Men’s basketball: Counting down Denzel Gregg’s 12 best games in the Reilly Center

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Tomorrow afternoon marks St. Bonaventure senior forward Denzel Gregg’s last regular season game in the Reilly Center. Bonnies fans have watched Gregg develop from an athletic wing off the bench, to the Atlantic 10’s Sixth Man of the Year to the team’s No. 3 scoring option.

The Syracuse, N.Y. native has scored 464 of his 788 career points, grabbed 279 of his 518 career rebounds and recorded 80 of his 135 career blocks at home. He’s always played his best basketball on Bob Lanier Court.

Before No. 12 plays in the Reilly Center for his last scheduled time, here’s my list of his 12 best games there to date:

12. The Debut. Gregg scored just two points in his first official game in the RC, but had eight rebounds to establish himself as a good rebounder early in a win over South Dakota.

“I thought Denzel Gregg was a big plus for us, coming off as a freshman,” SBU coach Mark Schmidt said, before joking, “I can just imagine, you know, 50 years ago, well probably not 50 years ago, when I was a freshman.

“Going in and trying to play, the lights are on and you’re a little bit nervous, a lot nervous. But he was a big plus for us.”

11. Grand finale. Not many remember that Gregg originally committed to Fordham before being released from his letter of intent and becoming a Bonnie. In his sophomore year regular season finale, he scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in a 66-52 win over the Rams. In one of just six starts that year, he made four of his eight attempts from the field.

“I thought Denzel kept us in the game a little bit in the first half,” Schmidt remarked.

10. Strong postseason showing. The Bonnies suffered a disappointing opening-round NIT loss to Wagner, but Gregg was one of five scorers in double-figures in his first postseason tournament. With 10 points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals, he produced a solid final junior year stat line.

9. Battle of the Syracuse natives. On Homecoming 2016, Gregg and fellow Syracuse native Tyler Cavanaugh faced off. Both players put up good numbers, but the Bonnies prevailed with a 64-57 win. Gregg scored 11 points, corralled eight boards and blocked two shots as SBU earned win No. 17.

8. First double-double. Gregg scored 15 points and tallied 11 rebounds in the 2015-16 season opener, a win over Binghamton. It was his first career double-double as he went 6-of-12 from the floor and also blocked four shots as well.

Schmidt called Gregg a “spark” in the narrow 63-53 decision.

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Men’s basketball: Gregg enters senior year with chip on his shoulder

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By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst

It’s a hard pill to swallow to be left out of the NCAA Tournament.

But, while it still stings even eight months later, senior forward Denzel Gregg and the 2016-17 St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team plan on using it as motivation.

“That’s a goal every year, to get to the NCAA tournament,” Gregg said. “If you don’t have a chip on your shoulder, then you don’t love it. So, I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. It’s not spite. It’s just another motivation and (I’m) ready to get back out there and do it again.”

With the tournament in mind as motivation, the Syracuse native is coming off a career season that earned him Atlantic 10 Co-Sixth Man of the Year honors, averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Now, with the loss of Dion Wright to graduation, Gregg will be expected to be on the front lines this season, and St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt is expecting nothing less that a solid performance from his senior forward.

“He really dedicated himself and committed himself (last year) and had a great year,” said Schmidt, who discussed Gregg’s transition as a player.

“His first two years, he wasn’t really committed to being a player,” he continued. “He was really athletic and was a guy that just got by on his athleticism. But I think the light went on last summer and he knew that this is just not an athletic game, it’s a skill game….so, this year, he’s gotta take the next step. Now, he’s coming from a guy who came off the bench to someone who’s starting the game. He’s gotta be a guy who brings it every night.”

“Coach Schmidt is a real straightforward guy,” said Gregg regarding his head coach. “There’s no secret to it. You gotta work. Guys who work get it done.”

Gregg also noted the importance not only of Schmidt, but of the coaching staff and program as a whole.

“That’s what our program does,” Gregg said. “They coach us more, they keep me in the gym and make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. They’re always straight forward with me, they’re honest and that’s what you need as a player. It’s easy to have a coach who can tell you what you do well, but you need a coach who can tell you what you do wrong.”

