Hatred of losing drives Ayeni

By Justin Myers

For sophomore Josh Ayeni, being a better player for his team and himself was a major point of emphasis going into the season.

“(I’m focused on) just being the best player that I can be and doing my best for the team, so we can win games,” Ayeni said.

The 6-foot-8 forward is looking to build off his strong freshman campaign where he earned 24 starts and played in all 32 games. He finished sixth on the team in scoring with 6.7 points per game and averaged 2.6 rebounds.

He also scored in double figures 10 times, the most by a Bonaventure freshman in Atlantic-10 play since Andrew Nicholson’s 21 times in 2008-09.

During the off-season Ayeni worked on many things to improve his game.

“I worked on my three-point shot, consistency and just being a better rebounder” he said.

As a freshman, Ayeni worked hard to adjust to the fast pace of Division I basketball.

“I think it’s the pace of going up and down the court,” Ayeni said. “High school ball is slower and college ball is faster and more technical”.

However, one thing Ayeni didn’t have to adjust was his passion.

“I hate to lose,” he said. “I feel like that drives me to play harder every time and try to win”.

Ayeni, a native of Nigeria, grew up in a different environment compared to the United States.

“Obviously the weather is hotter than Olean,” he said. “In Nigeria, when you’re learning to play basketball they only teach big guys how to play basketball. You have to be really tall to play basketball. But in (the United States) you see little kids of all sizes learning to play.”

Ayeni came to the United States in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since.

“There’s some great people here,” Ayeni said. “it’s a great place to be.”

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Reaction: Stockard-led Bonnies embrace adversity, stun undefeated Maryland

By Josh Svetz

The Bonnies have provided enough highs and lows for a season’s worth of basketball and it’s only been four games.

Tonight was a high, but coming into the contest, most wouldn’t think so.

In fact, the Bonnies would have to overcome hard knocks to achieve any sort of high.

Hours before the game, star guard Jaylen Adams, who has yet to play or practice due to an ankle injury, was ruled out. Junior forward Courtney Stockard was probable, but limited in practice over the week.

Then, as tip-off neared, Bonas fans were left confounded when the official men’s basketball account tweeted that senior Matt Mobley, the Bonnies’ leading scorer, would not start due to being late for a team meeting.

On top of this, Bonas had to contend with the undefeated Maryland Terrapins, a top-20 defensive team featuring several bigs 6-foot-10 and taller alongside two NBA hopefuls, sophomores Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan.

The only way Bonas could hope to sneak out of this game victorious was to take advantage of the Terps’ bottom-200-ranked turnover rate, translating to a turnover every four possessions, and make this game ugly.

That’s exactly what the Bonnies did. They brought the grind to the grinders.

To start, they didn’t let the size difference affect the scoring in the first half.

Bonas deployed a 1-3-1 zone to neutralize talented freshman forward Bruno Fernando and it worked.

Fernando became agitated and frustrated early, taking his head out of the game and mounting up just two points and three rebounds in the first half. While 7-foot-1 senior Michal Cekovsky filled in nicely with nine points, two blocks and two rebounds in the first half, he just didn’t provide the same upside and athleticism of Fernando.

Bonas also capitalized on turnovers, turning eleven first half miscues into twelve points.

The scrappy effort contributed heavily, as Bonas didn’t let the Terps lead by more than four at any time in the first half.

But maybe the number one reason the Bonnies handled their business was their defense.

Forcing turnovers aside, Bonas switched beautifully on screens and closed out on the Terps’ guards. This frustrated the shooters, holding them to 1 of 10 from behind the arc and just 43 percent from the field.

Despite Mobley being held to four points in the first half, everyone else stepped up offensively, with Josh Ayeni, Izaiah Brockington, LaDarien Griffin and Courtney Stockard scoring 24 of the Bonnies’ 30 first-half points.

The Bonnies headed into the locker room down one, but with momentum on their side.

Still, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon may have summed up the situation best in his sideline interview.

“We haven’t made a jump shot, we have eleven turnovers and we’re up one,” Turgeon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

With obvious adjustments coming for the second half, the Bonnies would need to continue the defensive tenacity and get something out of Mobley to have a chance.

The Terps came out re-energized, opening the second half with a 8-2 run in the first five minutes.

Bonas needed to answer, and with Mobley’s shot not falling, he turned to the free throw line to make a contribution.

Mobley went 10 of 10 from the free throw line, six of those coming in the second half.

But with 11 minutes left, the wheels started to come off.

Down by one, Bonas gave up two three-pointers and an and-one layup in the span of three minutes, trailing 44-52 with eight minutes remaining.

But the Bonnies wouldn’t quit.

Layups by Ayeni, Mobley and Brockington cut the deficit to two, and two free throws from Stockard tied the game at 53.

