Planutis brings scoring ability, leadership to Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team made its run to the Atlantic 10 championship game in March, Bobby Planutis had to sit and watch.

Planutis, who had decided to transfer to SBU after one season at Mount St. Mary’s, was ineligible to play last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

The sophomore forward from Hazelton, Pennsylvania must have made an impact on his teammates last year, however.

Planutis was voted as a team captain for the 2019-20 season, and is hoping to make an immediate impact for the Bonnies.

“I’ve worked on all aspects of my game, but especially with the strength coaches in the weight room,” Planutis said. “I was lifting four of five days a week for the past 18 months or so.”

Planutis isn’t afraid to identify himself as a shooter.

At Mount St. Mary’s, he averaged 5.9 points per game and shot an impressive 49% from three-point range.

“I think it helps (our offense) that I’m 6’8 and can shoot,” Planutis said. “Hopefully, that will help open up the floor for some other guys.”

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt talked about how Planutis can fit into his offense.

“(Planutis) is a catch-and-shoot kind of guy,” Schmidt said. “In the game today, the (power forward) man has become a face-up guy. If you have a guy in that position that can shoot, it creates better spacing on the floor and opens up the lanes.”

Schmidt said that Planutis’ ability to shoot the ball will stretch opposing defenses and allow the Bonnies more opportunities to get the ball to guys in the paint.

Planutis said that having well-known players such as Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi around him will help his game.

“I hope they get double teamed,” he said with a laugh. “Then, I can get some open shots. It makes it easier to play when the guys around you are good.”

It was Bona’s recent success, along with a bit of name recognition, that drew Planutis to SBU.

“My prep coaches knew Bona well, which helped me get to know the school,” Planutis said. “The winning that was happening here was also a big draw.”

Planutis mentioned how the Bonnies reached the NCAA tournament in 2017-18, which was his prep school year at Bridgton Academy in Maine.

In the Bonnies’ preseason exhibition vs. Alfred University, Planutis shot 5-7 from the field, including 1-3 from beyond the arc, to score 11 points in 18 minutes.

He also pulled down four rebounds.

Schmidt said that based on Planutis’ work ethic, he thinks the sophomore will adjust to Atlantic 10 competition just fine.

“There are a lot of guys that don’t work when they take a year off, but (Planutis) realized that the season was going to come quickly and he really took advantage of the year,” Schmidt said. “He’s a much better player than he was last year, and hopefully that translates on the court.”

As far as leadership goes, Schmidt said that Planutis’ teammates selecting him as a captain speaks volumes about what they think of him.

“It shows his commitment, leadership skills and how important basketball is to him,” Schmidt said. “It shows that he has the respect of his teammates.”

SBU opens regular season play on Tuesday night when it hosts Ohio University.

 

Winston, Bona’s latest Putnam pickup, ready to work

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

When Justin Winston committed to play basketball at St. Bonaventure in September 2018, he became the third Putnam Science Academy graduate in two years to do so.

The “Putnam Pipeline” to SBU has been talked about repeatedly since the arrival of Winston, following Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi’s commitment the year before.

For Winston, the campus nestled in the foothills of the Enchanted Mountains felt like home.

“You can compare (Bonaventure) to Putnam because it’s a small school,” Winston said. “It’s a place where you can always work to get better as a player and as a person.”

The West Orange, New Jersey native, rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, stands at 6’8 and weighs 215 pounds.

In his senior year of high school at Immaculate Conception, Winston averaged 15 points per game.

Winston said that he saw Bona as the perfect situation to develop himself.

“I knew I could have a good social life while still being able to work on becoming a better basketball player,” Winston said.

Of course, Lofton and Osunniyi most likely did some recruiting of their own that influenced Winston’s decision.

“Since I had played with (Lofton and Osunniyi), I knew I’d always have family here,” Winston said.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt has said that Winston will fit into the offense at the power forward position, sharing time with sophomore transfer Bobby Planutis.

“He’s an attacking type of forward,” Schmidt said of Winston. “He can shoot the ball, but he’s got better ball skills and more ‘junk in the trunk’.”

Winston said that he hopes to bring a little bit of everything to the floor for the Bonnies.

