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BONNIES' DEPTH OFF THE CHARTS

The Big Picture: Despite losing high-scoring guard J.R. Bremer to the Boston Celtics, this remains a program on the go. Coming off a 17-13 season, the Bonnies will be gunning for their fourth straight trip to the postseason, which would be their longest streak since going to five straight from 1956 to 1961.

In a rare show of respect, Atlantic 10 coaches picked them to finish second in the East Division this season.

What's Up: A bombs-away offense starts with 5-foot-7 junior point guard Marques Green, a preseason All-A-10 selection. He had a sensational sophomore campaign, leading the A-10 in steals (3.4), finishing third in assists (6.0) and 10th in scoring (15.4). He also hit 85.8 percent of his free throws and 40 percent of his three-pointers.

This year, Green may increase his scoring average. But he knows that's not paramount to his team's success.

"I'm not going to worry about shooting the ball," Green said. "As long as we win, all that will take care of itself. It's real good knowing I don't constantly have to make a play. These guys can make their own plays. I help them, and they help me."

Green will be running an offense that led the nation last year with 10.47 three-pointers per game - the fourth-highest total in NCAA history. A frenetic, pressing style and a perimeter-based offense once again figures to give opponents fits.

It should run even better this year because the Bonnies have substantially more depth. Instead of a six- or seven-man rotation, they'll legitimately go 10 deep.

"I don't know if we'll have five guys in double figures every night, but we'll have 3-5 guys average double figures," second-year coach Jan van Breda Kolff said. "We won't have a guy average 25 points like J.R. did, but we'll have guys in the 12-15 range."

That figures to be a plus. Senior swingman Patricio Prato and sophomore swingman Mike Gansey should be in that range, and 6-5 Virginia transfer Maurice Young will hit the score sheet running when he gains his eligibility in late December.

"There won't be guys who have to play 38 1/2 minutes a game like Marques and J.R. did last year," Prato said. "It will bring up the intensity for everybody."

The Bonnies also should be able to defend and rebound. They were outrebounded by six a game last year, and they were last in the nation in field goal-percentage defense (51 percent) and blocked shots (just 24). The addition of 6-8 junior college transfer Jamil Terrell and 6-8 freshman Calvin Brown should fix those problems and allow 6-6 senior Robert Cheeks to move back to his natural position at power forward.

"Jamil gives us that athletic intimidating force, a shot-blocking presence and an attitude," van Breda Kolff said. "He's a physical guy who likes contact."

What's Down: There will be chemistry issues to address while the newcomers get adjusted, and they will have to be revisited in December when Young becomes eligible. A former Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week, Young will need to get his share of shots and carve a niche into the rotation.

Prato and Cheeks have had up-and-down moments in their careers that won't be excused as seniors. Cheeks will benefit from the position change; Prato needs to play like he did many nights last season, when he improved his scoring average from 6.0 points to 11.8.

"I'm one of the leaders, and I know I've got more responsibility on my shoulders now," Prato said. "I'm ready for that, and I'm happy about it."

Outlook: A quick conclusion that the Bremer-less Bonnies are in trouble is flat wrong. There is far more depth, and the combo of Terrell and Brown will plug the hole in the middle. And if you're an opposing team, who do you defend first?

"We didn't finish nearly as strong as we would have liked last year," van Breda Kolff said. "Now we have the balance and depth. In February, we'll be a better team and be on a positive ascent instead of on the decline like we were last year."

Even with a murderous schedule, figure the Bonnies for 17 wins and another postseason trip. There's probably not enough experience - this year - to get to the NCAAs. But Bona is an NIT lock.

Roster

No. Name Pos Yr Ht

1 Ahmad Smith G Fr. 6-4

3 Mike Gansey G/F So. 6-4

4 Marques Green G Jr. 5-7

5 Joe Shepherd G Sr. 6-2

10 Robert Cheeks F Sr. 6-6

11 Saulius Dumbliauskas F So. 6-8

15 Issa Skinner G So. 5-8

20 Patricio Prato G/F Sr. 6-5

21 Cortez Sutton F So. 6-7

23 Maurice Young F So. 6-5

24 Patrick Methot-Lottin F/G So. 6-6

30 Jamil Terrell F/C Jr. 6-8

55 Calvin Brown C Fr. 6-8

Head Coach: Jan van Breda Kolff

Assistants: Billy McCaffrey, Mark Wade, Kort Wickenheiser

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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