Kaputo “I’m the best I’ve ever been”

For Junior guard Nelson Kaputo, not getting lost in the hype is high on his priorities.

Because of the Bonnies’ NCAA Tournament snubs the past two seasons, the team is motivated to finally get over the hump this season, especially with the tournament-level hype surrounding the team. In fact, CBS Sports ranked the Bonnies the #1 college basketball team in New York on Wednesday.

Kaputo, a 6-foot guard from Toronto, Ontario, shared his thoughts about how the team doesn’t want to get lost in the hype.

“We’ve done a great job blocking it out,” Kaputo said. “We’re focusing on what we have to do.”

The Bonnies put up good numbers on the record sheet, finishing 20-12 on the season and 11-7 in conference play; however, Kaputo expects them to perform better this season due to a new emphasis on work ethic.

“It was a great off-season for all of us,” he said. “Individually, we all have gotten better, and personally, I think I’m the best I’ve been in my life.”

He felt the biggest improvement he made during the off-season was his strength.

“I’ve put on a lot of muscle this summer, and I think that’s going to allow me to be more effective on the court, being able to come off ball screens cleaner and taking bumps better,” he said.”My all-around game is going to improve this year.”

Kaputo said living with the team helped improve their bond.

“Most of the guys lived with one another over the summer and we’ve been around each other every single day,” he said. “The only time we’re not with each other is when we go to sleep.  Most of us live in the townhouses as well, so off that strength alone, the chemistry on the team is going to keep building throughout the season.  It’s like a brotherhood being on this team, and you’re going to see that carry onto the court when we’re out there balling and having fun with each other.”

This brotherhood the team has with each other carries over into Kaputo’s relationships with some of his fellow guards and forwards. He told me about how him, Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley have been in that position of learning from the veterans and how they taught him some things as well.

He is glad that, as a junior this season, he is able to follow in the footsteps as a mentor for some of the younger guys.

“As upperclassmen on this team, that’s the position that Matt, Jaylen and I are in with the younger guys,” Kaputo said.  “We are able to teach them how to understand the system and how to compete at this level, just like the veteran guys, who were in our shoes at one point before, taught us. We understood what it took to be good before and what it takes for us to get where we want to be.”

Kaputo shows a lot of praise for the system Coach Schmidt imparts to his players, but he went over with me how the team could have done better with the system.

“Our struggle last year was figuring out how to play with each other within the system, not the system itself,” said Kaputo.  “I love the system. It’s just a matter of getting to know the guys better and know how we play.  Having a lot of returners from last year should help us with that. Coming into this year, everyone knows their role, and everyone is ready to play.”

While Kaputo shows his admiration for the system, he also shows it towards his head coach.  He told me that Mark Schmidt is a great guy and coach, who is adept to the “open door policy” with his players, knows how to “install the winning mentality into his players” so they win games and gets him playing his best.

“He’s put me in a position to be successful time and time again,” he said.  “There have been times in my career where I haven’t followed through in that position, but he tells me what I need to do to get back on the court. As a player, you want a coach that brings out the best in you, and that’s what he does.”

According to Kaputo, it sounds like Coach Mark Schmidt has command of the locker room and the support of his players to be able to lead his team to new heights this season.

“The whole team has that same picture in mind: the NCAA Tournament, and we’ve been working like it,” said Kaputo.  “I think you guys are in for quite a season.”

 

 

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Bonnies look to continue home opener winning tradition, despite questions

By Mike Hogan

As the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, one of St. Bonaventure’s most accomplished journalism graduates, stated in his article on the Bona Blog — it’s the season Bonnies Fans have been awaiting for a very long time.

The journey starts tonight in the Reilly Center at 8 p.m. against longtime rival Niagara.

Preparing To win (possibly) without Adams

One of the biggest storylines that has gotten a lot of attention this week is whether or not Jaylen Adams will play tonight vs Niagara. Adams is questionable  with an ankle injury that he sustained during the exhibition match-up against Niagara last Saturday.

