OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB) — Often when you think about a college basketball team comprised almost exclusively of underclassmen, you think of major one-and-done programs like Kentucky or Duke.
10 of St. Bonaventure’s 13 players this season are freshmen or sophomores, with the starting line up consisting of four sophomores and a freshman.
“Confidence is a big thing, and I think for the young guys, putting themselves in situations over and over again, it teaches them what they need to do,” St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt said. “Experience is everything, and I think as we go on in the season, our young guys have gotten better. Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, and Dominick Welch have gotten better as sophomores, have become better leaders. We’re happy where we’re at right now, but we gotta finish this thing strong.”
Coming off a big time win over Richmond last weekend, St. Bonaventure is looking to finish the final four games of the regular season with wins to catapult them into the postseason. The win over Richmond moved the Bonnies into the third seed spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“I think the youth just affects us because just on the fact that a lot of guys except for Kyle, Osun, and Dom, haven’t played in the A10 championship or haven’t played in the A10 tournament, or even played in the A10,” Bonnies sophomore guard Jaren English said. “I think that’s just the biggest thing of them all.”
“I know what I can bring to the team, I know the guys in there like AJ, Matt, Alpha, all the other guys, I know they know what they can bring to the team too and they’re just going to keep competing and working hard just like everybody else does. We’re going to keep getting better and we’re going to work to get to the A10 championship.”
“It started off with me, Osun, and Kyle, because we played a lot of minutes last year so we really know what it takes to compete at the highest level and to get to the A10 championship, so I feel like the rest of the team is following our lead,” Bonnies sophomore guard Dominick Welch said. “They’re really getting a grasp of it and what it takes to win. We’re trying to preach defend and the offense will come, just trying to lead by example and try to get as far as we can.”
Even with a team full of young players, the Bonnies have stepped up to lead this team to an 18-9 record and 10-4 in A10 conference play.
“Our young guys that are freshmen are no longer freshmen. We’ve played 25, 26 games now, so it’s about time that they play like experienced guys,” Coach Schmidt said. “Our older guys that are sophomores, I call them old sophomores. Kyle, Dom, and Osun have to be the leaders. Sometimes it’s hard for an 18, 19 year old kid to be a leader, but I think they’re learning, the young guys are listening to them, so we’re in a good spot. We’ve just got to finish it off.”
St. Bonaventure men’s basketball returns to the Reilly Center on Wednesday night when they host Duquesne at 7 pm.