Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Season Of Missed Chances Ends

[St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt is in disbelief as his team Bonnies team fell to Fordham, eliminating them from the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — Everything was set up the way Mark Schmidt could have wanted. His St. Bonaventure team controlled their own destiny, win and in, as they faced off against the lowly Fordham Rams.

But this is not a movie and there is no script to follow except the one Bona made along the way.

The Rams, losers of 14 of their last 15 games, came into the Reilly Center with nothing to play for except being a spoiler. And they turned in an Academy Award winning performance, defeating the Bonnies, 76-72 in front of 4,515 fans in attendance for Senior Day.

Even with the loss, the Bonnies (14-15, 7-9) still had hope that they could sneak into the Atlantic 10 Tournament, albeit not in the way they envisioned.

“We just want to get in. That was the goal,” Mark Schmidt said after his team’s loss to Fordham. “We’ll see what happens tonight. We just want to get and hopefully that happens.”

However, Schmidt and Bona’s hopes were dashed at 8:51 p.m. as the buzzer sounded in Charlotte, officially eliminating the Bonnies from the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

A complete and stunning turnaround from last season in which the Bonnies won four out of their last five games in the regular season before winning three straight to capture the program’s first A-10 Title.

But that is a distant memory today as the facts are almost too hard to conceive.

Not only did Bona get handed a cupcake by playing Fordham (7-24, 3-13), they hosted them on their home court on Senior Day, giving themselves more momentum. The hapless Rams had not won a road game since Dec. 10, 2011 against Monmouth and their first A-10 road win since Jan. 28, 2009 when they defeated the Bonnies.

“I just think we didn’t rise to the occasion. We just came in thinking that we were going to beat the team without showing up,” Bona center Youssou Ndoye said. “Like coach said, we need to show up every night.”

Damning words about a team that graduated four seniors, three of which starters, and all important pieces to last year’s title run.

But it’s also been the story of a season filled with missed opportunities.

One shot here, one defensive stop there and the story could have been written different about this Bona squad. While many predicted this type of gloom for the Bonnies’ program following the departure of First-Round NBA Draft Pick Andrew Nicholson, it was not Nicholson whom Bona seemed to miss.

Far too often this season, Bona was outplayed in the paint or dominated on the glass. Lack of not only height in the paint, but toughness spoke loudly. While Nicholson supplied much of the scoring last year, it was Da’Quan Cook who did the dirty work.

It was Cook who would effectively shut-down another team’s big man. It was Cook who would sky for rebounds, both offensive and defensive, to keep Bona in the game. And it was Cook who refused to let the Bonnies be bullied in the paint.

Except that’s what happened all season, including last night.

“The bottom line is that we didn’t play hard enough and we didn’t rebound as a team,” Ndoye said of his teammates. “The bigs didn’t rebound and that’s what hurt as more.”

Against Fordham, Bona was out-rebounded by a 35 to 24 margin, including an absurd 19 to 6 margin in the second half.

But it didn’t stop there.

The Bonnies were out-scored in the paint by a 42 to 28 gap and lost the second-chance point battle, 21-9.

“We didn’t deserve to win,” Schmidt said emphatically. “Fordham played better. We didn’t defend them and we didn’t rebound with them. When you don’t do those two things, you are going to lose.”

Heart-breaking. Demoralizing.

Two words that Bona fans have used a lot this season and used again last night. But take those two words and the season into perspective.

St. Bonaventure’s Matthew Wright had a 3-point attempt at the end of regulation go off the side of the iron against Canisius. Chris Johnson had the same happen to him at Arkansas State. Demitrius Conger had it happen against La Salle.

The point?

Just a few inches the other way in each game and Bona could be looking at their season a lot differently. The loss of Nicholson, supposed to hinder the offense, did not happen. The Bonnies ranked fifth in the conference in scoring and second in 3-point field goal percentage.

And while Bona graduated four seniors, there is still talent left on this roster, something many did not predict once Nicholson graduated.

Photo by Daulton SherwinPhoto by Daulton Sherwin

Ndoye’s development this season was a major story-line and he saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 17 points against Fordham. The Senegal native, already a menacing force for opposing guards driving the lane, has plenty of untapped potential.

Jordan Gathers, a key player last season for his defense, saw his offensive production increase when he attempted his shot. Gather set a career-high against Richmond with 18 points, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, becoming the first Bona player in 16 years to attempt seven shots without missing.

