St. Bonaventure: A National Secret and a Powerhouse in the A-10

Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.

In college basketball, there are many teams that have plenty of gems, players that don’t care about fanfare or about accolades. They just want wins and they want to get far. It’s all about surviving and advancing in the game of basketball. And they all want to make a statement and let the world know that they’re there.

That can definitely be said about the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. They are a true definition of the word, “gem.” To understand them, you must first know what they’re about. St. Bonaventure University is a school in Olean, New York, about an hour & some change away from the city of Buffalo. Their on-campus arena, the Reilly Center, which seats over 5,000 spectators gets to rocking when they play.

Now, a little history on the program. In the 1969-70 season, the Bonnies were led by a Naismith Hall of Famer in the late Bob Lanier, and went 25-3 on the season as an independent program and were rated in the top-five national poll from the first week of January until the end of the season, as they beat Purdue, Davidson, Villanova, North Carolina State and reached the NCAA Final Four before losing to Jacksonville.

Daryl Banks III brings the ball to the court against Notre Dame at the Gotham Classic on Nov. 25th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

Since 1961, the program has made it to the NCAA Tournament eight times in its history, with the program most recently going to the Big Dance in 2018 and 2021. Aside from Lanier, they have had a group of players that have gone on to the NBA, most recently Andrew Nicholson, a two-time first-team Atlantic 10 selection and the conference’s Player of the Year in 2012, that would go on to be the No. 19 overall pick in that year’s NBA Draft to the Washington Wizards.

Last season, the Bonnies were nationally-ranked through the first six games of the season until they lost to Northern Iowa on Nov. 27th, but before that, they won the prestigious Charleston Classic in Charleston, South Carolina, beating high-major schools such as Clemson and Marquette, respectively. Throughout conference play, they went 12-5, finishing the regular season at 20-8. Unfortunately, the Bonnies were upended in the A-10 Tournament by Saint Louis, 57-56, in Washington, D.C.

Because of the loss, they were not invited to make another appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but got invited to the NIT (National Invitational Tournament), where they made quick work of other high-majors such as Colorado, Oklahoma and Virginia, and made it to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 29th, before losing to eventual champions, Xavier.

Barry Evans goes up strong for a layup between two defenders at the Gotham Classic on Nov. 25th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

This season, the Bonnies have started off at 6-6, but there was one victory in particular that showed just how talented they are. On Nov. 25th, St. Bonaventure had their biggest game in their non-conference schedule when they faced none other than Notre Dame in the Gotham Classic at the UBS Arena in Elmont, Long Island.

In a game in which they played against a high-major from the ACC, they stepped up big on both ends of the court and played a near-perfect game to beat the Fighting Irish. On defense, they came up big shutting down three of Notre Dame’s starters in Dane Goodwin, J.J. Starling and Trey Wertz, as the trio shot a combined 7-for-34 from the field and held the entire team to 11.8% from the field from three-point range and also 34.5% from the field.

Chad Venning secures the ball in his hands during the Gotham Classic on Nov. 25th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

On the offensive end, the Bonnies capitalized on free throws, shooting 90% from the line and shot slightly better than the opposition, at 40.7% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range. That was all that was needed for the Bonnies to pull off the 61-53 victory.

After the game, CBS analyst Jon Rothstein, tweeted this message:

That message was fitting, but that that is the program’s mantra. It basically means that they do so much with the little they have. That blue-collar effort is definitely crucial.

The Bonnies were fortunate to be the recipient of several transfers this season in sophomore guard & reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year winner Kyrell Luc (Bucknell), junior guard Moses Flowers (Hartford), junior guard Daryl Banks III (St. Peter’s), sophomore forward Chad Venning (Morgan State), sophomore forward Max Amadusun (Pittsburgh) and sophomore Anquan Hill (FDU).

The Bonnies’ bench gets excited during the Gotham Classic on Nov. 25th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

There are also two freshmen on the squad that made a big impact in forwards Barry Evans and Yann Farrell. Both are solid forwards that can put the ball on the floor and outwork their counterparts. Such is also the case with Venning, who is also an imposing force in the low post.

On the subject of the guards, Luc and Banks are the two highest scorers on the team and both will get the clutch baskets when necessary.

Kyrell Luc looks to make a move at the Gotham Classic on Nov. 25th, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

Now that conference play is around the corner, it is time for a part of the season where every win counts. The A-10 is a tough conference as it currently has 15 teams, with the addition of Loyola Chicago this season. Every game is do or die moving forward. But with the personnel they have, the Bonnies are going to go into their New Year’s Eve matinee matchup with UMass with their grit, tenacity and the ability to want to win.

As the mantra said, you’ve got to do less with more.

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