure that has won a championship and kind of pulled that game out down the stretch with experience and we did not,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said after his team’s ninth straight defeat.

While the Bonnies (10-10, 3-4) do have experience on their side, they also suffered a blow before the game even began when Matthew Wright was ruled out due to a left foot injury.

The junior sharpshooter had propelled Bona to two historic victories in Philadelphia with his 3-point shooting prowess. Wright went 6-for-10 from three in the victories over Temple and Saint Joseph’s and is shooting a blistering 57 percent in A-10 games, but his replacement had the answer.

“We need other guys stepping up,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said of his team. “And that’s the sign of a good team and hopefully it can continue.”

And in Wright’s absence, it was Jordan Gathers who put his stamp on the game with back-to-back buckets, seemingly turning back the clock to the player who helped the Bonnies to an A-10 title.

“Once you hit your first shot, the floor starts to open up and the basket starts to get bigger,” Gathers said after his 5-for-5 shooting night for a career-high 13 points. “I just felt comfortable out there shooting it today.”

The Los Angeles native’s outburst could not have come at a better time for the Brown and White. Duquesne (7-14, 0-7) made a conscious effort to key on Demitrius Conger and Chris Johnson, St. Bonaventure’s two leading scorers, and needed someone else to step up.

Conger was blanketed all night by the Dukes’ Kadeem Pantophlet, frustrating him to just a 2-for-8 shooting night for 11 points. To Ferry, it was the best defensive effort anyone has put on the senior out of Brooklyn.

“We did a tremendous job on Demitrius Conger, I think the best job anyone has done on him this year,” Ferry explained. “And then you get Jordan Gathers to hit three threes, and what does he have on the year now? Five, six? He hasn’t made them all year.”

And Ferry’s right.

Conger is the Brown and White’s biggest offensive weapon, making him the point of emphasis for opposing teams. But when a team has other players producing from out of nowhere, it’s the maturation of a team beginning to gel.

With unexpected production from Gathers, clutch 3-pointers from Michael Davenport and Charlon Kloof, Bona received production from everywhere they looked, a mark of a mentally tough squad stepping up when needed.

Even Eric Mosley got into the act, scoring 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

“When we’ve won we shot the ball,” Schmidt said. “Saint Joseph’s, Temple, today. We made some tough shots and when we shoot it, we have a chance to win.”

Truth be told, it’s very hard to lose when you shoot 12-for-22 from 3-point range on the game for an absurd 54.5 percent. And it’s even tougher when you dominate the boards by a 35 to 24 margin.

It’s a recipe for success and with just nine games left, four of those at home, Bona needs to win out. After suffering through the most difficult stretch of their schedule — St. Bonaventure was the only team in the A-10 to play all of the top-4 teams in the preseason poll in their first six games — the opportunity is in front of them.

While Bona still has to play some tough teams including La Salle, Butler, UMass and Charlotte — three of those are within the friendly confines of the Reilly Center.

“We had five games left in the Reilly Center and we want to be 5-0,” Schmidt said of his team’s goal. “You can’t accomplish that without being 1-0 and that was the goal today.”

If they accomplish that goal, Bona will be able to defend their A-10 title in Brooklyn. And as we’ve seen last year and this season, if the Brown and White get hot at the right time and shoot a blistering percentage from outside, they can beat anyone.

Whether they get the chance to step foot on the court at the Barclays Center will come down to defending their home court and receiving contributions from everyone — becoming the mentally tough team they have shown glimpses of being.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Face Daunting Task After Loss To Xavier

[Chris Johnson races to the hoop during St. Bonaventure’s 66-64 loss to Xavier in a Atlantic 10 Championship game rematch – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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


ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. If there was any chance for St. Bonaventure to break out of their worst funk in six years, this was the time.

A rematch of last year’s Atlantic 10 Championship game against a Xavier team that was not quite itself and was dealt a blow by having to play without Dee Davis.

And for a moment, it seemed the Bonnies would once again be able to topple perennial A-10 power Xavier when two free throws by Chris Johnson gave Bona a five-point lead with just 4:40 remaining.

But, even though the players have changed, one thing never does for Xavier — their heart. Across their chest is the name of a school that has reached seven straight NCAA Tournaments and reached the Sweet 16 in four of the last five seasons.

In other words, they have the heart of a champion.

And those Musketeers attacked St. Bonaventure with everything they had and left the Reilly Center with a come-from-behind 66-64 victory, a loss that leaves Bona gasping for air.

“There’s no embarrassment in losing that game,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said solemnly. “It’s just frustrating to be so close and not being able to make the plays at the end.”

