What we Learned: Alfred Exhibition
After an eight month wait, the Bonnies took the floor of the Reilly Center on Saturday night against Alfred for their lone exhibition contest of the season. As expected, Mark Schmidt’s club easily dispatched the Saxons 109-73 in a game that was never in doubt. The box score in a game like this can only tell you so much, but we’ve come with some day after observations. Here’s what we learned in this forty minute tune up for the Bonnies’ season opener on Friday night in the RC against rival Niagara.
Jay Adams’ Status for the Opener is in Question
We hit on the fact that one of the biggest key’s to success was to keep Jay Adams and Matt Mobley healthy. Well, Jay Adams rolled his ankle and came out of the game after playing just 12 minutes and returned to the bench in a walking boot. The boot was apparently a precaution by the team and his status for Friday’s opener is unknown. Adams suffered an ankle injury last year and missed a few weeks; let’s hope this injury isn’t quite as bad. Adams’ health is absolutely key if this team is going to meet or exceed expectations so if he’s not 100% expect him to sit out Friday’s game against Niagara. In that scenario you may see Nelson Kaputo starting at the point OR, see Mobley running the offense and Schmidt could slot in Courtney Stockard at the three. Speaking of Stockard…
Courtney Stockard was Worth the Wait
Talk about a coming out party, Stockard was the best player on the floor in his first competitive game in over two years after two foot surgeries. We would have been happy with him just being out there and getting some work in but the transfer showed much more. Stockard finished the game with 20 points on 6-7 shooting in 20 minutes and committed just one turnover. He used his length to score going to the rim and defend and showed a very nice three point shot (2-3). Schmidt said before the game he’d consider Stockard as a four man this season and if he’s going to play like this, LaDarrien Griffin may not start for long. Let’s all hope Stockard’s injury woes are behind him because he could be an absolute game-changer on this team as a wing/scorer.
Who’s the Four Man?
As noted above, Griffin started the game at the four and played a usual “LaDarrien Griffin game” (7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks in 17 minutes) but Stockard truly shined and could push Griffin over time. That or Stockard is your scorer off the bench and a “6th Man of the Year” type of candidate. Still, Griffin’s ability to play within himself and defend with length likely keeps him as the starting four man for now. Freshman Tshiefu Ngalakulondi was impressive enough off the bench with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, but committed five fouls in just 14 minutes against inferior athletes. He looked very promising but needs seasoning. Josh Ayeni, who could easily play the four if Ikpeze or Gueye is on the floor, had 14 points and 6 rebounds in 17 minutes and committed two fouls. His mid range jumper has not gone anywhere. This will be a position battle to keep an eye on as we go forward.
The Perimeter Defense wasn’t Good, Fouls were an Issue
In our season preview we listed defense, specifically perimeter defense, as one of the weaknesses to keep an eye on for improvement. Alfred knocked in 12-31 shots from distance (38%) and there were several really poor defensive possessions by the Bonnies. Against a team that is this athletically inferior and so much smaller, SBU should have found it much easier to defend the Saxons. Yes, SBU held them to 36% shooting and forced 19 turnovers but the defense was sloppy enough to cause some concern heading into Friday. SBU’s 28 fouls committed is an alarming number vs. a team like Alfred as well. Chef fouled out, Kaputo had four fouls in 14 minutes. Again, all stats in a game like this need to be taken with a huge tablespoon of salt, but Schmidt will not be happy with the defense when he watches the film.
There was some Rust and Nerves
Freshman Izaiah Brockington was aggressive, probably too much so, and finished the game 2-9 from the field with a pair of turnovers and some poor decision making. Still, I liked his aggressiveness and know that Schmidt would likely prefer errors of commission vs. those of omission. That said, making poor decisions (shot selections and turnovers) come Friday will land freshman on the bench in a hurry and will chip into Schmidt’s trust. JUCO forward Ndene Gueye (7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers) showed a nice back to the basket game but clearly is a bit rusty after shoulder surgery. Give him time, but he may take a few months to really round into shape. Finally, walk on Jason Lee played 11 minutes (4 fouls, 2 assists) and actually looked like the type of player who could see time in the next four years if he stays in the program. I don’t think a walk on has ever played a meaningful minute under Schmidt, but maybe Lee becomes the first. Interestingly enough, Lee is the younger brother of newly minted Bonas assistant coach Dwyane Lee who played at Saint Joseph’s and Jason played at famed St. Anthony’s HS in Jersey City, NJ. Lee would be a great kid to root for as well, as he graduated HS with a 4.0 GPA and both his parent’s have passed away.
The Bonnies start their season Friday night against a Niagara team that won 10 games a year ago but did not graduate a single key contributor. KenPom ranks the Purple Eagles at 193rd and gives the Bonnies an 85% chance of winning. As long as SBU plays sound basketball, defends enough and gets expected performances out their core players, they should be 1-0 and looking forward to Wednesday’s game against Maryland Eastern Shore. We will update you here on the site, as well as on Twitter if we hear anything on Jay Adam’s status for the opener.
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