However, Bonas’ three-point defensive woes reared its ugly head, as Terps’ junior Dion Wiley drained a three.

Both teams traded free throws and Mobley made a layup to make the score 59-57 with two minutes to play.

Mobley then tied the game with two free throws.

The free throw line saved the Bonnies, as 21 of their 63 total points came from the stripe.

Then, the Bonnies caught a break when the Terps’ Jackson missed an open three.

Even with the break, Mobley missed a layup but Ayeni grabbed the offensive board and drew the foul.

Ayeni handled the pressure, draining both free throws, giving the Bonnies a 61-59 lead.

An ill-advised foul by Mobley not only gave the Terps’ Cowan free throws, but also gave him his fifth foul, taking him out of the game.

With no timeouts, Stockard-the highest scorer left in the game-was forced into the spotlight, facing adversity from the tenacious Terps’ defense.

But Stockard is no stranger to adversity.

For two years he’s battled back from foot injuries that ended his season twice. Even before the game, that same type of injury limited him all week in practice. But now, with the game in his hands, this was his moment.

He handled the ball inches in front of the half-court line, cutting to the basket and going up strong to put in the game-winning layup with 3.4 seconds left.

Stockard finished the game with fourteen points.

The Terps turned the ball over and that was it. The Bonnies won, despite everyone counting them out, despite all the adversity.

Stockard scored the game-winner, despite the adversity.

The excitement of this win will be short-lived, though, as they turn around and face TCU for the Emerald Coast Classic championship tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

But as the glow remains fresh, the Bonnies carry a scrappy nature and underdog mentality, just like their leader tonight.

Bonnies face biggest test with Adams’ availability uncertain

By Josh Svetz 

Editor’s Note: News about Jaylen Adams being ruled out and Courtney Stockard playing came out after the initial posting of this article.

The show must go on.

Today the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will get its first big TV exposure of the season against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (5-0) at 9:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

While the exposure invites excitement, one question remains unanswered as game-time looms.

Star senior guard Jaylen Adams has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury he suffered in an exhibition game against Alfred.

While originally expected to be ready for the Emerald Coast Classic, Adams’ lack of practice time over the week has his status tonight in question.

Its no secret that not having Adams changes the game plan for both teams.

But, the show must go on.

If Adams sits, the Bonnies will look to deploy a three-guard lineup with junior Nelson Kaputo sliding into the point guard spot aside seniors Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee.

Projected next to the three is junior forward LaDarien Griffin and sophomore big Josh Ayeni, who didn’t start last game due to disciplinary reasons.

If Adams is out, the Bonnies will be relying heavily on Mobley’s slashing and three point shooting ability to carry them.

The Preseason All-Conference First Team selection hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 25.0 points per game (ppg), tied for 10th in the NCAA.

Along with Mobley, the Bonnies will need scoring from a combination Kaputo, Griffin and Ayeni.

Kaputo has stepped in for Adams and seems to be getting into a rhythm, improving his stats and efficiency each game.

Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Kaputo made the most of his 21 minutes scoring 15 points off 50% from the field, notching 5 steals and finishing with no turnovers in a blowout.

Griffin’s been one of the most consistent Bonnies sliding into the Dion Wright role nicely, averaging 8.7 ppg, 7 rebounds and averaging an assist,block and steal per game.

Ayeni’s had an up-and-down campaign so far, scoring 16 points against Jackson State, only to follow that up with no points, and four fouls in nine minutes against Maryland Eastern-Shore. In fact, there’s a chance the Bonnies start fellow sophomore Amadi Ikpeze instead.

In three games, Ikpeze is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds with a block a game. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Ikpeze made the most of his first start of the season scoring 4 points on 2-4 shooting with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist.

With questions about who’s going to start in the Bonnies lineup, the bench depth could also take a hit as reports say junior forward Courtney Stockard has been limited in practice all week.

On the plus side, the Bonnies may have found a new contributor in freshman forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi. “Chef” put himself on the radar in style. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, the Chef scored 21 points off 73% shooting including four threes and three steals and a block.

Of course, that was against Maryland Eastern-Shore, this is against Maryland, the level of competition couldn’t be more different.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Head Coach Mark Schmidt decides to give the freshman some added minutes.

While the Bonnies have many question marks, the Terrapins look like a sure thing.

Through five games, the Terrapins have proved to possibly be better than last season with wins over both Bonnies opponents Jackson State and Maryland Eastern-Shore, along with a convincing victory over previously undefeated Butler.

The lead man for the Terrapins is sophomore Anthony Cowan, averaging 14.0 ppg, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

NBA draft hopeful and fellow sophomore Justin Jackson has improved on every number from last season except for scoring at 8.0 ppg.

