St. Bonaventure Bonnies: Continuing the Climb From the Abyss

Ryan LazoContributor IOctober 17, 2010

The Bona Wolf and the school's faithful fan base hope things continue to point upwards after two straight A-10 Tournament berths
The Bona Wolf and the school's faithful fan base hope things continue to point upwards after two straight A-10 Tournament berthsDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

The St. Bonaventure University Men’s basketball team is coming off of two consecutive 15-win seasons and the program’s first playoff victory since 2002.

St. Bonaventure downed Duquesne in the first round of the A-10 tournament in front of a rowdy packed house on March 9. A Duquesne message board emphasized the factor the crowd made with this post.

“The wheels are falling off. The Reilly Center sounds like Cameron indoor on my radio broadcast.”

The Bonnies had a tough road to even make the A-10 tournament as they needed to finish on a tear, winning four out of their last five games, to earn the No. 8 seed. The No. 8 seed ironically was also the highest seed the Bonnies had earned in the conference tournament since 2001.

After dispatching Duquesne, St. Bonaventure had earned a trip to Atlantic City to face the No. 20 team in the country, Temple. The game started off well for the Bonnies as they took a quick 6-0 lead, but it became all Temple the rest of the way.

The final score read, 69-51, indicating a much closer game than was the case. The Bonnies were just not in the same class as Temple, but they were the eventual A-10 tournament champions and one of three representatives from the A-10 in the NCAA tournament.

Expectations after such an improvement are high, but for a fan base that has been heartbroken on numerous occasions, they exhibit some skepticism. The Bonnies lost Chris Matthews, who set a program record with 101 threes made last year, and the always dependable, Jonathan Hall, to graduation and eligibility respectively.

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The recruiting season came and went with the Bonnies being turned down by Eli Carter, a blue-chip recruit, who would have had an immediate impact on the program. Carter had signed a letter of intent to attend St. Bonaventure, but due to a little-known rule, Carter was able to get out of his LOI and attend a prep school instead.

Carter basically left the Bonnies at the altar with no where to turn. They had no one signed to come into help their program, and the seat Coach Mark Schmidt was sitting on was quickly becoming hotter.

Fast forward two weeks and feelings of optimism were immediately in the air for many Bonnies faithful. Coach Mark Schmidt was able to sign Sam deHass, a 6'4" shooting guard from the Netherlands and Matthew Wright, a 6'3" shooting guard from Toronto.

Coach Schmidt has said he expects both to be immediate contributors as both have international experience from playing with their respective national teams in tournaments. He is extremely happy about the addition of Matthew Wright to have an inside out combo with Andrew Nicholson.

“Matthew is a guy who can really shoot and he has a good basketball IQ,” said Schmidt.  “His strength is shooting it from deep, but he can also take it off the dribble.  Certainly, with (junior center) Andrew (Nicholson) drawing a lot of attention in the post, we need perimeter guys who can knock down shots.  Matthew is a nice piece of the puzzle and we’re thrilled he’s committed to join us.”

Schmidt also had great things to say about the shooting ability of Sam deHass saying, “His ability to shoot the ball is something we needed with the graduation of Chris Matthews and he’ll be a great inside-out combo with Andrew Nicholson. He has a quick release from the outside, but is also a strong kid that will get better off the bounce.”

From that statement, it’s easy to infer that deHass will need some development before he can fully be expected to contribute valuable minutes. The consensus on Wright however, has been that he will be an immediate contributor as he is a finished package. He was listed on the Canadian All-Star team, the same team Andrew Nicholson starred on just two years ago.

The talent level is there for the Bonnies to realistically improve this year, possibly obtaining as much as No. 4 or 5 seed in the conference tournament. Having Ogo Adeboye start for the full year will only help since statistically he was the best point guard the Bonnies had last year and was the team’s second leading scorer from beyond the arc.

Add in the probable improvements of Michael Davenport, Demetrius Conger and Marquise Simmons, and the Bonnies seem to have a good young nucleus to improve the win total again.

That young nucleus will be of paramount importance in determining whether the Reilly will be rocking this year or if the lights will be turned off too soon.