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1 Big Question About Each Bonnie

This year’s version of the Bonnies likely has more “answers” on the roster than almost all previous versions under head coach Mark Schmidt. Expectations are sky high in Western New York and that’s a beautiful thing. Nearly as beautiful as a drive into town on a snow covered February day when the temperature is reading in the single digits outside.

Still, whether it’s a question about the front court, the team’s depth and player usage or simply their ability to win a major non-conference game, questions exist about every team in the country.

In today’s post we narrow our focus to one big question that surrounds each player on the roster. Let’s dive into what we’re wondering about each player on the club. 

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Idris Taqqee- Can he become a “credible” shooter? At this point it would be foolish to think Taqqee will become a deadly three point man, but if he can knock down closer to say 34% of his three point attempts (instead of 25% last year) defenses will have a nearly impossible time playing off Adams and Mobley in the half court. That 34% figure represents what Taqqee shot from distance as a sophomore by the way, so it’s a very real goal. Most specifically, Taqqee needs to improve on his corner three point shot where he missed many wide open looks a year ago.

Jay Adams and Matt Mobley- Can they shoulder the pressure of this season? We’re listing Adams and Mobley together here because the Bonnies’ star seniors will face many of the same questions and challenges all season long. The guard tandem has become the face of the program and are being mentioned in national media outlets left and right as players to watch. In a season that has been tabbed “NCAA’s or bust” by nearly all, Adams and Mobley’s every shot, decision and line score will be dissected and discussed in bars from Olean to down here in Texas (though I suppose I may be talking to myself from time to time).  Even in 2012 when the program went Dancing, the pressure was not nearly as focused on Andrew Nicholson in the Fall. Yes, we knew that team was capable, but this year already feels significantly different. If they can navigate this team to an NCAA berth and/or A10 Title they will go down as essentially, side-by-side legends…two of the best to ever wear the Brown and White…if the season ends in an NIT berth though, their legacy will be entirely different and focus nearly entirely on their individual state lines and scoring accomplishments. Jay Adams will likely have his number hanging in the RC one day, his goal for this season is to hang a different kind of banner. 

Mark Schmidt must trust Kaputo more and spell Jay Adams if he wants to keep the star fresh all season long.

Nelson Kaputo- Can he stay out of the “doghouse” and spell Adams or Mobley for at least five minutes a half? Kaputo never got out of that doghouse a year ago after being declared academically ineligible in the Fall and his development suffered (Dropped from 40% of team’s minutes to 14% last year). There’s no question Kaputo has the talent to play big minutes and contribute, but will Schmidt use him that much? Keeping Adams fresh for February and March should be a major key, and the easiest way to ensure that happens is for Kaputo to play and play well. Let’s hope Schmidt gives the junior some more time and pull back the reins on Adams when he can. 

Courtney Stockard- The easiest question surrounding any player on the roster: Can he stay healthy? Stockard has missed each of the last two seasons with foot injuries and now tries to become a rotational player as a junior. Stockard was billed as a big time scorer in Junior College but who knows what he can contribute at this point. If he can stay healthy all season and become even a 12 minute a game player off the bench that’s a win for Schmidt and company. We’d like to be bullish on his outlook but that may be unrealistic given injury history and time away from the floor against real competition. Let’s hope he sees the floor and helps the team; anything better than that is gravy. 

Izaiah Brockington- Can he develop and “trust the process”? A year ago it was clear by Christmas that Tareq Coburn (now with Hofstra) was miserable and would likely leave at year’s end. Coburn couldn’t stomach another season sitting behind Adams, Mobley, Taqqee and Kaputo and went back closer to home on Long Island (That’s totally understandable). Brockington seems like a he could be a really nice late period sign for Schmidt, having big time success in Philly’s tough Catholic League. Still, Schmidt can be brutally hard on his players and they have to stick it out and see their path through patience (See players like Matt and Dion Wright, Conger, Ndoye, etc.) If Brockington can see that four year plan and displays a lot of grit, he should develop like so many others under this coaching staff. 

Tshiefu Ngalakulondi- Can he push Griffin/Ayeni for time on the wing/four spot immediately? “Chef” (As we will call him during his time at Bonas for ease of spelling) is probably the most likely newcomer to play meaningful minutes from day one and could become a major X factor type of player as a freshman. Chef is a 6-6, 210 pound wing who is a high flying athlete capable of guarding multiple positions. If Griffin falters or Stockard is not rust-free, expect Chef to gain their minutes on the wing. Whether or not he come play some minutes at the four remains to be see but would likely depend on the match-up. We’re super excited to see him ball.

Can Griffin go from a defensive energy guy to an all-around offensive threat with an improved jump shot as a junior?

LaDarien Griffin- Can Griffin become a reliable scoring option and better jump shooter? LD made significant strides as a rebounder, defender and energy guy a year ago but can he take some pressure off Adams, Mobley and company? Griffin had a true shooting percentage of 54% last year, up from 46% as a freshman. Griffin’s 54% shooting from the line and 2PT range have to improve from him to make this leap. At worst this year he’s a solid player off the bench who can defend and rebound. At best, he becomes a real all-around player who can score it a bit when those chances arise as well. His ceiling is an A10 6th Man of the Year type. 

Amadi Ikpeze- Can he become a reliable 5 man? Ikpeze showed flashes as a freshman, but overall had an up and down season as expected. The 6-10 sophomore is the likely the Bonnies’ most “true” center option and will be counted on to play as such on both ends of the floor. If he shows good defensive positioning and stays out of foul trouble he should see major minutes. Like Ayeni below, Ikpeze also needs to cut down on fouls in a major way as he led the team with 10.5 fouls per 40 minutes or none of those improvements in the summer will matter.

Josh Ayeni- Can he become a post player? Ayeni was a true face-up four man last year and thrived as a pick and pop player. He shot 47% on 2PT shots, but 79% from the line showing his excellent shooting touch. Still, Ayeni was an incredibly poor finisher at the rim and showed very little back to the basket game and ability to score via post moves. His ability to become a real pivot-player would take him to different level. A close second question for Josh would be: Can he stay out of foul trouble as well (committing 8.2 fouls per 40)? 

Ndene Gueye- Will he be healthy for the non-conference slate? Gueye is a 6-10 center coming to Bonas via Kilgore C.C. in Texas via the Sengal and Redemption Christian Academy in Massachusetts. He tore his rotator cuff in the summer and is on the mend. There’s not a true in depth scouting report on Gueye to this point but given the lack of experience of Ayeni and Ikpeze it’s certainly plausible to think Gueye plays serious minutes as soon as he’s healthy. In an ideal world, Gueye would be a back to the basket player who defends forwards well and can protect the rim; something the Bonnies seriously lacked last season. 

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.