Even Dion Wright put together a career-high performance himself with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Charlotte. The freshman always was active on both the offensive and defensive ends and once he grasps Schmidt’s playbook, he can be Conger-like in his production.

While Bona’s season ends in disappointing fashion, one must look at where this program came from. Expectations are heightened and talent is abundant because of the impact seniors like Conger and Davenport had on the program.

“It’s disappointing. I feel bad for our seniors,” Schmidt said after the game. “You never want to go out that way, losing at home in your last game.”

As one season ends, another begins, bringing with it more expectations and chance to continue build the Bonnies into a perennial contender, one shot, one defensive stop and one rebound at a time.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Swarm Cleveland State In A Rout


[Demitrius Conger and St. Bonaventure race past Cleveland State in a dominating 87-53 victory – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]


By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.Fresh off of a loss at Arkansas State, St. Bonaventure took to the floor at the Reilly Center to avenge two consecutive losses to Cleveland State and what followed stunned everyone.

The Bonnies (6-3) dominated the game from the opening minute of action and overwhelmed a young, but talented Vikings (6-4) squad without their starting forward for a 87-53 victory.

But even if Anton Grady suited up, nothing would have changed.

Bona lost the opening tip and not much else. After falling behind 1-0 just 38 seconds into the game, Charlon Kloof raced up the court, nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled to complete a four-point play, putting Bona ahead for the rest of the afternoon.

“It gives our guys confidence,” Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s biggest victory since last year’s rout of Fordham. “I think they realize and see that if we rebound and defend, we can be pretty good.”

Pretty good might be an understatement. It should be scary good because that’s how this Bona team looked in front of the 3,223 fans in the Reilly Center.

Cleveland State won over 100 games over the past four seasons, but St. Bonaventure’s pressure defense, clean switches and good communication held the Vikings without a field goal for the first 9:10 of the game.

And it was a defense, one that forced 20 turnovers, that fueled an offense that scored 87 points total, a season-high.

“Defense is everything,” Schmidt said after his team scored 26 points off of turnovers. “It’s the catalyst that got us going offensively. I’ve preached it since I’ve been here, you win by playing defense.”

But when you shoot 53.6 percent for the game and have 11 different players crack the score sheet, you are also tough to deal with offensively.

Leading the way for Bona was Demitrius Conger who recorded a double-double with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

It was not a surprising effort from the co-captain. Conger routinely fills up the stats sheets and does the little things needed to win. His calmness on the court and humbleness off of it belies the talent he possesses.

However, it was Charlon Kloof’s performance that really sank Cleveland State’s hopes from the get-go. Kloof scored Bona’s first seven points of the game and ended with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

The aggressiveness that has been lacking early this season resurfaced, leaving Kloof looking more like the point guard that set a career-high in points with 18 points against Saint Joseph’s during the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

“There was going to be no way of us losing the game by not giving effort,” Kloof said after the game. “We came in the game giving effort, bringing energy. The preparation was really good.”

Perhaps no one brought more energy to the game than Michael Davenport. After struggling through the early slate of the season, not even remotely resembling the player that brought fans to their feet, the senior found the touch.

Missing an entire season surely made Davenport rusty, but he also didn’t have his trademark explosiveness — until now. Soaring high over the rim, the Cincinnati native grabbed an offensive board that led to a Bona bucket.

But he was not done.

Davenport picked off an inbounds pass, threw up the court to Matthew Wright as he drained a buzzer-beating jumper before half. And nothing created more excitement than seeing the senior soar through the air for his trademark dunk.

“Losing the last two games that we played against them, it was kind of like payback,” Davenport said. “That was the theme. Coach Moore preached payback all week and that’s something coach Schmidt elaborated on. We wanted to get that bad taste out of our mouths.”

The bad taste is out of their mouths now and it’s replaced instead with a swagger, especially when in the confines of the Reilly Center. Bona has now won 20 out of their last 22 home games, creating an aura that has been missed.

But they are also confident because of the depth they have. image

Four players scored in double-digits, including a career day for Youssou Ndoye. The sophomore forward recorded 13 points on 3-for-4 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds — both career-highs.

Ndoye routinely changed the Vikings’ shot attempts by just his mere presence and to highlight his impact, he recorded two blocks and picked up three steals.