But not making the plays at the end is becoming an alarming trend for St. Bonaventure (7-9, 0-3).

Earlier this season, Bona held a seven-point lead with seven minutes to go at Canisius and ended up losing the game on a missed final shot. The same happened at Arkansas State where Bona held a late lead to watch it evaporate in a matter of seconds.

Just one additional play made and this Bonnies season would have an entirely different vibe to it. But instead, players are left to shake their heads at what’s quickly becoming a frustrating season.

“It’s another loss. It’s another close one,” Johnson said following the loss to Xavier (10-6, 3-0). “It’s the same feeling at Canisius where we had the game at hand only to not execute down the stretch. We have to learn how to close out games.”

But if they haven’t learned yet, when will they learn?

Three games into the Atlantic 10 schedule and Bona is in the basement, looking up at a league that is a lot stronger than last season.

“Anytime you can win on the road, in this conference, it’s special,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said after his team’s win. “It’s not easy to do.”

Mack’s right about that.

From the top of the Atlantic 10 all the way to the bottom, any team can beat you. And that fact makes the rest of the season a daunting task for this Bonnies team.

While no one expected Bona to be a heavy weight once again, it also wasn’t expected to see the defending A-10 Champions taking such a precipitous fall.

Talent is all over the roster and in the past two games — two tough losses to VCU and Xavier — it’s easy for everyone to see.

“I think we’re getting better,” Schmidt said of his team on a six-game losing streak. “We got to learn how to win. We have to put ourselves in a situation where we can pull out a close game in the Atlantic 10.”

And slowly, but surely this Bona team is taking the steps to do just that.

Much like Xavier earlier this season when they lost four out five, this Bonnies squad is learning how to gel. Different players in unfamiliar roles has them learning the ABCs all over again, but they are starting to recite it.

Demitrius Conger is always a constant in the Bona offense as he tallied 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Eric Mosley always graces the scoresheet with his 3-point prowess as he finished with 13 points.

But the man in the middle made the biggest impact of all.

Youssou Ndoye will never be Andrew Nicholson, but the impact he can have on games is very Nicholson-esqe.

In a span of 13 seconds, Ndoye made sure no Xavier player would drive down the lane without looking at his rear-view mirror after two emphatic rejections brought the Reilly Center crowd to life.

“Coach told me I needed to contest shots, not to let them lay the ball up every time,” Ndoye said of his mindset. “So I kinda just wanted to be more aggressive on the defensive end.”

But the 6-foot-11 sophomore also was aggressive on offense.

Ndoye set a career-high with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting, using a hook-shot that Nicholson patented during his time in the Brown and White.

The Senegal native paced a Bona offense that shot 52.3 percent from the field, becoming just the third team to shoot over 50 percent against Xavier this year.

“He’s young, he’s still learning,” Schmidt said. “It’s still a process. He’s going to be a good player. He has a lot of room to improve, so that’s a positive.”

While Schmidt was discussing Ndoye, he might as well have said the same thing about his Bona squad.

They have talent and have proven they can compete against the top-tier teams in the A-10, but the question becomes how quickly can they change the word from compete to defeat.

For their season’s sake, it has to be sooner rather than later.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Swarm Cleveland State In A Rout

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[Demitrius Conger and St. Bonaventure race past Cleveland State in a dominating 87-53 victory – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.Fresh off of a loss at Arkansas State, St. Bonaventure took to the floor at the Reilly Center to avenge two consecutive losses to Cleveland State and what followed stunned everyone.

The Bonnies (6-3) dominated the game from the opening minute of action and overwhelmed a young, but talented Vikings (6-4) squad without their starting forward for a 87-53 victory.

But even if Anton Grady suited up, nothing would have changed.

Bona lost the opening tip and not much else. After falling behind 1-0 just 38 seconds into the game, Charlon Kloof raced up the court, nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled to complete a four-point play, putting Bona ahead for the rest of the afternoon.

“It gives our guys confidence,” Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s biggest victory since last year’s rout of Fordham. “I think they realize and see that if we rebound and defend, we can be pretty good.”

Pretty good might be an understatement. It should be scary good because that’s how this Bona team looked in front of the 3,223 fans in the Reilly Center.

Cleveland State won over 100 games over the past four seasons, but St. Bonaventure’s pressure defense, clean switches and good communication held the Vikings without a field goal for the first 9:10 of the game.

And it was a defense, one that forced 20 turnovers, that fueled an offense that scored 87 points total, a season-high.

“Defense is everything,” Schmidt said after his team scored 26 points off of turnovers. “It’s the catalyst that got us going offensively. I’ve preached it since I’ve been here, you win by playing defense.”

