The post-Andrew Nicholson era has been rocky, to say the least.
First St. Bonaventure couldn’t defend its Atlantic 10 Tournament title because it didn’t qualify for the postseason thanks to a crushing defeat at the hands of seven-win Fordham. Next up for Mark Schmidt is replacing the bulk of the Bonnies’ scoring and rebounding from a year ago but he returns players who are seasoned.
“It’s our seniors, it’s our veteran guys,” Schmidt said. “We lost a lot from last year, a lot of scoring and somehow, someway we’ve got to find that with these guys.”
It starts with the backcourt of seniors Charlon Kloof and Matthew Wright and junior Jordan Gathers, who must transform from role players into go-to scorers who are relied upon nightly.
Meanwhile, sixth-year senior forward Marquise Simmons and junior center Youssou Ndoye have to bring the physical toughness needed to compete with the better teams in the A-10. When the game slows to a crawl in the last five minutes Ndoye, known primarily as a defender and shot-blocker his first two seasons, is now being asked to score.
Dion Wright, an athletic and raw sophomore forward who shows flashes in brief moments, is expected to be more productive off the bench with extended minutes. Same goes for sophomore swingman Jean Yves Toupane, who appeared in his seven games as a freshman.
“They’re going to be secondary players, but those secondary players have to be productive,” Schmidt said. “Just like Matthew and Charlon and Marquise were productive in their roles last year and now they have to take a step up.”
Sophomore Matthias Runs, a 7-foot center who sat out last season, has been dealing with a knee issue that has limited him in practice but he will eventually provide shot-blocking. Xavier Smith, a 6-8 freshman forward, and Denzel Gregg, a 6-7 freshman swingman from Syracuse, will have to play their way into the rotation that will probably run nine deep.
Keys to success
Graduation hit the Bonnies hard. Demetrius Conger, Eric Mosley, Chris Johnson and Michael Davenport are gone along with 60 percent of the scoring. Factor in that the versatile Conger led the team in scoring, rebounds and assists, and his loss is nearly impossible to replace.
“We lost veteran experience and those are concerns,” Schmidt said. “The sooner the younger guys pick up the system the better off they’ll be and the better off we’ll be.”
Expected to take on some of the scoring load is Andell Cumberbatch, a 6-4 guard from Barton Community College in Kansas, who averaged 14.2 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds a game. Another junior college transfer, 6-8 junior Chris Dees from New Mexico Junior College, will help with interior defense and rebounding, problem areas for the Bonnies last season.
The Bonnies will be tested early and often and the December slate alone will make most cringe: at UB, at Iona, at Wake Forest, at Niagara. There’s only two home games in the month: UMass-Lowell on Dec. 3 and Delaware Dec. 30.
There are several nice pieces – long, lean pieces – that will give the Bonnies an inside presence that it was lacking a year ago but what’s missing are reliable go-to scorers. Wright and Ndoye are the leading returning scorers and they averaged a combined 14.2 points. Schmidt is generally an optimistic soul who will need to stay upbeat as he discovers there are more holes on the roster than he can fill.