Even Dion Wright got into the action with a perfect 3-for-3 shooting day for nine points, including a corner three. Cleveland State lost by 34 points even after holding Bona’s leading scorer — Chris Johnson — to just two points on the afternoon.

It was not lost on Vikings’ head coach Gary Waters.

“They got a good team, guys,” Waters said to the media of the Bonnies. “They’re going to compete in the Atlantic 10. They just have to believe in themselves and they will compete.”

Waters is right.

This Bona team is talented enough to compete in the Atlantic 10. Their 34-point victory against CSU will turn heads but to keep that attention, Bona needs to consistently bring their best, something we haven’t seen from the Brown and White.

Ndoye’s Improvement Bodes Well For The Bonnies

[Youssou Ndoye soars for a dunk last season against Rhode Island – Photo courtesy of]

By Joseph Phelan, Assistant Sports Editor, @jphelan13

After losing the production of Andrew Nicholson and Da’Quan Cook from last year’s team, St. Bonaventure turns to Youssou Ndoye to supply the force inside.

The Brown and White have a deep and experienced team, but one that lacks bigs. The 7-footer from Senegal is the only active Bona player taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster.

“We are very limited as far as bigs and size,” senior guard Michael Davenport said.

And in a league full of talented big men, the Bonnies needed Ndoye to develop his game and he has done just that. Attending the same big man camp that turned Nicholson into a star, Ndoye has already improved greatly.

“He used be like that tripod right there that skinny, but in the summer he took a lot of time to work on his body,” Davenport said as he pointed toward a skinny cameraman. “He’s gained a lot of muscle.”

But the gained muscle won’t prevent Ndoye from picking up the cheap fouls that made him find a spot on the bench. Davenport said that it’s up to everyone on the court to help their big man out.

“The other four guys out there have to protect Youssou because at all times we need him out on the floor,” Davenport said. “We don’t need him in foul trouble. That comes with staying up on defensive assignments.”

Ndoye excited the Brown and White faithful last year with the energy and raw ability he brought to the floor, but his goal was to turn the raw ability into sustained talent.

“I went to the camp that Andrew (Nicholson) used to go for the last three years,” Ndoye said.“I spent like a month lifting, conditioning and basketball stuff. I wanted to get better in all areas of my game.”

And it seemed like he did just that when the Bonnies took on Mansfield this past weekend during their exhibition tune-up. While the Mountaineers are a Division II school, it was still obvious how much the Bona big man improved.

Ndoye shot 5-for-8 from the field for 14 points in just 21 minutes of action. And two of those points may have come on the most impressive dunk one will ever see.

His footwork was better around the basket, his shot seemed to fall easier and his extra strength helped him dominate the smaller opponent

Head coach Mark Schmidt said that while most freshman do not play well, he liked the way Ndoye continued to develop in tough circumstances.

“He wouldn’t have played a lot last year if Marquise (Simmons) didn’t get hurt, but he learned,” he said. “The only way you gain some experience is by playing and getting into the fire and getting your feet wet and I thought he did a great job as the season went along and as he played more he got better.”

And that experience will only help Ndoye and St. Bonaventure defend their Atlantic 10 Conference title.

“I think that first year was a tremendous learning experience for him and it gave him some confidence because there was times during the season that he played really well and that’s going to be a carryover hopefully to this year,” Schmidt said.

However, the Bonnies do not need Ndoye to dominate to win games, they just need him to be himself.

“We’re not expecting him to replace Andrew — no one is going to replace him. We’re expecting him to be Youssou,” Schmidt said. “To be able to run the court, score inside, play that physical game, be a guy that we can rely on and be a guy that can do the dirty work for us inside.”

And if Ndoye can do just that, the Brown and White faithful will be witnesses to plenty of wins in the Reilly Center and the continued development of a talented big man.

Behind the Wolfpack: Healthy Simmons and Davenport Ready For Season

[Photo courtesy of]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Oct. 17) – Marquise Simmons took a pass at the top of the key and quickly drove hard to the basket and immediately started to limp and grimace after being fouled.

Simmons waved off trainers and took his free throws, made them both, and called to the bench knowing that his season may have ended after just two minutes of game action.

“I don’t remember much of it, but I remember taking off to the basket and feeling a snap,” Simmons recalled. “I was in more of a denial stage, knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. I saw the trainer and he told me I tore my achilles.”

