By Aaron Smith
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -Freshmen aren’t supposed to play early in a season.
The unfamiliar experience of being a college student, playing in a new system, a longer season, the overall speed of the game – these are just some of the adjustments a freshman student athlete has to make on the fly. Ask any coach and their preference would undoubtedly be to play upperclassmen and slowly ease the frosh into the flow of a season.
After an historic season for the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team, heavy graduation losses have put the Bonnies in the unenviable position of having to rely on early production from its sextuplet of freshmen.
Wednesday night against Big Four rival University of Buffalo Bulls, the Brown and White looked to their freshmen for an early spark, and they responded.
The Bulls jumped out to quick start, hitting four of their first six shots to take an early 9-3 lead. Coach Jim Crowley quickly turned to his bench for a spark and received it in the form of freshmen Nyla Rueter and Hannah Little.
Rueter, the Hagerstown, Indiana native, immediately hit a pair of jumpers to stem the Bulls’ early run. Little would contribute 4 points and 5 rebounds in the first half. In all, the freshmen scored 17 of Bona’s 21 first half points.
In fact, by the 16:00 minute mark of the first half, the Bonaventure faithful got a glimpse of what is sure to be a common scene throughout the course of the 2012-13 season – four freshmen on the floor along with sophomore guard Tatiana Wilson.
“They (freshmen) are a good group. The learning curve has been difficult for them. Their roles have kinda accelerated” Crowley admitted. “But I have been really pleased, especially recently with how they have handled it.”
In the second half, Emily Michael hit a triple from the top of the key and gave the Bonnies, their first lead of the game, 25-24. It was the Clayton, Ohio native’s second three ball on the night, as the freshman logged 34 minutes of playing time.
“Emily has found her niche and I think motivates all of these guys with how hard she plays,” Crowley confirmed.
With 5:48 left in the second half, freshman forward Katie Healy fought for an offensive rebound, found a wide-open Ashley Zahn, who would drained a triple in front of the Bonaventure bench. It was the first of three on the night for the junior guard and would help give the Bonnies a lead they would never relinquish.
In the end, Zahn led all scorers with 19 points. Senior forward, Doris Ortega scored 15 and added six rebounds for the Brown and White. For the freshman, the numbers on stat sheet don’t look impressive. Little finished with four points and six rebounds. Rueter had eight points and three rebounds. Healy chipped in eight points and three rebounds of her own. But their impact on the game is immeasurable and doesn’t appear on the stat sheet.
Throughout the 2012-13 season, there will be ups and downs, flashes of brilliance and there will be mistakes with the freshmen. But as St. Bonaventure gets ready to enter the grueling Atlantic 10 conference play, the increased roles of newcomers will be invaluable. On Wednesday night, their impact provided early returns.
Bonnies are on the road Saturday night visiting Morgantown, W.V. to face nationally ranked #23 West Virginia.