Through the help of the coaching staff, Gregg is just simply looking to get better and to expand upon his career season.

“I just wanna continue to get better,” said Gregg. “This program has a history of guys who get better every year and over my career I’ve gotten better and my numbers have improved so I just have to make sure I’m continuing to get better.”

 

 

Basketball: Notes from Big 4 Media Day

(Photo Credit: @BonniesMBB Twitter account)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Some news and notes from Big 4 Basketball Media Day on Wednesday:

Throwing it back: Fans participated in a vote over the summer to determine which throwback uniforms Bonaventure, Buffalo, Canisius and Niagara would wear in the Big 4 Classic doubleheader on December 17.

The 1969-70 Final Four jerseys were the presumptive favorites, leading for much of the poll, so consider this one an upset: SBU is wearing the uniforms from its 1976-77 NIT championship year. Since this is the 40th anniversary of that season, it’s fitting that these are the threads the team is going with.

Five Bonnies make All-Big 4 teams: Media members voted junior point guard Jaylen Adams player of the year on the men’s side, while senior forward Denzel Gregg and junior guard Idris Taqqee were picked for the second team. Junior guard Mariah Ruff was selected to the women’s first team and redshirt senior forward Gabby Richmond made the second squad.

Schmidt to play nine: Coach Mark Schmidt called depth “so overrated” in a Bona Blog Q&A earlier this week, and he stated on Wednesday that he was going to have a nine-man rotation. He thinks one of the benefits will be competitive practices.

“We’re gonna play nine guys, so they’ll be three or four guys that don’t play,” he said. “The more the competition, the better the players. If you come to practice knowing you have a spot, it’s human nature (that) you won’t work as hard. I think competition drives you, and that’ll be a positive for our team.”

Moving on up front: Schmidt didn’t mention outgoing transfers Jordan Tyson and Derrick Woods by name when he was asked about replacing them. He did, however, seem confident in newcomers like David Andoh, Josh Ayeni, Amadi Ikpeze and Chinonso Obokoh.

“We lost like six points and three rebounds on the two kids that left,” he said. “So hopefully the guys that we’ve brought in can do that and do more. But it’s yet to be determined; we’ve just done individual (workouts).”

Andoh injury update: Andoh, a senior forward, underwent foot surgery in August, but is expected to be ready for the season.

“He started running,” Schmidt noted. “He’s out of the boot and his whole thing’s gonna be getting in shape. I think his foot is now healthy… but as (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick says, I’m not a doctor, I’m a coach.”

Adams after Adidas Nations: After Adams participated in the Adidas Nations Showcase in July, Schmidt said he has more confidence and the program has some more prestige.

“I think he was (picked) the eighth best player out there; I don’t know who votes,” Schmidt said. “But it gives him added confidence and I think it does a lot for a program too… It gives us credibility, it shows that we can get that caliber of a player and it shows our players that Jay wasn’t heavily recruited, but if you have a great work ethic you can be really successful at Bonaventure.”

Obokoh expectations: Obokoh, a grad transfer from Syracuse, is projected to start at center for SBU. Schmidt thinks he could play 25 minutes a game.

“It’s still a process for him, but we’ve got a veteran guy with some strength that can rebound and play defense,” Schmidt said. “You have to be determined, and he’s doing well so far but we haven’t started practice yet. He’s a fourth-year senior, so he’s been through it even though he didn’t play a lot at Syracuse. He’s practiced against really good players, so we’re hoping he’s gonna be a big part of our success this year.

“You don’t bring in a transfer to sit him on the bench. Our expectations are for him to be a productive player.”

Reilly Renovations: As work continues to finish the renovations on the roof, floor and scoreboard in the Reilly Center, the team has been doing individual workouts in the campus’s Richter Center exercise facility.

“We haven’t had the court for the first month, which you always want to practice on your own court,” Schmidt said. “But it’s something we have to deal with and the court looks great. If we had to not practice there for a month and have those renovations done, it’s more important to get those renovations.”

Schmidt on the state of Bona Nation: “It’s tremendous. I said it when I first got the job here, the great thing about Bonaventure basketball is the passion of the fans and the bad thing about St. Bonaventure is the passion of the fans… it’s a cult in a positive sense. There’s just such a love for the school and a love for the basketball program.”