Adams did not practice all week and sources say he’s been spotted on crutches, likely ruling him out for tonight.

If Adams can’t go, Junior guard Nelson Kaputo will likely get the start.

Last year, after not playing the first nine games for academic reasons, Kaputo averaged 2.0 points and 0.8 assists per game. Against Fordham last year he played 36 minutes and dished out six assists for the Bonnies. His highest scoring total came against George Mason, where he played 20 minutes and scored 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Can History Repeat Itself?

The Bonnies have won their last six meetings with Niagara dating back to 2011, including last year’s game in Buffalo where the Bonnies came away with a 79-69 victory. Tonight marks the 158th meeting between the two big 4 rivals, with the Bonnies currently leading the series by an overwhelming 88 wins to 69 losses, and the margin only gets bigger at the RC where the Bonnies hold a 53-18 record vs Niagara.

Stacking up the Squads

This year’s team brings a lot of experience to the table as the team is returning four starters and seven letter winners. While Adams is questionable for tonight, Matt Mobley will still be there to pick up the slack as the two are known to be one of the best back-court tandems in the country. The lineup will also feature other strong role players such as Idris Taqqee, Josh Ayeni, LaDarien Griffin, Nelson Kaputo, Courtney Stockard, and Amadi Ikpeze. New additions like Izaiah Brockington, Tshiefu Ngalakulondi, and Ndene Gueye will also be mixed into the action.

Niagara brings experience to the table, as the team returns all five of its leading scorers from last year’s team which finished at 10-23. While last year’s results were not desirable Niagara is also primed to have a pretty solid year as they were picked to finish in the top five of the MAAC. The guys to key on for Niagara are Matt Scott who was named to the all-preseason MAAC first-team, and senior guard Kahlil Dukes who earned second team honors. Scott lead the team in scoring, rebounding, and steals last season, while Dukes was 11th in the MAAC in scoring and hit 92% of his shots from the line.

 

Keys for victory and prediction:

 

Obviously, if Adams is indeed ruled out for this game, other guys will have to chip in and take the pressure off of Mobley. Look for guys like Stockard (who scored 20 points in last week’s exhibition), and Idris Taqqee to step up and take the scoring load off of Mobley. Overall, even without Adams, this is a game the Bonnies should be able to handle. Look for Niagara to come in and play aggressive with nothing to lose. Niagara didn’t finish well last year, but they did put up a fight against the Bonnies, and they certainly aren’t a pushover.

Five Takeaways From St. Bonaventure Vs. Alfred University

It may not have counted to their record, but the St. Bonaventure Bonnies dazzled, rolling over the Alfred University Saxons, 109-73 in an exhibition game Saturday night, at the Reilly Center.

Here are five things we can take away from the scrimmage.

1. Injuries may, as they usually do, play a factor

Senior star guard Jaylen Adams went down in the first half after appearing to roll his ankle while driving to the rim, wincing and screaming out in pain before limping off the court. He did not play the rest of the game for “precautionary” reasons. Despite how good the Bonnies may look on paper, there is no doubt that they’ll have to deal with injuries as the season unfolds, as will every team in the A-10. Limiting the extent of these injuries and dealing with the adversity they come with will be a big factor for the Bonnies to succeed this season.

2. Courtney Stockard can be a force off the bench 

Junior forward Courtney Stockard came in midway through the first half and looked comfortable despite a 32-month layoff, missing each of the last two seasons due to a foot injury. He had 20 points in 20 minutes, shooting 6-7 from the field including two three-pointers, and 6-7 from the free throw line. If he can log quality minutes off the bench and give the guards time to rest down the stretch, the Bonnies could have one of the deepest teams in the conference.

3. Free throws, free throws, free throws

The Bonnies went 27-35 from the free throw line, which works out to 77.1%. After shooting a solid 76.9% as a team from the line last season, the Bonnies hope to maintain and possibly better that number this season. Making your free throws is essential in close games, especially in the postseason. Perhaps consistency from the line could decide whether this team lives up to the hype.

