Leading up to the 2022-23 season, each week we will be examining one of the position groups of the new-look St. Bonaventure Bonnies on SBUnfurled.
Heading into the upcoming season, only three players on the roster even attended St. Bonaventure University last year. Two of those three players redshirted, meaning only one player (Justin Ndjock-Tadjore) logged in-game minutes for last season’s Bonnies.
None of those three returners are in the center group, leaving almost everything up to imagination for what’s to come out of the five spot.
To try to get some sort of sense of what may be to come, let’s examine each of the players on the roster who could log some minutes at center for Bona this season.
The 6’10 transfer from Pitt is from Dublin, Ireland, and didn’t begin playing basketball until he was an early teen.
Amadasun played in a handful of games in both his freshman and sophomore year for the Panthers, not in a significant role at Pitt during either season. However, if Amadasun finds himself in a larger role with the Bonnies, I think one area that he has shown he can contribute is on the glass.
In his high school senior season, Amadasun averaged 11 boards, as well as averaging 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes in his two seasons at Pitt. Amadasun also grabbed 15 or more boards in three of his six games in 2016 during the U-16 Euros for Ireland’s youth national team.
We’ve yet to see much of what Amadasun can do as a scorer at the college level, however if he can continue to rebound the ball at a high volume, we’d have to assume that Amadasun will find himself in many high percentage shooting situations where he has shown the ability to connect in high school, AAU, and international competition.
Amadasun recorded a double-double 12 times in the high school ranks, and can find himself in similar opportunities in a significant role at Bona.
Of course, much is left to be said on who will be the go-to man down low for the Bonnies this season and beyond, but Amadasun has the makings and multi-dimensional playing experience to be that guy.
Another 6’10 transfer, Venning spent the past two seasons at Morgan State, logging minutes in 42 games. Venning started 11 games last season, averaging seven points, three rebounds, and one block per game in his sophomore year.
What sticks out to me about Venning is his shot-blocking ability, tracking a total of 31 blocks so far during his college career. Venning could find himself as the primary rim protector for the Bonnies, and potentially as a rolling lob threat that guards could look to while driving to the basket. Venning has also showed an ability to score, shooting over 51% from the field so far in his college career.
Venning has the most college playing experience out of his peers in the center group, which coach Mark Schmidt could favor in the early going, depending on what he sees during camp.
Venning and Amadasun may split minutes down low this year, with help from the stretch forwards on the roster as well as freshman Melian Martinez. Venning shows toughness in his style of play, along with Amadasun, so the two could end up being a strong front court pairing.
Martinez is a 6’10 freshman from the Dominican Republic, who played his high school senior season at North Florida Educational Institute in Jacksonville where he averaged 8 points and close to 10 rebounds per game. The most eye-popping stat, however, is that Martinez blocked over four shots per game during his senior year.
To me, Martinez is the biggest wildcard for the new-look Bonnies’ front court. He could see a decent role, or his freshman year could be used to redshirt and spend a season getting used to the various aspects of college competition.
Either way, it’s no secret that Martinez sees himself as an elite shot blocker and rim protector, hoping to chase Osun Osunniyi’s all-time blocks record for Bona’s, as Martinez told Assistant Athletics Director Scott Eddy.
Martinez was the defensive anchor for his high school team in Jacksonville, blocking shots at a high volume to help lead them to a state final four, leading coach Schmidt to hope that Martinez brings that same defensive prowess to the Bonnies. Martinez’s shot blocking ability and athleticism can lead to success in transition as well.
While this year’s role is currently unknown for Martinez, his existing potential and continuing development will be something interesting to watch for the Bonnies moving forward.
So, who will it be?
Last season, Osunniyi played over 30 minutes per game as the Bonnies’ front court leading anchor. Now, you’re not going to expect a newcomer to plug in anything close to that high of a minute volume right off the bat, so to me it seems that the most likely answer is to begin the season with split distribution for the center group while the team works to click.
We may see some staggered lineups with Amadasun starting and Venning coming off the bench, or vice versa, and potentially also working Martinez in. Also, it may be highly possible that 6’9 forward Anquan Hill, who’s presumably in the starting lineup, mans the front court himself if coach Schmidt happens to opt for a smaller lineup on the floor in some games or scenarios.
The center spot is one of the biggest unknowns for a team comprised of mostly mysteries, so trying various lineups and staggering minutes between those available seems like the most likely outcome, until someone takes control of the five spot for the long haul.