Rebuilding is not part of dialog at St. Bonaventure this fall, even though the Bonnies graduated two of their finest players in the last 20 years.
High-scoring guard Marcus Posley and do-it-all forward Dion Wright both are gone, but the presence of star guard Jay Adams is the biggest reason hopes are high for another good year of Bonnie basketball.
Adams was named preseason Big 4 men’s player of the year Wednesday. The junior guard made first-team all-Atlantic 10 Conference last season in leading the Bonnies to a 22-9 record. Adams averaged 17.9 ppg.
“We’re not into rebuilding, just continuing to build the program,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt at a news conference at KeyBank Center. “Those two guys are going to be really, really hard to replace. But that’s basketball. . . . We think the kids we brought in can maintain or get better.”
Joining Adams on the preseason all-Big 4 first team are University at Buffalo forward Blake Hamilton and UB guard C.J. Massinburg, Canisius forward Phil Valenti and Niagara guard Matt Scott. Hamilton hit the winning shot that sent UB to a second straight NCAA Tournament last season.
The Big 4 second team: UB wing Willie Connor, UB forward Nick Perkins, Bona forward Denzel Gregg, Bona guard Idris Taqqee and Canisius guard Kassius Robertson.
Big 4 media day notes:
Adams’ summer: Adams was rated one of the top 10 performers at the prestigious Adidas Nations Camp in Los Angeles from July 28 to Aug. 1. About 40 collegians serve as counselors at the camp, for elite under-19 players from the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America.
“I think it gave him a lot more confidence,” Schmidt said. “It think it does a lot for our program, too. . . With Jay, it gives us more credibility. I think Jay was the first player at Bonaventure to be a first-team all-league player as a sophomore. It shows we can get that caliber of player. It shows something to our players. Jay wasn’t heavily recruited. But if you have a great work ethic you can be really successful at Bonaventure.”
UB’s late add: UB filled its last open scholarship in early August when it signed freshman point guard Davonta Jordan. He’s a three-star recruit who was rated the 31st best point guard in the country by ESPN. Jordan got his qualifying test scores late in the recruiting season. He started last season for Montverde Academy, a powerhouse Florida program that has produced three top-five NBA draft picks in the last three years (Joel Embiid, D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons).
UB coach Nate Oats said Jordan should be a part of the point-guard rotation right away. Despite the transfer of Lamonte Bearden to Western Kentucky, UB has point-guard options. Massinburg, a rising star, is likely to play there a lot. But UB also can have the 6-6 Hamilton play point at times to create matchup problems. And it added junior college transfer Dontay Caruthers, who can play both guard spots.
Oats said he did not view it as essential to add another point man.
“Only if we could find somebody who was good enough,” Oats said. “We didn’t have to fill it. We could have let it ride. If we could find somebody we would take anyway, we’d do it. And he’s definitely good enough.”
What about Jordan getting minutes right away?
“I think he’s good,” Oats said. “His handle is good. His athleticism is really good. He’s got a great body. He’s got to learn to shoot it better. But if he shot it great we probably wouldn’t have him. His defense is good.”
Reggie on road: Talk about a whirlwind summer. Reggie Witherspoon was hired as new Canisius coach on May 28. Over the next 12 weeks he signed five new players, hired a coaching staff, finished up the schedule for the season and started recruiting high school seniors for next year.
“Even when we’re in town, it’s getting home at 11 o’clock and getting up at 4:45 to start again,” Witherspoon said. “People say must feel good to be back at home, but we really haven’t had the experience of being home. For the most part it’s been go, go, go, go, go.”
Witherspoon’s latest recruit is 6-3 guard Martin Dixon-Green of Toronto. HE comes in with one year of eligibility left. Dixon-Green is expected to provide some shooting ability off the bench. However, Witherspoon sees his experience and maturity as being just as big a plus.
“We talked to him about the need to have a guy like that in the locker room, first and foremost,” Witherspoon said. “First, you don’t want to bring in someone who’s going to hurt your chemistry that you’ve just barely built. The second thing is if you can get a guy who can help mentor some younger guys about the importance of being on time, the importance of working hard every day when you think it’s a grind.”
“When there’s a change in coaches, players sometimes can have a mindset: Why are we doing this? This isn’t the way we used to do it. It’s helpful to have somebody who can say let’s just go. Let’s just play. This is great.”
Niagara’s point: The Purple Eagles also added a late recruit at the point. He’s Dwayne Pow, a 5-10 sophomore signed in late July from a Missouri junior college. Coach Chris Casey thinks Pow and freshman recruit James Towns will shore up the point position, which has been a problem area. Shooting guard Khalil Dukes, a transfer from Southern Cal, can shift to the point at times, too.
“He’s very quick, very good with the ball,” Casey said of Pow. “I think he’s a good passer. He can make an open shots. But his strengths are getting guys shots and getting you up the floor. We’re hoping he can get us a little more in transition. If you look at statistical numbers, we had a decent amount of transition opportunities last year, we didn’t convert. That’s an area we have to get better.”
“James is similar,” Casey said. “He scored a little more in high school. But he’s able to get in the lane. He’s got good quickness and strength for a freshman.”