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VERSATILE VANTERPOOL, ST. BONAVENTURE BOTH GO OUT AS WINNERS

David Vanterpool had plenty to be proud of after his final basketball game for St. Bonaventure Monday night.

Vanterpool will go down as one of the most versatile players ever to wear a Bona uniform. He is the school's 10th all-time leading scorer and its all-time steals leader.

Even more important, in his eyes, is the fact he helped turn the program back into a winner this year.

"This is something I always wanted to be a part of from the time I signed here -- to turn around this program," Vanterpool said after the Bonnies' loss to Marquette in the National Invitation Tournament. "I feel satisfied about where I'm leaving the program as opposed to where it was when I got here. I think the opportunity is here to continue to be successful."

Indeed, Bona ends the season with greater hope than it has had in a decade.

The team's 18-13 record and fourth-place Atlantic 10 finish has suppressed talk of Bona's inability to compete with its larger conference foes.

Coach Jim Baron has enough talent on board to make fans think the Bonnies can continue to win over the next three seasons -- particularly two and three years from now.

The future of the Bona team rests with point guard Shandue McNeill, wingman Rashaan Palmer and a bunch of unproven big men.

McNeill, a 5-7 sophomore, led the A-10 in assists and steals. The Bonnies graduate their top two scorers -- Vanterpool and Nii Nelson-Richards -- but can rest assured McNeill will get the most out of the offense the next two seasons.

"With Shandue, you know whoever is hot or whoever is supposed to get the ball, that's the person who's going to get the ball," Vanterpool said.

The 6-5 Palmer averaged 7.1 points and 20 minutes and played fine defense as a freshman. He has more raw talent than Vanterpool. He's a slasher and a scorer around the basket. His challenge will be to mature and work to improve, as Vanterpool did.

For a change, Bona has enough big bodies. Whether most of them can play remains to be seen.

Junior Sidney Shelton (6.7 points per game) and sophomore Jerome Spellman (1.8 blocks) are likely to start next year.

Bona also has two big transfers: 6-8 Robert Blackwell from Boston College, and 7-0 Marc Schoone from Wake Forest. Freshmen Kenny McFarland and James Singleton, both 6-6, each got meaningful playing time this year. Another freshman, 6-10 Chris Lumsdon, is in the wings. Terrence Durham, a 6-8 forward from Albany, was signed in November.

Baron has three scholarships to give this spring, and all likely will go to perimeter players. Bona needs to find a starting shooting guard, since Palmer is better suited to small forward. It also needs a backup to McNeill at the point.

It's likely Bona will have to weather a losing season next year before the pieces fit together.

Perhaps the biggest key to this year's success was chemistry, which took time to develop. Bona had great leadership in the locker room and in practice.

"Our seniors have meant so much to the program," Baron said. "There wasn't a lot of pressure on the kids because we had the senior leadership paving the way. So they were able to be complementary players."

Next year they will not have Vanterpool to lead the way.

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