“I’m looking to bring a lot of intensity and energy,” he said. “I can grab rebounds and score inside and out.”

In the Bonnies’ exhibition vs. Alfred University last Wednesday, Winston logged nine rebounds and two points over 21 minutes.

It was his first taste of action in the Reilly Center, which he said he has been looking forward to playing in since his commitment.

“I’ll have a lot of eyes on me,” Winston said. “I’ve just gotta put on.”

Johnson looks to provide scoring help for Bonnies

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Aidan Conaghan

Matt Johnson didn’t follow the typical path of becoming a Division I basketball player.  

Johnson, a 6-4 guard from Baltimore, Maryland, won two state championships at New Town High.  

Johnson played the last two years at the junior college level. His first year, he attended Pensacola State, where he averaged 7.5 points per game.  

Johnson then played his sophomore season at Howard Community College in Texas. There, he was named to the all-conference team, averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game.  

Johnson then committed to play at St. Bonaventure.

“When I went up to a game, I loved the atmosphere and the fans were great,” Johnson said.

Another factor for Johnson’s commitment was how well he connected with the coaches.

“I liked what coach Schmidt offered,” he said. “I liked his vibe.”  

Johnson has seen a big difference in the level of play so far at the Division I level.

“It is a lot faster,” he said. “The players are also a lot smarter.”  

Head coach Mark Schmidt talked about his new players having a lot to learn quickly.

“They all have to learn the system,” he said. “If you don’t learn the system, you are going to struggle.”  

Johnson talked about the versatility of his game.

“I can score at all three levels and get other people involved,” he said.  

Johnson also said that he can help give fellow guard Kyle Lofton some rest, after Lofton averaged 37 minutes per game last year.

“I can play the point guard and the shooting guard to take pressure off (Lofton),” Johnson said.  

In Johnson’s free time, he likes to play video games.

“I play 2K and Fortnite, but most of my time is for school and workouts,” the junior guard said.  

Johnson will make his debut on Tuesday when the Bonnies host the Ohio University Bobcats

 

Former JUCO star English brings big-game experience to Bonaventure

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Matt Stasiw

St. Bonaventure sophomore guard Jaren English has experience playing in high-level atmosphere. 

At Ranger College in Texas, English helped lead the Rangers to the 2019 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I national championship game. 

“It was crazy, mind boggling honestly”, English said of his team’s postseason run. “I got a lot of experience. No one expected us to come out and play, but we shocked the world”. 

The Rangers finished 31-4 last year, and English scored 12 points per game to go along with five rebounds per game.

English now realizes he can play a big role in helping the Bonnies win this season. 

“I need to be the most reliable and trustworthy guy I can be,” English said. “I’m all about the team.” 

English has high expectations for himself and the team. 

“Atlantic 10 title, NCAA tournament run”, he said.

Both are achievable for English if he plays tough. 

English said that he hopes to make his family proud, as well. 

My mom gave me her all,” he said. “I want to work a lot harder to make her proud when she can come and watch me play.”

English and the Bonnies will begin the year by hosting a preseason exhibition against Alfred University on Wednesday.

Bona fans– Don’t think what it could have been. Think what it can be

photos courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN– It looked like a story book ending.

But it ended in a way that broke the hearts of the thousands of Bonnies fans that traveled to Brooklyn over the weekend.

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s 2018-19 season came to an end Sunday afternoon, it left an opportunity on the table that could have only been dreamed about at the beginning of the year.

The Bonnies fell to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game, and the college careers of Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo came to an end.

St. Bonaventure entered the tournament as the fourth seed, but once Sunday came around, it looked like everything they needed to happen to win the tournament came true.

 

The top three seeds in the tournament (VCU, Davidson, Dayton) had all been knocked out, and the Bonnies awaited a Saint Louis team in the final that they had beaten eight days before.

 

But when the final buzzer sounded, it brought sorrow instead of joy for Bonnies fans.

Bona was so close, so close, to making an an improbable run to the NCAA tournament. It would have been the first time the program had ever went to the tournament in back-to-back years and a remarkable end to the careers of three seniors that have been through a lot over the past four seasons at SBU.

But for many Bonnies fans, it became the game, the championship and the tournament run that could have been.

