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Preview: Bonnies Host Longwood in Season Opener


Photo by Dan Nelligan

The Bonnies open the regular season tonight against Longwood as both sides come into the season with high in-conference expectations. Coach Mark Schmidt enters his 17th season as the head coach at St. Bonaventure, while six players will be primed to make their official Bonnie debuts. Everything you need to know about tomorrow’s season opener can be found right here.


The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure returns its six leading players in minutes per game from last season along with welcoming three transfers and multiple freshmen to the program. The 2023-24 roster features four players who averaged double figures last season along with three others who averaged at least 8.9 points per game. The Bonnies will lean on Daryl Banks III (15.4 PPG), Charles Pride (14.6 PPG) and Chad Venning (12.7) to lead what appears to be a very deep team.


Coach Schmidt will look to returners Assa Essamvous (formerly Yann Farell), Moses Flowers, Kyrell Luc and Barry Evans, as well as transfers Mika Adams-Woods and Noel Brown, to provide support for his stars and give the Bonnies one of the best rotations in the Atlantic 10. Do not be shocked to possibly see freshmen Duane Thompson and Miles Rose grab a few minutes off the bench early in non-conference play.


Projected Starting Five: Adams-Woods, Banks III, Pride, Assa, Venning


The Opponent

Head coach Griff Aldrich and Longwood have won at least 20 games in each of the past two seasons and made the NCAA Tournament as Big South champions two years ago. However, the Lancers had multiple high-impact players leave the program this summer. The team will miss the production of Isaiah Wilkins (13.3 PPG), DeShaun Wade (9.5 PPG), Leslie Nkereuwem (8.4 PPG) and Zac Watson (7.5 PPG). However, Aldrich brought in five transfers and three freshmen to revitalize his roster.


Jonathan Massie appears to be the transfer primed to make the largest impact. The 6-foot-6 guard averaged 10.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 30.6 minutes per game at McNeese State last season. The Lancers also welcomed seven-footer Szymon Zapala from Utah State into the program. However, the center only averaged four minutes per game in 2022-23.


Longwood returns four players that averaged at least 16.5 minutes per game for the Lancers last season. The now likely starting guard duo of Walyn Napper and DA Houston averaged 9.4 and 7.2 points per game, respectively. The Lancers also feature a pair of 6-foot-6 returning forwards. Michael Christmas averaged 7.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 2022-23 and will need to step up for Longwood this season. Jesper Granlund started most games last year averaging 5.9 points over 22.7 minutes per game. Also be on the lookout for Emanuel Richards and JUCO transfer Johan Nziemi to crack the rotation.


Projected Starting Five: Napper, Houston, Massie, Granlund, Christmas


Players to Watch

Chad Venning

Venning is poised to continue his breakout that began in conference play last season. The redshirt junior averaged 12.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while using his 6-foot-10, 255-pound frame to own the paint. Venning should have a very favorable matchup against a roster that lacks serious height. The only player Longwood has that is taller than 6-foot-8 is the seven-foot-tall Zapala, who averaged 4.0 minutes per game last season. Expect a big night from Venning.


Johnathan Massie

Massie averaged 10.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 30.6 minutes per game at McNeese State last season. All three of those totals are tops on a Lancer roster looking for a guy to step up and become the star player. Massie also factors into Longwood’s defensive scheme as coach Aldrich’s team prides itself on elite defense and turning takeaways into transition buckets.


Prediction

I expect both offenses to start on the slower side as both teams pride themselves on their defensive abilities. The Bonnies will be able to go inside early and often, which should unlock Schmidt’s entire offensive scheme. As long as St. Bonaventure does not underestimate the Lancers, and keeps Massie under control, the Bonnies should cruise to a 15–20-point victory.



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