Bonnies humbled by Ohio in season opener

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE — When you lose by 12 points at home, there’s not too many positives to take away from the game.

That’s what Mark Schmidt, head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, had to say after his team was thrashed in its season opener by the Ohio Bobcats, 65-53, Tuesday night in the Reilly Center.

It was evident that Bona’s offense struggled against Ohio’s zone defense.

Schmidt compared it to Syracuse’s zone, saying it was essentially the same scheme.

“Their zone really affected us,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t attack it well and we weren’t aggressive. I think it was a combination of that, and us missing some shots.”

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said that he came into the game hoping to keep Bona’s shooters off balance.

“I thought our zone helped win the game tonight,” he said. “They got some good looks and it probably would have been a different game if they hit some of them.”

SBU shot 3-19 from beyond the arc (15.8 percent), and 36.4 percent from the field.

Dom Welch and Kyle Lofton had forgettable games to begin their sophomore seasons.

Welch scored five points, shot 2-12 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range. His only made three was with less than a minute remaining in the game, when the Bonnies were trailing by 16 points.

Lofton, who scored eight points, shot 3-11 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc.

“Your better players have to play well, and those guys struggled tonight,” Schmidt said. “We have faith in them, but when they don’t play well it’s hard to score.”

Freshman guard Alejandro Vasquez led the Bonnies in scoring with 12 points.

Vasquez, just the third Bona freshman to start a season opener in the Schmidt era (Jaylen Adams and Lofton), showed that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball.

He took several good shots, and on other occasions, looked like he was trying to force it.

Vasquez shot 3-11 from the field and 2-7 from three.

Lost in the scenes from the night was an injury to Bonnies sophomore forward Osun Osunniyi.

With 15:49 left in the second half, Osunniyi stayed down on the floor after a play and appeared to be holding his knee.

The preseason all-conference and all-defensive team selection was helped off the floor by the Bona coaching staff, and looked like he was in a lot of pain. Osunniyi finished with six points in 11 minutes.

No additional information on the injury was provided after the game.

In his long-anticipated Bonaventure debut, forward Bobby Planutis scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards. He threw down an impressive transition dunk in the first half.

For Ohio, the three-headed attack of Jordan Dartis, Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston was enough to beat the Bona defense.

Dartis led the scoring with 19 points, and shot 7-15 from the field. Vander Plas added 12 points for the Bobcats.

Perhaps the most impressive stat line, however, came from Preston.

The sophomore guard handed out 13 assists to go with 11 points, six rebounds and seven steals.

“(Preston) controlled the game for them,” Schmidt said. “We knew he was a good player and tried to keep him out of the paint, but he just controlled the game.”

Boals said that he was proud of his team for going into a hostile road environment and starting its season on the right foot.

“In order to win a conference championship, you’ve got to win tough games,” Boals said. “This place is as good as any. I’ve been at Duke and I’ve been at Kansas, and this place gets loud.”

For SBU, things don’t get any easier, as they host the defending America East conference champion Vermont Catamounts on Friday night.

“It’s never good to be young, but that’s just the way it is and we need to overcome that,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully this is a wake-up call and hopefully it shows the young guys what Division I basketball is all about.”

 

Lofton looks to become leader in second season

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Aidan Conaghan

Even though it will only be Kyle Lofton’s second season, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will lean on him to become a leader.

The Bonnies will have to replace the leadership roles that LaDarien Griffin and Courtney Stockard left when the graduated.  Lofton hopes he can be the man to do it.  

Lofton said that Griffin and Stockard left him a great example how to be a great leader.

“They showed me how not to let struggles off the court affect me on the court,” he said.

The sophomore point guard was voted a team captain by the players and coaches.

“It shows the trust the head coach has in me,” Lofton said.

Lofton will co-captain the team, alongside senior Amadi Ikpeze and redshirt sophomore Bobby Planutis.   

Lofton had an impressive freshman season.

He averaged 14.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, which earned him a spot on the A-10 AllRookie Team.  

Even with a breakout freshman season, one of the most important goals for Lofton is to be a good leader.

One part of the Lofton’s game he has been working on is his three-point shooting. Lofton said the change in the three- point line will not affect his shot choice.

“We have been working with it all summer,” he said.  

One thing that is very important to Lofton is his home state, New Jersey.

Lofton has a tattoo on his calf with the logo of the New Jersey Nets.

I’m not a Nets fan but I wanted to represent New Jersey basketball,” he said  

New Jersey basketball has been represented well the past couple of seasons at St. Bonaventure.

There are four players on the roster that played high school basketball in New Jersey.

“Being from the metropolitan area, they teach us hard work and winning,” Lofton said.  

Lofton will look to lead the Bonnies tonight when they take on the Ohio Bobcats at 7:30.   

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