Along with Cowan, the Terrapins have two players scoring in double-figures, including 6-10 freshman forward Bruno Fernando.

The Terrapins bring pressure and use both their bigs to create turnovers on defense, while also sporting a top-20 scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.4 ppg.

With Adams, the Bonnies will have a better three point scoring team, but rust could affect the star.

Without Adams, the Bonnies will need Kaputo to pick up the slack.

Regardless of who plays, the Bonnies will need to force the Terrapins to shoot from behind the arc, as they shoot just over 37% from the triple, compared to their 52% from the field.

Turnovers could also dictate the game.

In the Terrapins closest win, the Bucknell Bison punished their bigs and set the tempo, limiting the turnovers in the first half, getting out to a 15-point lead. But in the second half, the Terrapins switched to handle the bigs and sped up the Bison’s guards, resulting in a 80-78 win over the Bison.

For Bonas, early in the year they struggled with turnovers against Niagara. To combat the Terrapins’ pressure, they’ll need to slow down the tempo and establish an inside game early to open three pointers for the guards, especially Mobley.

Opening as a nine-point underdog, its hard to tell which Bonnies team will show up tonight.

But one thing is for sure; with or without Adams, the Bonnies are in for a grind.

 

 

 

 

Ngalakulondi primed to cook the competition

By Jeff Uveino

Move over “Chef Curry,” there’s a new “chef” in basketball.

Freshman Tshiefu Ngalakulondi is ready to start his college basketball career at St. Bonaventure. “Chef,” as he goes by, is a 6-foot-6-inch small forward hailing from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Attending Proctor Academy, he averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game over his senior season in high school. He was named to the Class AA All-New England team both his junior and senior seasons.

Ngalakulondi was ranked by ESPN as the #2 recruit to come out of the state of New Hampshire this past year, and the #91 recruit out of the entire East region. He opened up about the recruiting process.

“I looked at mostly A-10 schools,” Ngalakulondi said. “I knew that this was a great league, and I knew that the team was going to be good this year so that was another reason that I chose to come here.”

Attending a preparatory high school, Ngalakulondi expressed, has made the transition from high school to college somewhat easier for him.

“It’s not too much of a difference because in high school I was living on campus, so I already had a feel for living away from home and being in that environment. So, the adjustment is not as hard,” he said.

Ngalakulondi will be looking to make a difference for the Bonnies this season, and has plenty of competitors to battle with in practice. An upperclassmen-heavy team, Ngalakulondi said that he has learned a lot from the experienced veterans on the roster.

“It’s not high school anymore,” he said. “It’s a whole new level. Bigger, stronger guys, faster guys. They’ve helped me transition over, it’s been helpful having them to look up to because they’ve been here and know what they’re doing, so they can show me the ropes.”

With many experts picking St. Bonaventure to get an NCAA tournament bid this year, the team knows that they will have to meet high expectations all season. Ngalakulondi has embraced the attention that the Bonnies have been getting from the media, but knows that they need to go out and perform.

“It’s great, it’s really something I’m looking forward to,” he said. “Predictions don’t really mean anything, you have to put in the work and that will make us accomplish our goals.”

Ngalakulondi ‘s size should play a large part in his game. Although he stands at 6-foot-6, his athleticism allows him to play like he’s 6-foot-8.

With big men Amadi Ikpeze and Josh Ayeni returning, however, Ngalakulondi will have to work to see consistent minutes during his rookie season.

“My goal is to come out with energy and help the team win however I can,” he said. “Whether its rebounding, running the floor, knocking down shots, it’s just whatever I can do to make the team win.”

Ngalakulondi offered what he thinks the Bonnies have to do in order to find success deep into the postseason.

“We just have to play together, play hard all the time, and stay out of foul trouble. If we do all of those things, we can have a really good season,” he said.

Regardless of his role this season, Ngalakulondi has a long career ahead of him at Bonaventure, and his potential begs Bonnies fans to ask, what is the ‘Chef’ cooking?

 

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: Work ethic, competitive fire fueling Ayeni

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Josh Ayeni knew what he did was wrong.

After sinking his first four shots from the field against UMass on Dec. 30, it looked like the St. Bonaventure forward was on his way to a career game.

With 7:29 left in the first, however, a freshman-against-freshman altercation led to Ayeni and UMass forward Brison Gresham being ejected from the game.

It wasn’t an ideal Atlantic 10 debut, but getting tossed provided a learning lesson for the Zaria, Nigeria native.

“I learned if I do something crazy, I’m not helping the team; instead, I’m being selfish,” he said. “Instead of being selfish, I’ve gotta calm my emotions down so I can help the team.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Work ethic, competitive fire fueling Ayeni”