But when you shoot 53.6 percent for the game and have 11 different players crack the score sheet, you are also tough to deal with offensively.

Leading the way for Bona was Demitrius Conger who recorded a double-double with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

It was not a surprising effort from the co-captain. Conger routinely fills up the stats sheets and does the little things needed to win. His calmness on the court and humbleness off of it belies the talent he possesses.

However, it was Charlon Kloof’s performance that really sank Cleveland State’s hopes from the get-go. Kloof scored Bona’s first seven points of the game and ended with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

The aggressiveness that has been lacking early this season resurfaced, leaving Kloof looking more like the point guard that set a career-high in points with 18 points against Saint Joseph’s during the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

“There was going to be no way of us losing the game by not giving effort,” Kloof said after the game. “We came in the game giving effort, bringing energy. The preparation was really good.”

Perhaps no one brought more energy to the game than Michael Davenport. After struggling through the early slate of the season, not even remotely resembling the player that brought fans to their feet, the senior found the touch.

Missing an entire season surely made Davenport rusty, but he also didn’t have his trademark explosiveness — until now. Soaring high over the rim, the Cincinnati native grabbed an offensive board that led to a Bona bucket.

But he was not done.

Davenport picked off an inbounds pass, threw up the court to Matthew Wright as he drained a buzzer-beating jumper before half. And nothing created more excitement than seeing the senior soar through the air for his trademark dunk.

“Losing the last two games that we played against them, it was kind of like payback,” Davenport said. “That was the theme. Coach Moore preached payback all week and that’s something coach Schmidt elaborated on. We wanted to get that bad taste out of our mouths.”

The bad taste is out of their mouths now and it’s replaced instead with a swagger, especially when in the confines of the Reilly Center. Bona has now won 20 out of their last 22 home games, creating an aura that has been missed.

But they are also confident because of the depth they have. image

Four players scored in double-digits, including a career day for Youssou Ndoye. The sophomore forward recorded 13 points on 3-for-4 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds — both career-highs.

Ndoye routinely changed the Vikings’ shot attempts by just his mere presence and to highlight his impact, he recorded two blocks and picked up three steals.

Even Dion Wright got into the action with a perfect 3-for-3 shooting day for nine points, including a corner three. Cleveland State lost by 34 points even after holding Bona’s leading scorer — Chris Johnson — to just two points on the afternoon.

It was not lost on Vikings’ head coach Gary Waters.

“They got a good team, guys,” Waters said to the media of the Bonnies. “They’re going to compete in the Atlantic 10. They just have to believe in themselves and they will compete.”

Waters is right.

This Bona team is talented enough to compete in the Atlantic 10. Their 34-point victory against CSU will turn heads but to keep that attention, Bona needs to consistently bring their best, something we haven’t seen from the Brown and White.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

Behind The Wolfpack: Bona Defense Leads To Victory Over Siena

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[The St. Bonaventure Bonnies cruised to a 58-43 win over Siena, forcing them into 17 turnovers – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure may have the talent to score at will prompting cheers from the fans in the Reilly Center but in last night’s game against Siena, all they heard was the clank of the rim.

The ball clanked, banged and hit the rim a total of 37 times as the Bonnies only shot 35.1 percent from the field, yet they defeated Siena 58-43 to retain The Franciscan Cup for the third consectuive year.

How is that possible?

Because this team knows how to play defense. In fact, over the final 8:09 of the second half, the Bonnies (5-2) held Siena (2-7) to just three points the rest of the way.

“This is the prime example of stressing to your team that defense has to be the staple,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said following the lowest amount of points his team surrendered since Nov. 20, 2009. “Offense is fickle. Jump-shooting is fickle. If you defend and take care of the basketball, you have a chance to win.”

An offense being fickle would be an understatement for this night.

It seemed for much of the game, Bona was so inept offensively that they couldn’t hit net if it fell on top of them. And knowing full well it was one of those nights that threatened to put basketball back into the 1920s, Charlon Kloof took control of the defense.

In his second season with St. Bonaventure, Kloof has shown the shut-down ability he has on defense. Much like Darelle Revis does in the NFL, Kloof does on the basketball court.

With his long arms, quick feet and determination, Kloof routinely shuts down the opposing team’s best guard.

“He has a gift,” Schmidt said after Kloof held Siena’s Evan Hymes to 5 points on just 2-for-10 shooting. “He has that mentality. He wants to be a stopper. When we play good defense, it starts at the point guard position.”image

And it’s the willingness to take on the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best player that fueled Kloof’s desire to play basketball in the states.

