Griffin brings experience and versatility to young Bonnies team

By: Isaiah Blakely 

Senior LaDarien Griffin’s St. Bonaventure career started with him averaging 0.5 points per game freshmen year. Now Griffin is the reigning A-10 co-Most Improved player of the year and is looking to carry that momentum into his senior season.

Head coach Mark Schmidt had high praise for Griffin.

“He epitomizes what we try to do at Bonaventure,” said Schmidt. “He came up as a freshman didn’t get any playing time. Most guys especially in today’s environment, they leave… He knew he wasn’t ready yet and he kept on working,” said Schmidt.

Griffin described his first three years at St. Bonaventure as “amazing”. Griffin added that there were, “A lot of ups and downs. A lot of growth on and off the court. It’s just been an amazing experience.”

Griffin averaged 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season helping the Bonnies reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team is a much younger team and is no longer led by Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. The Bonnies are projected to finish 9th in the conference this season which is much lower than their projection last season. Griffin talked about his expectations, and that the only thing that is different is the outside noise is a little easier to handle.

“They always felt the same to me I don’t really listen to other people’s expectations. I kind of go off my own and set my own highs regardless of who’s on the court with me,” said Griffin.

Griffin is looking to help the Bonnies achieve similar success to last season.

“Try to win as many games as possible. Try to get top seed in the A-10 and try to get to the tournament again,” said Griffin. “I feel like that’s everybody’s goal regardless of veteran team or young team. That’s the goal when you come into every season, so you got to work like it,” said Griffin.

Griffin spoke about what the Bonnies have to do to give themselves a chance of reaching their goal of going back to the NCAA tournament.

“Going in with the urgency. You kind of understand what it takes to get a little bit of success and just carry it on to the rest of your life and the game. And I think the urgency is the most important thing,” said Griffin.

Griffin strives to continue to help this team and he talked about what he worked on over the summer to make himself more versatile.

“Shooting. Just trying to get stronger being more versatile. I think that’s the biggest thing probably my versatility to help this team, “said Griffin.

Schmidt talked about Griffin’s versatility.

“He’s shooting the ball better now. We can do a lot of picking and popping with him now. He’s a legitimate four man,” said Schmidt. “But we can also go small like we did last year a lot. He’s long enough to be able to guard that, and he’s stronger then he appears and now we can run some ball screen stuff with him being a five man. That’s hard to guard”

Schmidt also talked about Griffin’s personality as a leader.

“He’s got that personality that he doesn’t think he’s better than anybody. He’s humble,” said Schmidt.

The Jacksonville, Florida native spoke about what it’s been like as a senior leader.

“You can’t have a lot of mistakes,” said Griffin. “You got to try to be perfect, try to do things the right way all the time. For me it’s just being more of a leader to these young guys and show them what we have to do.”

Griffin also spoke about what he wants to be remembered for when his four years are done, and it had little to do with basketball.

“With nothing I did on the court. Probably just that I was able to help other people, bring joy to others just remember me as a person as a student instead of not just the basketball player,” said Griffin.

The senior forward begins solidifying his legacy Wednesday night against the Bucknell Bisons in the Reilly Center.

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Bonnies clinch 2-seed with 12th straight win

By Isaiah Blakely

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies clinched the 2nd seed in the A-10 tournament with a win over the Saint Louis Billikens (16-15, 9-9 A-10) 64-56, Friday night at Chaifetz Arena.

The Bonnies are now 24-6 and 14-4 in conference, tied for the most conference wins in the program’s history. With a win streak of 12, they are now tied for the second longest win streak in the country only behind Murray State’s 13-game win streak. The Racers clinched the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title on Saturday night.

The Bonnies were led by  redshirt-junior Courtney Stockard. Stockard, a St. Louis native, notched a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Stockard, along with the rest of the team, struggled offensively in the first half. Stockard was 1-8 and the team only shot 39% from the field. Senior Idris Taqqee was a big factor in the first half scoring all seven of his points in that half, including a three pointer that sparked a 9-0 Bonnies run. Freshman Izaiah Brockington scored the last four points of the half to give the Bonnies a 31-25 lead.

The second half was a different story for Stockard. The redshirt-junior shot 7-10 from the field, scoring 16 points at the tail end of the game alone, including a jumper to stop an 11-0 Billikens run with 3:21 to go.

Junior LaDarien Griffin also stepped up, finishing with eight rebounds and scoring all seven of his points in the second half. Sophomore Josh Ayeni also returned to action after missing the last six games due to team suspension for disciplinary reasons .

With that win the Bonnies continue to put themselves in prime position to earn an at-large in the NCAA tournament. With a win or two in the tournament next week there’s a chance the Bonnies could lock up an at-large bid for the first time since 2000 and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

With this win streak and losses by teams in the top 25, the Bonnies could be a top 25 team heading into the conference tournament for the first time since the 1970-1971 season. For all these reasons, plus first seed URI struggling as of late, losing the last three out of five games including a loss to the Bonnies in the Reilly Center, the Bonnies enter next week as one of the favorites to win it all in Washington D.C.

The Bonnies will face off against the winner of Duquesne vs. Richmond. They won both games against Duquesne, and won their only game against Richmond. Both games against Duquesne were decided by a combined nine points and the Bonnies only beat Richmond by single digits. Neither of these teams will be an easy match up on Friday March 9th at 6:00 p.m.

Still, with a possible return to the top 25 and a win streak that matches the best, the Bonnies are in prime position to make noise next at the A-10 Tournament and ultimately make the dream of March Madness a reality.

 

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.

Summer grind seeing early returns for Griffin

By Nicholas Gallo

Junior forward LaDarien Griffin entered the 2017-18 season looking to be a key contributor for St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

So far, he’s arguably one of the top three players night-in night-out on the court.

As a sophomore, The 6-foot-6 forward played 29 games and averaged 2.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 12.3 minutes per game.

Over the summer, Griffin said he stayed up at St. Bonaventure and worked on his game. When he went home, he played with a bunch of different guys, improving his shooting and developing more of an offensive game.

That extra work has paid off thus far.

Not only has Griffin been elevated to a starting role, but he’s been one of the most consistent Bonnies on both ends of the floor.

In three games, Griffin is doing it all, averaging 8.7 points, 7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks, to go along with his 50% shooting mark.

Griffin expressed his desire to help out Bonas’ three-guard attack.

“I’m looking to take some pressure off Idris Taqqee, Matt Mobley, and Jaylen Adams,” Griffin said. “Over two years you witness an enormous number of different situations and I need to do my part.”

Griffin said he wants to contribute more on scoring, playing defense, and being a leader. He believes for the team to have a great season, it will involve defensive play and togetherness.

“For us as a team, we need to commit and play defense, learn what each other’s strengths are, and stay connected as one,” Griffin said. “I believe once we fully are connected as one then we can be a hard team to stop.”

Griffin and some of the veteran players, have helped the freshman transition onto the team. He said he’s tried to help them through “the learning process.”

Griffin knows the hype surrounding the team this season and said he’s not worried about other teams in the Atlantic-10. He said the team needs to worry about what they can control and take care of it.

“If we start watching other teams, that is when we’ll lose sight of what our main goals are,” Griffin said. “I believe we can play with any team in the country and win.”

Bonnies fall to Niagara in Heart breaker

By Jeremy Castro

When Nelson Kaputo slipped and fell with around 10 seconds remaining, causing Matt Mobley’s sixth and most crucial turnover, it almost felt like a microcosm for the entire game.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team, a team with NCAA tournament aspirations, lost the first game of their season, at home, to the Niagara Purple Eagles by the final score of 77-75.

The Bonnies were slow from the start, finding themselves only scoring ten total points within the first ten minutes of play.

Senior guard Matt Mobley led the way with 7 points, but was 2-11 from the field and 3 of those points were from the foul line. As a team, the Bonnies shot 25.9% from the field in the first half.

By halftime, the Bonnies found themselves down by nine, and by a score of 34-25.

\Head coach Mark Schmidt talked about the offensive struggles in his post-game press conference.

“We played very poor in the first half offensively,” Schmidt said. “I thought being down by 9 [points] at half time was good as we played so bad offensively.”