But the injury bug didn’t stop there. In just St. Bonaventure’s eighth game, Michael Davenport went after a loose ball, banged his shoulder and immediately grabbed for it in pain, but thought it wasn’t anything serious.

“I thought it was just a slight dislocation,” Davenport said on the court before practice. “Then when they took me to the back and it was obviously a lot worse than that.”

And just like that, the Bonnies lost two major contributors to their team and many pegged the season as a lost cause. However, other players stepped up their own play in order to replace the production of both Simmons and Davenport.

But their injuries have allowed them to return for one more go around with St. Bonaventure. Davenport is just 253 points away from 1,000 in his career and Simmons is finally healthy heading into the season.

Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said it’s a huge boost to the team.

“When you can have those guys back who have had experience, it really is helpful, not only to me but also the young guys,” Schmidt said of his seniors.

How important can Simmons be to St. Bonaventure’s success?

Well, first off he is one of only two traditional big men on the roster, meaning he will play a lot of minutes. But secondly, Simmons was actually considered the crown jewel of his own recruiting class.

Yes, that’s right.

It was Simmons who was the highly regarded prospect and not the string bean from Mississauga, Ontario. Simmons had all the makings of a future star: great build, good ball handling skills, great finisher around the basket and had touch from the perimeter.

But injuries have hurt his chances to put his skills on display.

“It’s been more of a set back type of thing,” Simmons said. “But I’m healthy this year and I’m ready to go.”

Meanwhile, Davenport is one of a seven-guard deep roster and has the most experience of all of them. Davenport has experienced the ups and downs of the college game and Schmidt said he can have redemption this season.

“He wasn’t having a great senior season anyway, put too much pressure on himself, so it’s almost like he has a reprieve,” Schmidt said. “We’re expecting him to score the ball. He has a chance to be a 1,000-point scorer and you don’t have many of those in your career.”

While the rest of the Atlantic 10 Conference believes St. Bonaventure was a one-man show last season, the Bonnies have a deep squad that only gets better with the return of Simmons and Davenport.

St. Bonaventure may not have the star power that Andrew Nicholson brought them last season, but with Simmons’ ability to stretch the floor with his jump-shot and Davenport’s ability to create off the dribble, the Bonnies have two senior leaders who could point them in the right direction.

The rivalry of western New York

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer, @KevSmith88 

The Little Three.

Those three words need no explanation to western New Yorkers.

This rivalry goes back 60 years, involving St. Bonaventure University, Canisius College and Niagara University.

The three schools have 101 miles separating one another, but on the court, it has been nothing but fierce. 

“Many former athletes and alumni here at Bona’s can tell you what they experience from this rivalry and how important it is for them to win every time out,” Senior guard Michael Davenport said. “It is as rich a tradition like anything I’ve witnessed in my college basketball career.”

St. Bonaventure won easily over Canisius (2-9) on Dec. 10, 81-62, but face Niagara (4-8) Friday night at The Gallagher Center.

The Bonnies (6-5) have not defeated the Purple Eagles since 2001, a 10-year drought too much for the Bona faithful and players to endure.

Senior forward Andrew Nicholson said after the 69-61 loss at home last season that he has “no respect” for Canisius’ program after the coach and players took unsportsmanship to another level. 

“(Niagara’s) coach was harping on us during the game — you don’t really see that — but, I mean, I just think as a program, that was disrespectful. I have no respect for what they did that time,” said Nicholson, who had 17 points, 12 rebounds, five turnovers and a technical foul on that Dec. 11 game.

Davenport said the players remember their losing record against their rivals.

“We were 1-2 going into this season against our rival teams,” he said. “We don’t want to leave Bona’s with a losing record against them. If we win our game against Niagara, it would give us bragging rights for the rest of the season.”

Coach Mark Schmidt said it’s important to win each game, regardless of a rivalry.

“There’s a lot that comes out of this rivalry even though it’s not as popular as it used to be back in the day,” he said. “But we still have to make a difference and show we’re the better team come game time.”

Matthew Wright said he is determined to change the outcome from previous seasons.

“I hope for a better outcome when we play these guys every season, especially after last season,” the sophomore said. “The atmosphere is crazy, and I have another couple seasons in which to leave Bona’s with a winning record.”

Photos from St. Bonaventure’s (1-1) 67-64 loss to Cleveland State (3-0) Friday at the Wolstein Center.

Click here to hear coach Mark Schmidt’s presser:

[Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii]