St. Bonaventure went from one end of the spectrum to the other, finishing 10-19 overall a year after a Sweet 16 run and a dauntless 31-4 record. The Bonnies roster is awash with eight freshmen and sophomores and their top three players are being replaced by inexperienced but talented underclassmen.
“We’re very young and we have some people in what I would call accelerated roles,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said. “They’re talented enough to be in the role that they’re in but they probably could use more experience before that was thrust upon them, but that’s kind of the situation that we’re in.”
One of those players is Lancaster product Katie Healy, the Bonnies’ top returner in both scoring (8.6) and rebounding (5.6). The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward also blocked a team-best 38 shots.
“She’s very talented, competitive and a good learner,” Crowley said. “She’s good enough for the role we’re going to ask her to do.”
Another player expected to have a bigger role is sophomore guard Nyla Rueter, who can shoot and penetrate the lane but averaged just 16.4 minutes a game. Sophomore guard Emily Michael started 20 games and is moving over to the point after playing last season at shooting guard and the early reports are positive.
“They’re going to be some lumps because of their lack of experience but hopefully we’ll continue to learn and play hard and find some success as the year continues on,” Crowley said.
Keys to success
Doris Ortega and Alaina Walker, the top two scorers and rebounders, are gone as is CeCe Dixon, who was second on the team in three-pointers made.
Injuries have limited the Bonnies to only nine healthy bodies so freshmen Gabrielle Richmond, Oney Harrison and Imani Outlaw must play, and perform well, early and often. All three should benefit from the experience later in the season but having to play so much early concerns Crowley.
The return of fifth-year senior Chelsea Bowker will help. Bowker did not play last year because of an ankle injury but two years ago she played in all 33 games and averaged 7.2 points. Bowker holds a career 39.7 percent three-point shooting percentage. Senior guard Ashley Zahn, who started 17 games last season, will also help in steadying the underclassmen.
“We need to get mature quickly on the floor and off the floor,” Crowley said. “So far they are willing to do it and are responding well to what we’re trying to do.”
After Friday’s opener at WNIT participant North Carolina State, the Bonnies face Horizon champion Green Bay (Nov. 15) before meeting Fairfield (Nov. 17), which played in the WBI, and Big 4 rival Niagara (Nov. 19). Then the Bonnies face Monmouth, Boston University, Connecticut and Marist in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge. Other non-league opponents include Toledo (Dec. 15) and UB (Dec. 17).
The Bonnies figure to improve on their win total and while a middle-of-the-pack finish in the A-10 is possible, they’re still a year away from making some real noise again in the conference race.