 

Sure, it’s easy to look back at the past and think what could have resulted if a bounce or two could have gone Bona’s way. It’s also easy to look at the turnaround that this team had, after starting the season 4-10 and then coming within seven minutes of an A10 championship.

But at the culmination of this season, what Bonnies fans should really be excited is the year to come– and probably the next three.

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Bonnies center Osun Osunniyi during their win over Rhode Island

The team started three freshmen (when they were healthy) for the majority of the season. Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi averaged a combined 30 points and 14.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. The trio also scored 35.3 points per game and pulled down 18 rebounds per game during the A10 tournament.

 

Under a coach that is notorious for giving freshmen time to develop before he gives them significant playing time, it is remarkable what this year’s freshman class did.

Lofton and Osunniyi, prep school teammates, each blossomed into impact players in the Atlantic 10 over the course of the year. Both were named to the conference’s All-Rookie team, and Osunniyi was also named to its All-Defensive team.

For his play over the weekend, Lofton was named to the A10 All-Tournament team.

Welch, who missed nine games in the regular season with an injury, took longer to come around than the other two.

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Bonnies guard Dom Welch after hitting a three against George Mason

But the Buffalo native showed his potential in Brooklyn. Welch shot 6-12 from beyond the arc and scored 20 a career-high points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason, and followed it up with a 13-point performance the next day against Rhode Island.

 

What impressed me the most from Welch over the weekend was his defensive awareness. He was all over the court, and his defensive play, along with his offense, showed that he was finally ready to play at the level Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt had hoped he could.

“The future is bright,” said Schmidt after the loss to Saint Louis. “We’ve got to bring in some more guys, but they are a talented group that is going to continue to get better.”

Schmidt has already landed several players who could fill the roles the seniors left, including Bobby Planutis, a transfer from Mt. St. Mary’s who had to sit out this season, and Justin Winston, a three-star recruit from the same prep school that Lofton and Osunniyi came from (Putnam Science Academy).

Those players and the other returners will have 25-point-per-game shoes to fill that Stockard and Griffin will take with them when they graduate.

Sounds tough, but Bona was put in the same situation this year after they lost Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley’s combined 37.2 points per game.

Maybe I’m just trying to be positive.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bonnies have a special trio of freshmen on their hands who have big-game experience after playing into Sunday of the A10 tournament. That experience will go a long way in future years if they can find themselves in the same spot.

The 2019 Bonnies came close. But this tournament run, which was almost one for the ages, could be just the beginning of what this young group can accomplish.

I’m not the only one who feels that way. In the final press conference of his career, Griffin showed his enthusiasm for the future of the Bona program.

“Those guys are gonna use this season as motivation and as long as they stay together they’re going to be really special,” said Griffin.

“They’re going to be really, really good.”

Adams named Intrepid’s 2017 Male Athlete of the Year

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

St. Bonaventure men’s basketball senior Jaylen Adams is The Intrepid’s 2017 Male Athlete of the Year.

The award was voted on by Intrepid sports staffers and contributors as well as St. Bonaventure athletic director Tim Kenney, who received a guest vote. Voters were able to choose any Division I athlete who competed for Bonaventure in the 2017 calendar year. Others receiving votes were basketball senior Matt Mobley, baseball player Aaron Phillips and soccer senior Kieran Toland.

This is Adams’s second consecutive Athlete of the Year award, as he also won it in 2016. The 6-foot-2 point guard scored 455 points, dished out 152 assists and swiped 48 steals in 24 games played in the 2017 calendar year. He earned a second straight All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection in March and was named to three different preseason award watch lists before the 2017-18 season (Cousy, Naismith, Robertson).

Adams started 2017 by scoring 23 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists in a loss to Dayton on Jan. 3. He flipped the script by the end of the year, recording 32 points and seven assists in a victory against UMass.

The Bonnies go into 2018 on an eight-game win streak, their first since the 1970-71 season. They have not lost since Adams returned from an ankle injury and are receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll.

With NCAA Tournament dreams very much alive, Adams has a strong chance of three-peating in 2018.

The Intrepid Male Athlete of the Year history:

2015: Marcus Posley

2016: Jaylen Adams

2017: Jaylen Adams

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 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.