“The first reason I came to America was because of all the great guards,” Kloof said after his 8-point, two assists and two steal effort. “I enjoy it. I enjoy slowing them down.”

But Kloof had help on the defensive side of the ball. Seven different Bona players recorded a steal on the night — Bona had eight in total — with Jordan Gathers being a spark plug off the bench.

Even though the sophomore guard played just 13 minutes, he was able to record a steal and force Siena into a turnover off of an inbounds trap play.

“They’re a great defensive team,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said after his team’s 17 turnover effort. “They played us well, forced us into mistakes. We knew going in they were a good defensive team.”

But you can’t win without scoring and Bona’s senior captain took care of that with a stat-sheet stuffing of a night.

Demitrius Conger shot just 4-for-11 from the field, but he was able to rack up 14 points, grab eight rebounds, dish out four assists, block two shots and topped it all off with one steal.

Conger put his importance to the team on display in the nationally televised game, showcasing how he can affect the game in many different ways as he played the full 40 minutes.

While the team has confidence in their senior leader, having a defense that can win games also helps.

“I told the guys in the locker room that we shot 2-for-20 from 3-point range and still won by 15,” Schmidt said. “Each year you are going to have nights where you don’t shoot the ball well and the good teams win those games because they defend.”

On their two poorest shooting nights of the season, at Cornell where they shot just 41 percent and against Siena, Bona earned victories.

Luckily for the Bonnies, there is no BCS system in college basketball. They don’t have to be pretty, you just have to get the win. And with a defense that never relents, Bona can have the confidence to know they can overcome the most tragic of offensive performances.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Rally Late To Defeat Buffalo

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[Demitrius Conger races down the court for a dunk after a steal, helping St. Bonaventure to a 82-79 win over Buffalo – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – Chris Johnson stepped up to the free throw line and attempted a foul shot, but the ball slipped out of his hands, prompting a referee’s whistle to blow.

A lane violation.

Johnson then missed his next attempt and suddenly the Reilly Center had a pin stuck in its balloon. It seemed St. Bonaventure was on their way to another crushing loss, but with 1:20 remaining and trailing by three, Demitrius Conger made a big-time play.

Conger read an ill-fated pass from the Bulls Will Regan and took it down the court for a slam inciting a near riot from the 4,485 fans in the Reilly Center.

“I looked at the play and I just tried to anticipate it,” Conger said after his huge steal and dunk. “And luckily he threw it.”

But Bona was not in the clear yet.

They still trailed by one with 1:03 remaining and that’s when Matthew Wright locked in on defense, jabbed at the ball and came away with another steal.

He immediately raced up the court, pursued by two Bulls (2-7) defenders, and put Bona up by one, 80-79.

The Reilly Center literally began to shake in celebration. And following a timeout, Conger picked up another theft, clinching the victory.

Facing a bleak scenario, the Bonnies (4-2) leaned on their failure to win at Ohio and defeated the Bulls 82-79 in dramatic fashion.

“They’re an outstanding team,” Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said of the Bonnies. “They’re a really energetic team that plays hard. He’s got a good team.”

And that is the key word – team.

No longer is this Bona squad a one man show, but instead they have multiple players who can beat you on any given night. Against the Bulls, nine Bona players made a dent on the score sheet, including four who reached double-digits.

“That’s how we’re going to win, we’re going to do it collectively,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said of his team. “It’s going to be a different guy every night.”

On this night, no one’s star shined brighter than the senior captain.

Conger’s talents have flickered across stat sheets before – the near triple-double against UMass comes to mind – and it did so again.

While he scored a team-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, his best output of the season, it was the calmness he displayed in the final minute that set him apart.

When the team looked to be on the verge of imploding, he took control and breathed some life into his battle-scarred teammates. And the team responded, especially Wright.image

“Coach always gets on me for jogging my lane,” Wright said after his 11-point effort on 5-for-10 shooting. “I sprinted ahead and (Marquise) found me.”

And the Bonnies surely did a lot of sprinting.

Each time they had a chance, they raced down the court to a tune of 23 fast break points – a season high. Bona players are also wanted for theft after picking the Bulls’ pockets for 12 steals resulting in 21 points off of turnovers.

But there is still a glaring weakness in this team. After finishing last season ranked 13th in the nation in free throw percentage, they shot just 57.9 percent from the line (22-for-38) on the night.

“When the first guy goes up there and misses two, it becomes contagious,” Schmidt said of his team’s struggles. “We’re going to continue to work on it, but we have good shooters.”

Luckily for the Bonnies, winning is also contagious. And with an unselfish approach on offense, lockdown defense and a gritty attitude, this Bona squad can continue to pile on the wins anyway they can.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu