[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]
By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13
Allen Iverson may have given practice a bad name, but it’s where most college basketball players improve each season, and that’s exactly what Matthias Runs has in front of him.
Last week, the NCAA ruled the 7-foot forward from The Netherlands was ineligible to play this coming season, but he would be able to practice with the team. The experience he will gain is going to be immeasurable.
“It’s critical,” Bonnies assistant coach Dave Moore said about Runs’ practicing. “You are going up against a guy that is bigger and stronger then you every day, so you’re either going to die or get better. We’re excited that Matthias is going to be able to practice and develop with us.”
Developing players outside of games is nothing new to the Bona coaching staff. Last season witnessed the immediate growth of two freshmen — Jordan Gathers and Youssou Ndoye.
Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt always states that the best thing about freshman is they become sophomores, but he saw both of his freshmen take significant strides during the course of the season.
And the foundation for both of their success came down to the hours spent during practice.
For Ndoye, it meant going toe-to-toe with future first-round NBA draft pick and Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson.
“Youssou really took it as a challenge and got better and better every day,” Moore said of the energetic big man. “You saw the results at the end of the season with the contributions he made.”
Ndoye, following a rocky beginning to the season in which he was plagued by foul trouble, showed his true ability when he took over an overtime game against University of Rhode Island for a critical victory.
In the game’s final 77 seconds, Ndoye dunked, drew a charge, blocked a shot and grabbed the game’s final rebound.
Ndoye’s trajectory is exactly what Moore and the rest of the Bona coaching staff has in mind with Runs.
“Those guys (in the Canarias Basketball Academy) know how to work,” Moore said of where Runs played last season. “They are already used to being worked as hard as they can, so it helps shorten the learning curve.”
Demitrius Conger, the Bonnies leading returning scorer, said being able to practice is key for the European big man.
“For him coming over from Europe, it’s a really different game, but to have that year to get ready helps,” Conger said.
Runs agreed, saying he has already seen the differences.
“It’s way more physical,” Runs said of what he’s experienced. “I’m bruised up every time I’m getting off the court.”
But Moore said the Bonnies latest CBA import has what it takes to be special.
“There is not too many people on the planet his size that can move the way he can move,” Moore said of Runs’ natural ability. “It’s exciting to be able to work with.”
While Runs needs to get stronger, the excitement around the coaching staff about the talent he possesses and the work he puts in can lead to greater success.
“We want him to be a pro,” Moore said of Runs.
If that happens, then St. Bonaventure fans will have even more reasons to cheer in the coming years and help warm up those long and harsh winters in Western New York with victories.