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.
The forward group for St. Bonaventure heading into the season is the most experienced position group, having two of the three returning players on the roster, while the group also includes a handful of newcomers who are ready for a big role with the Bonnies. Now, we're using 'experienced' as a loose term here as of those returners, one spent his only season so far as a redshirt, while the other has played a total of 30 minutes for the team.
As the season gets closer, rotations are starting to take a bit more shape, at least in terms of who may be on the floor for a healthy amount of minutes to start the year.
To see what may be to come for the forwards, let's look to each player and what they could bring to the new look Bonnies, including a handful of notes from recent team events.
Hill, the sophomore transfer from Farleigh Dickinson, seems to be one of the sure-fire starters to begin the season for the Bonnies. Hill is a 6'9 forward that started 17 games during his freshman season at FDU. Potentially the most notable, he was named the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Year for the 2021-22 season.
Hill will bring rim protection to the Bonnies' starting five, while there is some uncertainty who will start the year for the team at center. He averaged close to one block per game during his freshman season, and could see that number increase if Hill sees himself playing a greater share of minutes for Bona's.
Hill generated some offensive momentum as the year progressed at FDU last season, seeing much more scoring volume as he developed into a starting role with the team. Once he was a consistent starter, Hill scored in double figures in nine out of 13 contests to end the season.
Assuming Hill sees similar or greater volume this season with the Bonnies, he should be a consistent contributor on the offensive end of the floor as well.
One thing I will keep an eye on for Hill this season will be 3-point shooting. He was a low volume 3-point shooter for FDU last season, averaging just one attempt per game. However, as his freshman season progressed, Hill started to see shots fall on the nights he took some attempts from three.
Per SBUnfurled, Hill hasn't been shy to take 3-point opportunities when presented during practice and scrimmages with the Bonnies so far, and appears to be confident from that range if he gets a good look. If this carries over into the season, 3-point shooting could be an interesting, and fairly unexpected, storyline during his first season with the Bonnies.
Evans is a 6'8 freshman hailing from Putnam Science Academy, where the Bonnies have developed their own #PutnamPipeline. Former Bona players Justin Winston, Kyle Lofton, and Osun Osunniyi, as well as recent commit Miles Rose and fellow visitor Will Lovings-Watts, also played at PSA. Further, Mark Schmidt's son Nick also works as an assistant for the Putnam staff.
Evans also happened to record one of the wildest, and possibly my favorite, statlines during his time at PSA. 17 points, 21 rebounds (!!), 10 assists. I mean, a 20 rebound triple-double at any level, let alone for one of the top prep school programs in the nation is incredible.
Most likely, he'll be in the Bonnies' starting rotation to begin the season, giving him some quality experience at the next level right out of the gate. Evans' frame and athleticism will help him contribute in any role the Bonnies need, bringing help as a switch defender as well as helping run the floor in transition, whether it be as a scorer or a distributor.
As he told Assistant Athletic Director Scott Eddy, Evans models his game after Kevin Durant, hoping to help score in as many ways as he can and defend as many positions as he can.
Of course, as Evans has yet to log any collegiate minutes, how his game will translate to the higher level is yet to be seen. However, he has been around the program as much as possible since he signed hoping to level his game up for the step forward.
Evans may be a bit raw as a newcomer, but his prior accomplishments, pedigree, and mindset seem to have him set up for success as he makes the jump.
Another incoming freshman, Farrell comes to the Bonnies after playing his high school senior season for Keystone Academy, along with the PSA Cardinals AAU program. He was a four-star recruit who chose St. Bonaventure over offers from Syracuse, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, and more.
Farrell should have an immediate role this season for Bona, probably as one of the main pieces of the second unit to start off the year.
He was a highly touted recruit for many reasons, most noteworthy being his expansive range from three, defensive presence across most positions on the floor, and catch-and-shoot ability.
Farrell and Evans may end up playing similar roles this year, whether it's alongside each other or trading spots in various rotations, due to their similar athleticism and defensive flexibility both as ready-to-play freshmen.
Look for Farrell's 3-point range combined with quickness driving to the bucket to allow him to exploit opposing defenders, especially if he finds himself manning the bench unit and getting into some mismatch situations thanks to his size and speed.
One thing I am looking out for is how he fares as a shot blocker for the Bonnies. He has a 6'11 wingspan, which can certainly help both in the paint and on the wings as Farrell works as a defender. I can see him getting one to two blocks a game, depending on the defensive situations that he finds himself in on a given night, which can end up being an underrated part of Farrell's game.
As one of only three Bonnies on this year's roster who even attended the university last year, much is still to be said on Mellouk as he spent his first year on campus as a redshirt.
Spending a season as part of a Bona team that saw a ton of success, while being able to work on his game and adjust to the Division 1 level will certainly be beneficial for Mellouk moving forward. He also spent time rehabbing a torn meniscus, which Mellouk says helped him learn to slow his game down as well as focus on the Bonnies' scheme and sharpening his skills in the half court.
Per SBUnfurled, Mellouk had a good all around showing during the team scrimmage held on Saturday. He was effective scoring in the paint, including converting on some put back opportunities, as well as getting to the free throw line on numerous occasions. We expect him to have a solid role for Bona's during his first year as an active player, but as of now it seems that role will likely be within the second unit.
A native of the Netherlands, Mellouk has interestingly had some international playing experience as well. He spent his summer overseas playing on a 3-on-3 team and some 5-on-5 exhibition for the Dutch national program. His unique playing experience, development, and time around the Bona program could allow coach Schmidt to lean on Mellouk in key situations this season and moving forward.
The only rostered player who's had active playing experience for the team coming into the season, the sophomore forward is looking to build upon the minor role he had last year.
Ndjock-Tadjore has a similar size and build as Mellouk, so the two may compete for the same role within the rotation, with Mellouk slightly having the edge right now if there does end up being a battle for minutes between them. JNT saw a small amount of minutes in most of his 12 appearances last season, outside of contests against Duquesne and Siena, where he logged eight minutes in both contests, respectively, as the Bonnies went on to large wins in those two games.
Similar to Mellouk, being a part of the 2021-22 team will certainly be a positive for Ndjock-Tadjore moving forward, allowing him to grow competing with and observing the Bonnies' senior group that saw the success they did, especially seeing some in-game minutes for that team.
It will be exciting to see JNT get some higher usage this season, as he has not played a considerable number of games or minutes over the past two years. Both his high school senior and AAU season were cancelled due to the pandemic in addition to the limited role for the Bonnies last year.