Coach Schmidt also described why he felt the team struggled in the first half.

“We played tight,” Schmidt said. “We had just one assist in the first half and I think we were 0-8 from three. We had some good looks; we just didn’t play the first 20 minutes the way we needed to play to beat a team of Niagara’s caliber.”

A lot of the talk before, during, and of course after the game was centered around star point guard Jaylen Adams.

Adams injured his left ankle in the team’s exhibition game last Friday against Alfred. Despite suspicions and murmurs on whether or not he would be ready for the game tonight that seem to go on all week, in the end Adams was kept out.

“He is our best player, but we are not going to make any excuses,” Schmidt said.

In the second half, the Bonnies seemed reinvigorated, scoring six quick points in about the span of a minute. However, they just never seemed able to capitalize.

Niagara’s red-shirt senior guard Kahlil Dukes lit up the Reilly Center, ending with total 23 total points on the night, and hitting 6 out of 8 three pointers.

Dukes is one of seven medal winners to return to the program from last season, and the Purple Eagles returned their entire starting five.

The Bonnies were  much better in the second half, with their field goal percentage jumping up to 50%. Not only did the team seem to have new life, but so did the fans. The Reilly Center was rocking and the crowd was back into the game. With 07:47 left in the game, Courtney Stockard hit a straight away three-point shoot which sent the crowd into a frenzy.

This was it. This is where the Bonnies would push on and finish the game out. However, it seemed every time the Bonnies responded, they’d make a mistake keeping them in the hole.

“Every time we got there (close to the lead), we just had a breakdown,” Schmidt said. – a turnover, we didn’t switch on the ball screen correctly.”

Junior forward LaDarien Griffin, who had a career high in rebounds with 10, compared the first and second half.

“(In the second half) we started playing defense,” Griffin said “We started moving the ball. Once we started getting stops and started scoring, then we started chipping at the lead, but we had too many breakdowns at the end.”

One such breakdown was the one I mentioned at the top of this article. With 12 seconds remaining, the ball is given to Matt Mobley with Bonaventure down by three. He brought the ball up the court and, looking for a give-and-go play to open him up for a three point attempt, passes it to Nelson Kaputo. Unfortunately, Kaputo slipped, fell down, and Mobley’s pass went well out of bounds, ending all hope of a comeback. After the comeback the Bonnies staged to get back into the game, it was a heart breaker. But, seeing how the game went, it was not all that surprising, especially missing their star.

“They beat us with the team we had out there,” Schmidt said. “The credit goes to them.”

The Bonnies take on Maryland East Shore at 7:00 PM on Wed. November 15th at the Reilly Center.

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: Griffin excited to be part of Bona tradition

By Allie Piergustavo

The men’s basketball class of 2019 holds a lot of potential, and freshman LaDarien Griffin is no exception. He had a remarkable high school career and is more than ready to carry that momentum into his career with the Bonnies.

The 6-foot-7 forward finished his senior year at Providence High School in Jacksonville, Fla. with a 31-1 record while averaging 12.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Griffin also won a state title for Providence his senior year, capping off a remarkable season.

“It was great for my city in general,” Griffin stated. “It brought the city together.”

Griffin also spoke highly of his AAU team, Nike Team Florida. FloridaHoops.com rated Griffin 50th in its top 100 players in the state of Florida. Max Preps also rated him sixth in the state in his position as a forward.

“Playing AAU, you had to grow up really quick because you’re not home with your mom all the time,” Griffin said. “It prepared me for college, where you’re on the road constantly.”

Griffin first heard about St. Bonaventure and its basketball program while watching the NBA draft. He then attended a few A-10 games and was impressed by what a great program it is. When asked what he’s most excited for at Bonas, Griffin stated that the energy of the Reilly Center was definitely something to look forward to. When asked what he had heard about the RC, Griffin responded that it was the “toughest place to play in America.”

“It’s really hard to play here, really hard to hear,” he added.

In his freshman year, Griffin is ready to take on the challenge. His main focus in the offseason was improving his shooting, and he hopes to make an impact for the Bonnies this upcoming season. He has a simple gameplan to make this happen.

“Just play defense. Attack the glass and finish at the basket.”