What’s up, guys? My name is Kevin Gray and I’m a 2009 graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communications. Currently, I live in Monroe, New York, roughly an hour outside of New York City with my wife, Katie (another SBU alum) and our eleven-month old daughter, Mattigan. I work for WWE in Stamford, Connecticut as an Associate Producer, where I get to do a fair bit of writing, but between anecdotes about John Cena and Brock Lesnar to “witty” one-liners for a plethora of announcers and everything in the middle, rarely…okay never does one of my biggest passions come up: the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
Being from southeastern New York, I’m a great distance (about 4 hours and 45 minutes on Route 17…a drive that I’ve done more times than I wish to remember) from Olean, New York. Because of that distance, SBU was never a regular fixture growing up or in my post-graduate life. In fact, some people from my area haven’t even heard of St. Bonaventure before, much less care one iota about its men’s basketball team. Even broaching the subject with my closest friends receives eye rolls or a quick attempt at a subject change. Basically, I’m on an island alone, surrounded by exactly zero people as passionate about this team as I am. So naturally, I’m hoping A10 Talk can provide me the outlet to delve into a team with a lot of hype coming into the 2017-2018 season and one which I believe has the makings of a potential “Cinderella” run in March.
I know Grant already wrote up a piece previewing the team and this column may be similar, but with more of an “opinion” vibe. I attended Bonaventure from 2005-2009 where they had records of (8-19, 7-22, 8-22, and 15-15…the .500 mark being Andrew Nicholson’s freshman year, of course). So, much like the porous J.P. Losman-led Buffalo Bills teams I was subjected to watching every Sunday instead of my Giants during those years, the Bonnies teams I was accustomed to as a student weren’t anything near the legitimate tournament contenders that have us SBU alumni excited for this year.
Key Returning Players – My Thoughts Coming into 2017-2018
Jaylen Adams – The senior point guard is being listed all over pre-season award watches, the latest being the Bob Cousy Award given to the best point guard in the country. Adams has been a special player for three years now and his fourth season in brown should prove to be his most fruitful. To quote Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch manager Michael Scott, “I’m not superstitious but I’m a little ‘stitious’”. With that said, Andrew Nicholson was also a senior when he finally made an NCAA tournament. Could that prove to be the case with the next “great” Bonnie in Adams?
Matt Mobley – Mobley’s been nothing short of a spectacular “continuation” of where Marcus Posley left off. The 1A to Adams’ “1”. I know I’m not the only one psyched to see the backcourt duo in action. Can Adams and Mobley pick up where they left off last season, averaging nearly 40 points combined?
Idris Taqqee – He’s always been the guy that every team wants…and needs. Not particularly flashy, just the kind of guy who shows up, plays hard, does his job, and heads to the showers with a fattened up stat sheet that you didn’t even realize was so filled. With a high scoring duo in Adams and Mobley in place, Coach Mark Schmidt will once again count on Taqqee for his defense and hustle.
Nelson Kaputo – He’s always been a great shooter, capable of coming off the bench and giving you 8 or so a night. Again, with the Adams/Mobley duo doing most of the scoring, Kaputo’s scoring ability is going to be an under-the-radar key component to this year’s team.
LaDarien Griffin – He’s had his flashes in the past but hasn’t ever jumped off the TV screen as an “impact player”. I’m hoping he can contribute some positives off the bench in relief of the other big men, who will likely see most of the minutes.
Amadi Ikpeze – Like Griffin, he’s had his moments but the Bonnies really need him to make strides coming into this season. I thought he was fairly inconsistent who had the ability to get better.
Josh Ayeni – The only person who can stop Ayeni from becoming a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 is himself. In his freshmen season he showed to have a bit of a quick temper which was a bit frustrating because you can just see he’s got all the physical tools (and a sweet mid-range J to boot). If Ayeni matures the way I know Coach Schmidt will get him to, he’s going to be the third biggest contributor to this Bonaventure squad.
Season Outlook – My Thoughts Coming into 2017-2018
The biggest plus coming into this season is the fact that a whopping fifteen Bonnies games will be televised nationally. This is an obvious sign that I’m not alone in my belief that this team is destined for big things. The Bonnies beefed up their non-conference schedule a bit with games against Maryland, TCU/New Mexico, Syracuse, Yale, and a Vermont team that could be under-the-radar special. Hopefully, some good showings in these key games will help prevent another March Madness snubbing…err sorry, “disappointing season finish” like in 2015-2016.
My uncle (another SBU alum) and I will be in attendance next Friday night when the Bonnies take on Niagara. I cannot stress how much I hate these games they always schedule against New York-located foes from smaller conferences. I know it’s hard to expand, but SBU seems to schedule games against Niagara, Siena, Canisius, and Buffalo every year and they are the absolute epitome of “trap games”. Playing them each season is almost like playing a bunch of extra conference games. These teams get to learn your tendencies and scheme against you via genuine experience, not just game tape. When SBU beats them, it rarely means anything in the eyes of the selection committee they’re trying to impress (and Lord knows St. Bonaventure has to go above and beyond to impress them). But when they have the occasional loss, it’s a killer that serves as an ugly blemish that every collegiate team tries to avoid having: the dreaded “Key Losses” tab on their tournament resume.
With that said, I’m still confident that this team in particular won’t start off the season with anything but a great showing. I’ll be a 30 year old man when that game rolls around in two weeks…stress on the word “old” as my competency when it comes to social media is embarrassingly lacking. But with my being at the game live, I’m going to try to live tweet thoughts and insights for any fans of A10 Talk.
Thanks for reading my first shot at a column. With the season finally getting started, material will obviously be much easier to come by soon and I can’t wait to really sink my teeth into this site and talk one of the most underrated conferences in the country in the Atlantic 10.