4. Big man by committee

Unlike the back-court starters, which are set in stone, it is still unclear who will see the most playing time for the Bonnies at the forward position. Junior LaDarien Griffin and sophomore Josh Ayeni started Saturday night, but neither played as much as freshman Ndene Gueye, who logged 20 minutes off the bench, despite recently coming off a shoulder injury. Griffin and Ayeni each saw 17 minutes. Sophomore Amadi Ikpeze should see some playing time due to his 6-10, 250 frame. He saw 12 minutes coming off the bench. It may take a few weeks to find out who will be the starters going forward, but the Bonnies have a few options to consider, a contrast to years past.

5. Athleticism can play a huge factor.

In Alfred University’s defense, they are just a Division 3 school, but St. Bonaventure completely dominated the physical game. The Bonnies Out rebounded the Saxons 44-32, and more than doubled their points in the paint by a whopping 46-18. It will be much more difficult against Division 1 athletes, but showing signs of physicality early is a good sign for the Bonnies.

St. Bonaventure opens up its regular season Friday night at home with a 7:00 p.m. tilt vs. Niagara University.

 

Men’s basketball: Adams and Gibbs form intriguing, respectful rivalry

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

When St. Joseph’s star DeAndre’ Bembry chose to forego his senior year and enter the 2016 NBA Draft, the Atlantic 10 Conference had a first round pick for the first time since St. Bonaventure alum Andrew Nicholson in 2012.

The departure also left a void that the A-10 now has to fill. Bembry was arguably the league’s best player in each of the last two seasons, with averages of 17.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists over that time. The 6-foot-6 forward scored 30 points on VCU’s vaunted defense in March’s A-10 title game, securing SJU’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years.

When a talent like Bembry heads to the pros, a burning question formulates: Who fills his shoes as the A-10’s best player now?

A-10 Talk, a fan blog, released its rankings of the conference’s 25 best players periodically over a month span from September to early October. The site narrowed its list down to two: SBU junior guard Jaylen Adams was picked second, while Davidson senior guard Jack Gibbs was selected as the top player.

Let the Adams-Gibbs rivalry begin.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Adams and Gibbs form intriguing, respectful rivalry”

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: The day the Bona backcourt was made

(Marcus Posley and Jaylen Adams Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

In mid-April 2014, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team had work to do on the recruiting trail.

The Bona program announced on April 16 of that year that sophomores Matthias Runs and Jean Yves Toupane would be leaving the school. That gave coach Mark Schmidt and his staff two vacant slots for the 2014-15 team.

On the same day, Schmidt filled those slots- and changed the course of the Bona basketball program.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: The day the Bona backcourt was made”

Men’s basketball: Adams brothers make game-winners a family affair

(Photo Credit: Jaylen Adams (@10jadams) on Instagram

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

When St. Bonaventure sophomore guard Jaylen Adams hit the buzzer-beating three to defeat Saint Louis on Sunday afternoon, his brother Brendan was still in the first half of his high school matchup in Baltimore.

An hour later, however, Brendan would join his big bro in the game-winner department.

Brendan’s school, Calvert Hall, was on the road to face St. Frances Academy on St. France’s senior day. He had scored 24 points before his team’s final possession, but his Cardinals were down by two.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Adams brothers make game-winners a family affair”

Men’s basketball: Adams’s three-point barrage guides Bonnies over Vermont

 

(Jaylen Adams Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Every contending basketball team’s season has a game along the way that demonstrates that the early-season rust is off. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies aren’t quite in mid-season form yet, but their 80-68 victory over the Vermont Catamounts established that they’re a matchup nightmare, with Jaylen Adams leading the charge.

Adams scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including seven threes, and dished out seven assists to lift the Bonnies to their fifth win in six games. The sophomore was highly efficient, especially in the second half, when he was 4-of-5 from the field with just one turnover.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Adams’s three-point barrage guides Bonnies over Vermont”