By Kyle Zamiara
It’s been a long time since St. Bonaventure has had an Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, but that changed this season.
Sunday, the league announced senior forward Andrew Nicholson as the A-10 Player of the Year. He’s the first Bonnie to win the award since Earl Belcher in 1980 and 1981.
After struggling throughout the season to stay out of foul trouble –fouling out five times this season — Nicholson dominated his final eight games, averaging 25.3 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Coach Mark Schmidt said simply staying in the game will help Nicholson get his usual numbers.
“When he’s in the game, he stays in rhythm,” Schmidt said. “When he’s sitting on the bench in foul trouble, nothing is accomplished.”
Nicholson and the fourth-seeded Bonnies will play today in the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals in Atlantic City, N.J. against No.5 Saint Joseph’s at 2:30 p.m. The men sealed the fourth seed and earned a first-round bye in the tournament after downing the Hawks, 98-93, in double-overtime at home Feb. 29.
The Bonnies haven’t won a game in the A-10 tournament since 2010. They lost at home to La Salle last season in the first round, 75-73.
In the back-and-forth game against the Hawks, Nicholson poured in 32 points and grabbed 14 boards to lead the Bonnies. His deep three in the waning seconds of the first overtime tied the game and sent it into another extra session.
Schmidt said Nicholson’s game at the next level has to cover a variety of areas if he wants to be successful in the NBA.
“It’s like you’re taking another step up and you’re playing the best in the world,” Schmidt said. “Every part of his game has to develop, and it will.”
The Bonnies will have their hands full against the Hawks today, with Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Aiken guarding Nicholson on the inside. St. Joe’s also brings Second-Team All-Conference selection Langston Galloway, All-Conference honorable mentions Carl Jones and Halil Kanacevic and Sixth Man of the Year Ronald Roberts.
Schmidt said it’s a plus his team knows the opponent already.
“The players have played against them so they know them better than we know them,” Schmidt said. ” (Our players) understand how they play, the quickness, the athletic ability. Everything they need to know about what St. Joe’s does.”
Although the Bonnies won last time, Schmidt said they need to play better defensively against the Hawks.
“We’ve got to do a better job on their guards and on their big guys inside,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully we can out-rebound them again by 19. If there was a negative, we didn’t play as well as we can defensively.”