OLEAN – Their relationship grew stronger over the summer when most students were home and barely anyone else was paying attention. Marcus Posley and Mark Schmidt would sit in the coach’s office and talk, sometimes about life, sometimes about basketball, always about expectations.
Posley wasn’t like most recruits who arrived on the St. Bonaventure campus as freshmen and were given time to improve. The guard transferred from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa after one season at Ball State, leaving him with only two years of eligibility when he came aboard last season.
“It was the smallest things,” Posley said. “I would go up to his office and pick his brain a little bit, knowing I had only two years with him. The most important thing in that situation was developing the relationship with your coach. Coach Schmidt and I, we locked in last year, and definitely got on the same page quick.”
Often, the little things make a big difference.
Posley this season has become an extension of his coach, and in turn his teammates have become tougher and more competitive. The senior has evolved into an entrusted and fearless leader for the Bonnies, who rely on Posley as much as any team in the Atlantic 10 relies on any single player.
The biggest crowd this season in the Reilly Center watched Sunday as Posley led St. Bonaventure to an 84-68 victory over Richmond, a win the Bonnies desperately needed after three straight conference losses. A loss Sunday would have amounted to a crisis and essentially squandered their 4-0 start in conference play.
Posley is still stinging from a loss last season in the A-10 Tournament when they fell to Dayton in Brooklyn. He didn’t feel he played well down the stretch and let down seniors Andell Cumberbatch, Youssou Ndoye and Chris Dees in their final season. He doesn’t want to leave Bona with the same sickened feeling.
“It hits home,” Posley said. “I don’t want to be in that position. I felt for those guys. I felt like I could have done more. All those things hit home with me.”
Bona was tough to beat at home Sunday. They played their best defensive game this season, holding Richmond to 17 points under its average. The Bonnies were near flawless in the second half. They made the Spiders uncomfortable and forced them into taking bad shots. Richmond buckled under the pressure.
Posley, who had scored 61 points in two previous losses, was terrific again Sunday. He had 26 points and six assists. He led the Bonnies with two big buckets early in the second half. He fed Idris Taqqee for a layup. He validated one three-pointer from the baseline with another from the wing during a 23-6 run and a 56-45 lead.
It was no coincidence the Bonnies rolled as Posley did in the second half, when he scored 19 points and helped them build an 18-point lead. The two other members of their big three, Dion Wright and Jaylen Adams, came up big Sunday. Still, it has become evident that the Bonnies are going only as far as Posley will take them.
“When he’s attacking, good things happen,” Schmidt said. “When Marcus is making baskets, the team becomes more confident. When your better players are playing well, it gives your role players much more confidence. When our backcourt is playing the way they did today, with 12 assists and five turnovers, we’re that much better.”
Richmond was coming off a double-overtime victory over a good team in George Washington. The Spiders actually did a good job defending Posley, but he eventually found his groove and broke through. He doesn’t get frustrated when he’s missing from the outside. He has a knack for using his body and getting to the rim.
Or he makes a great pass or a steal or breaks the press or gets his hand in a passing lane or grabs a key rebound. He finds a way. And that’s why Schmidt has more faith in his team with Posley on the floor.
“It’s a relationship you have to develop as a player and coach, knowing your role and what you need to bring for this team to be successful,” Posley said. “Scoring and getting everybody else involved was one of the things we talked about. Sometimes, there are games when I’m not scoring. I have to find other ways to help us win.”
That much has become expected over the last two years while Posley emerged as one of the best all-around guards in the conference. The Bonnies aren’t considered an A-10 superpower by any means. They’re an undermanned but resourceful team that has managed to remain in the middle of a very competitive conference.
It starts with Schmidt, a grossly underrated coach, who every year manages to squeeze more from his team than anticipated. The Bonnies aren’t loaded with talent. They lack a true big man and are short on depth. The 6-foot Posley isn’t just their leader. He’s their leading scorer at 19.4 points per game.
Well, they’re 13-6 overall and 5-3 in the conference. They’re in the thick of things going into another tough game this week at Saint Joseph’s. Schmidt said it himself after the game Sunday. If they continue playing the way they did against Richmond, they can beat any team in the conference.
It makes you wonder if Sunday’s game was a jumping off point for St. Bonaventure, if the players and their coach are prepared to take another step the way Posley and his coach did last summer. It all started with two people thinking as one, and it carried into the season. On Sunday, the Bonnies played as one.
“Meeting with Schmidt over the summer, all that stuff plays into what I’m able to do right now,” Posley said. “He motivated me and all my teammates. Everything, collectively, as one, gave me a different mindset. You have to be ready to play every single night or you’re going to get embarrassed.”