2016-2017 Player Grades: The Forwards
With the 2016-2017 season coming to a close in Pittsburgh at the hands of Rhode Island a few weeks ago, the Bonnies finished their season with a 20-12 record, a fifth place finish in the Atlantic 10 and disappointingly, no post season berth of any kind.
While most fans are disappointed with how the season ended (be it a failure to reach the A10 semi-finals, a lack of quality wins or an absence of an NIT or NCAA berth) some were satisfied.
With the Bonnies now turning their attention to the off-season, there’s some housekeeping work to be done on our end as well. We’ve recapped the A10’s efforts in Pittsburgh and now unveil our 2016-2017 player grades.
Each players’ grade is based on their play this season alone, as well as taking into account the relative expectation of that player. For example, it would be a bit harder for Jay Adams to earn an “A” than it would be Amadi Ikpeze. At the end of the individual player grades we will also grade Mark Schmidt’s efforts during the season as well as a assign a “Team Grade”.
Today we roll out the grades for the forwards and coach Schmidt.
Josh Ayeni- SBU fans likely heard in the pre-season that Mark Schmidt really liked Ayeni’s game, and more than that, he liked his toughness. Fans saw why in his first season in Olean as Ayeni displayed a terrific shooting touch for a 6-8 forward who is new to the sport and shined in a number of games. Ayeni also showed a hot-headed attitude at times, that wasn’t the worst thing for this team. Ayeni averaged 6.7 points, shot 47% from the field and 80% from the line. He is unquestionably a stretch four man, unless he develops an inside post game that we did not see at all this season. The Nigerian was a very poor finisher at the rim, and seemed to avoid attacking the hoop whenever possible. Ayeni was not a good rebounder (2.6 per game in 17 minutes) but he should improve in that department with time. Josh’s inability to avoid foul trouble (8.2 fouls per 40 minutes) was his biggest issue by far, and he will need to become a significantly better defender by next November if he hopes to make a major leap. With a full off season to bulk up, learn the defense and develop a post-game, Ayeni should be a real force next season at forward where he likely starts from day one. His freshman year had the ups and downs you’d expect, but there’s a lot to be excited about with Ayeni. Grade: B-
Denzel Gregg- The reigning Atlantic 10 6th Man of the Year had a season that in many ways mirrored that of the Bonnies: There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but expectations were very high and you probably hoped for a bit more. Gregg averaged 12 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and shot 49%. Again, very tough to get on that type of production, but Gregg was still as inconsistent as ever; whether it was early foul trouble, turnovers (63), or poor shot selection, the senior had an up and down season. Maybe too much was asked of Gregg who was expected to be the third scorer every night for this team. It’s important to remember that a year ago Gregg had Dion Wright to play off inside; this year Gregg was the Bonnies’ lone forward with real experience, or a resume of production. Gregg will be remembered as one of the most improved Bonnies during the Schmidt era, morphing himself from a never-used freshman to the 6th Man of the Year, to a very solid forward on some really good teams. SBU will need to replace his rebounding and shot-blocking next year. Grade: B-
Amadi Ikpeze- Seen as a “project” by many (right or wrong) last summer, the big man from Buffalo played about as much as you’d expect (9.2 minutes) and appeared in 24 games. Ikpeze had flashes of quality play, including a great game on the road vs. Duquense. A positive was his increased minutes in February; showing that Schmidt trusted him more than he did in the Fall. He isn’t the quickest or most athletic big man, but he showed some promising footwork and a decent back to the basket game for a freshman. I think there’s absolutely enough there to believe he develops again next year and is a real, solid, A10 forward by his junior year. We all know Schmidt can develop big men, and Ikpeze has a chance to be a solid one with hard work and time. Grade: C+
David Andoh- There’s no doubt we were tougher on Andoh than any other Bonnie this season, as a good deal was expected from the Liberty transfer. Andoh was billed as a pick and pop stretch four man, and for that, he did not disappoint. At times, Andoh shot the crap out of the ball and when he did, the Bonnies were a different team. Andoh became that deadly third scorer at times, and when he was, the offense was a thing of beauty to watch. Andoh had a killer 15-foot jumper (on a given night), but was just a 47% shooter from 2PT and a 29% shooter from 3PT. He was often “trigger happy”, and some games the ball would seem to disappear in his hands, never to come back: His 13 assists in 609 minutes of play (one per 46 minutes) are proof of this. At one time a starter, Andoh eventually lost that role to Ayeni as his jump shot disappeared. But, on a team that was short front court talent Andoh was given a long leash and had some fine moments, none better than his effort at George Washington. Grade: C-
LaDarrien Griffin- Seldom used as a freshman, Griffin saw a major increase in minutes as a sophomore (12.3) and was a contributor this season. Griffin thrived in the Bonnies 1-3-1 zone, gave them length and energy on defense, was a solid rebounder and more than anything: Knew his role on offense. Griffin didn’t shoot often, but when he did, he made a team best 52%. He was a very poor foul shooter (53%) and it’s fair to wonder if his offensive game will ever develop given that he’s half-way through as a Bonnie. If Griffin can take another step forward next year as a scorer (with an improved jump shot), he should see even more time. At the very least, he’s a nice defensive-minded rotational player to have as a junior and this team could use some defense. Grade: B-
Chinoso Obokoh- Obokoh, a Syracuse grad transfer, was “supposed” to be the Bonnies starting center this year, and the thought was, he would be the rim-protector SBU so badly needed. Obokoh was replaced as the starting five man by Josh Ayeni within four games and then sprained his MCL down in Austin over Thanksgiving and never played again. He made just five shots in 55 minutes, had eight rebounds and seven turnovers. I, along with many others, thought that Obokoh would not return next year, but it appears the team is expecting the 6-9 forward back with a medical red-shirt. I think it’s fair to wonder if the team essentially sat him out this year, knowing they may not be able to land a better forward in the spring to support their dynamic back court. We will likely find out for sure in a few weeks but there’s no doubt his season was a total disaster anyway you slice it. Grade: INC or F
Mark Schmidt: The Bonnies were picked 5th in the A10 pre-season media predictions, but still had to replace the interior game of Dion Wright and the scoring, “clutchness” and toughness of Marcus Posley. There was work to do, but given the back court potential and momentum of last year’s NIT season, there was no reason to think SBU couldn’t again win 20+ games and make the a post season tournament.