 

 

Men’s basketball: Gregg honored with Co-Sixth Man of the Year Award

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By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Despite starting just two games in the regular season, St. Bonaventure junior forward Denzel Gregg averaged 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and a block in Atlantic 10 play. He also shot 47.2 percent from the floor.

That production as the first man off the bench was recognized on Tuesday, when the Syracuse, N.Y. native was selected as the A-10 Co-Sixth Man of the Year. He shared the award, which is voted on by the league’s coaches, with UMass guard Jabarie Hinds.

Gregg is the first Bonnie to be named Sixth Man of the Year, an honor the conference started awarding in the 1996-97 season.

“It’s a blessing,” Gregg said. “Thanks to the coaches for giving me opportunities; it was just a really nice honor.”

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Men’s basketball: Gregg downplays Syracuse homecoming, talks improvement

(Photo credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

St. Bonaventure junior forward Denzel Gregg is returning to his hometown of Syracuse tonight when the Bonnies take on the Orange at the Carrier Dome, but he doesn’t expect or want the bells and whistles.

“I’m just trying to do my best to treat it like any other game,” he said. “Obviously I’ll have a lot of family there, but I’m just preparing the same way I would for anybody else… I’m just trying to calm down the hype a little and focus on the game.”

It has been five years since one of the most athletic players the Atlantic 10 conference has to offer last played an official game for school in his hometown. Gregg spent his first two years of high school at Nottingham High School, three miles away from the Dome, before moving on to Oakdale, Conn. to play prep ball for St. Thomas More School.

One aspect that the 6-foot-7 Gregg has made marked improvements at has been his maturity. If this game had taken place last season, he would not have been able to play due to a six-game suspension for a violation of team rules. A year later, the young junior who just turned 20 last month, had time to reflect on his growth since he was forced to sit.

“I was young, I made some mistakes, but I learned from them and won’t make them again so that’s why we’re here now.”

That new-found maturity also helped Gregg deal with the departure of the two players he came into the program with, Jalen Adams and Xavier Smith. Both players transferred due to a desire for more playing time, Adams going to Mott Community College back home in Michigan and Smith going to Tarleton State University back in Texas.

“It’s tough, obviously; we were real close,” said Gregg. “But they had to make the choice that was best for them, and I respect it. We still talk, we’re still cool and everything so it’s not really a big deal.

“You make new friends, you get new teammates and you develop new relationships, so it’s not really hard, but it’s sad that they left.”

Over the summer, Gregg took his talents to Indianapolis to train with Nike basketball’s Chris Thomas, who has trained the likes of LeBron James, Vince Carter and Amar’e Stoudemire. The twice-a-day regimen included conditioning, cardio and, of course, basketball drills.

“It was fun. I had a good time, met a lot of people and made a lot of connections out there,” said Gregg. “I’ll be going back next summer, and I kind of miss it. I had a real good summer and got a lot better.”

The summer grind Gregg was put through has helped him with the new small-ball St. Bonaventure offense that places an emphasis on pushing the tempo and scoring as quickly as possible. Bonaventure’s coaches ran the players ragged the entire preseason to prepare for the run-and-gun offense that is still a work in progress.

You can count the Bonnies’ no. 12 as a fan of the new offensive scheme.

“It’s tiring, but I got in shape,” Gregg said. “I like to play in transition anyways, so it’s cool, I like it. I like it more than what we played last year.”

If Bona is to win at the Carrier Dome for the first time ever, the team will have to be sound on both sides of the ball. The brown and white head into this one as nine and a half-point underdogs, but the focus is on shooting and defending, not the Las Vegas line or the 3-23 all-time record against the Orange.

“We have to shoot the ball really well and really focus on defending,” Gregg said. “They’re big, they’re long and they’re good players, so it’s really going to be about being able to defend and shoot the ball against that (2-3) zone.

“Everyone wants to be down in history for something. To be one of four (Bona teams to beat Syracuse) would be great.”

Tipoff between the Bonnies and Orange is set for 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. The game is available on MSG Plus in New York and ESPN3.com and WatchESPN outside of the state.

 

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.