St. Bonaventure point guard Charlon Kloof was born in Suriname, spent his teens in the Netherlands, played a year of junior college in North Carolina and last season honed his game at Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain's Canary Islands. But it's when he's playing defense on the basketball court that Kloof, a 21-year-old sophomore, appears truly at home.
Tall (6-foot-3), long-armed and quick, Kloof has provided coach Mark Schmidt with a quintessential defender needed to make life difficult for the Atlantic 10's array of talented point guards.
"When I first saw Charlon in the Canary Islands, that was the first thing that stood out -- his ability to guard," Schmidt said. "And I just think that's really, really important because the point guard, when you think about it in our league, there's six or seven point guards that are first- or second-team (caliber) all-league players. And we got to be able to keep those guys in front."
In Bona's five conference wins the opposition's starting backcourts have shot a combined 23 of 95 (24.2 percent) from the field. In their two losses (both on the road, to Xavier and Duquesne) the starting guards were a combined 19 of 39 (48.7 percent). The numbers underscore the importance of guard defense.
"Maybe you see that I'm stopping it -- but it's more of a team effort that anything else," Kloof said. "The seniors especially, they may not talk but if you got to get over screens they'll push you over it and that's what really helps us.
"And Charlon is right, it's a team effort," Schmidt said. "We talk about the pack line all the time, and it's always two against one, two defenders against one offensive player. If it's one on one you're going to be in trouble. But at the same time we talk about guarding your yard, three feet to the right and three to the left. And Charlon does a great job of guarding his yard."
Kloof has offensive talents that figure to become more prominent as he acclimates to the A-10. The progress has been steady. He had 11 points in three assists in Saturday's victory over Richmond and is averaging 7 points over the last five games.
"I think the speed of the game and the intensity of the game, that's the adjustment," Schmidt said. "It's not learning the system. Yeah, you got to learn the system, but it's the speed, the intensity, how hard you have to play all the time, I think that's the biggest adjustment."
The Bonnies, at 5-2, stand in a three-way tie for the conference lead. Although nine games remain, the next two could well determine their title chances. They play at Saint Louis (16-5, 4-3) Wednesday and at Massachusetts (16-5, 5-2) the following Wednesday. A split would do them wonders. That road swing's followed by a three-game homestand against Duquesne, Temple and Rhode Island.
UB (12-6, 5-2) made it four straight wins with Saturday's methodical conquest of Northern Illinois in Dekalb, Ill.. and would be the fourth seed in the MAC Tournament behind Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ohio based on the current overall standing. The Bulls have a big divisional crossover Wednesday night against Ball State (12-7, 4-3) at Alumni Arena before traveling to Toledo (10-11, 2-5) on Saturday night.
Area basketball fans got a look at the frontrunners in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference when Loyola (Md.) and Manhattan hit town over the weekend and swept a pair from Canisius and Niagara. The results affirmed that it's a three-team race among Loyola, Manhattan and Iona (all 9-2) with Fairfield two games back.
Canisius now heads on the road having lost five straight and eight of its last nine. The Griffs have beaten three 7-14 teams (Longwood, South Dakota and Marist) along with 0-21 Binghamton. Add it up and their wins are over schools with a combined record of 21-63. Canisius visits Iona Thursday and gets another crack at Marist on Saturday.
Niagara found it still has a ways to go to compete with the elite. The Purple Eagles have lost three straight after winning three straight and take to the road for games at Fairfield Friday and at Rider Sunday afternoon.
Here's a statistical anomaly from Niagara's weekend: Freshman Antoine Mason went 12 of 25 from the field and just 7 for 18 at the foul line.
UB earns TV time
The University at Buffalo is the only Big 4 men's basketball team that will get to play on national television during the annual Sears BracketBuster event on the ESPN family of networks.
The Bulls (12-6) visit South Dakota State (17-6) of the Summit League in a 1 p.m. game Feb. 18 on ESPNU.
Meanwhile, Niagara and Canisius both will face foes during the two-day event in non-televised games either Feb. 17 or 18. Canisius will host UMBC, while Niagara hits the road to face Vermont.
Around the rim
Make it five straight wins for Rhode Island over Dayton after Saturday's stunner in Ohio in which Billy Baron, son of embattled head coach Jim Baron, scored a career-high 25 points. The Rams entered winless in the A-10 and a 14-point underdog. The Flyers have allowed a combined 103 points in the second half of their last two games.
Eastern Michigan, with its Syracuse-type zone, is going to be a tough out in MAC play, especially at home. The Eagles rebounded from their loss to UB at Alumni Arena with a 55-50 victory over visiting Bowling Green Saturday. Syracuse transfer Da'Shonte Riley, a 7-footer who plays 7-3 with those long arms, blocked three more shots and disrupted who knows how many others.