Schmidt told us in the summer that his biggest worry was replacing Wright, who was a match-up nightmare on offense, and could guard several positions on defense. Clearly, Schmidt knew that Matt Mobley was going to be just fine in replacing the production of Posley, but he also worried about replacing their leadership. Schmidt said that Wright and Posley were the leaders, the alpha dogs, of that team, and replacing those type of players was a massive challenge. Schmidt could scribble up some new plays on his yellow legal pads to account for personal changes, but there’s no play book for replacing experienced leaders during the final minutes of close games in January.
His fears seemed to be justified during this 20-12 season for the Bonnies. While Jay Adams earned another First Team All- League Plaque, the junior does not appear to be that “go to leader” on the floor at times; Schmidt has said it’s just not his personality. While Adams has no issue taking the big shot (and he’s made a few of them), he’s also not the guy pulling the group together on the floor before critical possessions to give them words of advice.
With that, Schmidt and his staff hoped this club would gel quickly in order to surpass expectations and challenge for a second straight league title in the regular season. SBU won eight non-conference games, but lost tight ones against Florida, Central Michigan and UNCW. The Florida and UNCW games especially tough, as the Bonnies were likely just a shot or stop away from winning both.
A year ago, you’d think a Wright and Posley-led team wins at least one of those games.
The home loss to Canisius was shockingly bad, and any NCAA at-large hopes had vanished by the new year, in large part because of the defensive horror show at home.
During league play the Bonnies were an up and down club who never seemed to fully get a head of steam going like they did a season ago. At one point, SBU alternated wins and losses for nine games, or over a month of play. One good win would be erased by a poor loss, and game after game SBU was unable to defeat any teams of quality.
The Bonnies would finish the season 0-9 against the top 100, and their best win came against #113 ranked George Mason. The VCU game was without a doubt a major gut-punch to the team and the fan-base and would have been the season’s signature moment. Still, that win alone would not have gotten SBU into the NIT, or even jumped them from fifth to forth in the seeding for the conference tournament.
Schmidt got excellent play out of Mobley and Adams, designed the league’s best offense (without Wright and Posley) and guided the team to a top five finish, despite the lack of quality wins and lack of any real front court depth. SBU finished the season ranked 89th in KenPom offense and 106th defensively. A year ago, the Bonnies ranked 39th in offense and 181st in defense…so as we expected- there was an improvement defensively but a drop off offensively. SBU dropped from 103rd in eFG% to 212st this season; a major shooting dip.
The Bonnies “achieved” in Pittsburgh, winning on Thursday but losing badly on Friday and failed to make the NIT for a second straight year.
In all, Schmidt had a completely satisfactory season on the sidelines, and should be given credit for guiding the team to back to back 20 win seasons; this is no small feat in Olean. Many fans would have liked to have seen him develop Amadi Ikpeze, Nelson Kaputo and Tareq Coburn more, but at this point in time you should know Mark’s MO regarding playing time and bench depth. Hopefully the Bonnies don’t lose any of those guys to school’s promising more playing time, but it’s entirely possible it happens.
Had the Bonnies notched a few top 100 wins, avoided the Canisuis and UARL losses this grade would had a plus added to it. Had SBU downed URI in Pittsburgh and made the NIT, it would be a full grade higher. As it stands, Schmidt had another successful season in Olean with his 20 wins.
Could it have been better? Absolutely. Next year though over 80% of Bonnies fans say it’s NCAA or Bust (We polled over 400 Twitter Followers). Schmidt and the Bonnies will need to do much better vs. quality clubs. Grade C+