ST. BONAVENTURE — Jalen Poyser appeared unhappy.
Anybody who followed the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team closely last season could see that in his face, his body language.
It was pushing 11 p.m. on Feb. 27, the night Bona handled Duquesne 68-47 inside the Reilly Center, the fourth in a string of five straight wins toward the end of the regular campaign. And though the game had long since ended, here was Poyser, still lingering in the depths of the RC, sitting against a wall in the hallway leading up to the media workroom.
The 6-foot-4 guard had provided a spark in that contest, scoring five first-half points to help the Bonnies grow a five-point lead into a 14-point advantage, but five points was far from what he was scoring early in the year, and the 10 minutes he received was a fraction of the court time he’d once been given.
In that moment, Poyser seemed lost in his thoughts, his eyes staring blankly at his phone.
In the previous two months, he’d missed five games due to a concussion (he’d caught an elbow in practice that gave him a nasty black eye), an absence that might have been compounded by time in the dog house. His minutes fell as freshman Dominick Welch’s prospects began to rise.
He went from being the team’s leading scorer in November to afterthought by late February.
Poyser continued to have his moments as Bona mounted a late-season charge, such as his four 3-pointer, 20-point game at Fordham, but those moments were fleeting. On Feb. 27, he looked as if he was ready to be done.
Nearly three months later, perhaps unsurprisingly, he is.
The Malton, Ontario, native has decided to forgo his senior year at Bona, North Pole Hoops’ Elias Sbiet first reported on Friday. He plans on pursuing a pro career overseas, his father confirmed to college basketball reporter Adam Zagoria over the weekend.
THE OUTSIDE expectations were probably unfairly high.
Before Poyser had ever taken the floor in a Bona uniform, coach Mark Schmidt had brought in consecutive transfer shooting guards — Marcus Posley turned Matt Mobley — who wound up being not only key contributors, but two of the best players in the conference.
Given that track record and Poyser’s credentials — he was a top-five player out of Canada in 2015 and a four-star recruit — it was easy to hope, and assume, that the 6-foot-4 shooting guard, after transferring from UNLV, would be the next Bona star.
Poyser never commanded the same kind of summer buzz as his predecessors, however, the “wait ‘til you see this guy” acclaim that Mobley had received in his year off. And it was clear, even after logging four-straight 20-point games in November, that he wasn’t cut from quite the same cloth as Mobley and Posley.
The former Orangeville Prep star, who, to his credit, bore the brunt of both the scoring and media load when Bona was young and injured and limping its way to a 1-5 start, began to struggle against better competition.
His attitude was brought into question. His minutes, for stretches, slipped into the single digits.
Upon leaving mid-March’s Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn, a three-game stretch in which Poyser totaled nine points, I remember thinking we might have seen the last of Melkisedek Moreaux, Tshiefu Ngalakulondi and even Poyser in a Bona uniform.
By the end of the St. Bonaventure school year, all three were gone. And even after three spring additions (and four overall in the 2019 recruiting class), Schmidt and his staff now (still) have three open scholarships at their disposal.
EVEN AS a senior, Poyser likely wouldn’t have been a top contributor in next year’s lineup.
After turning in strong inaugural seasons, including their impressive showings in Brooklyn, Welch and point guard Kyle Lofton have solidified their starting roles in the backcourt; this is their team now.
As far as the timing of his decision, perhaps the addition of not one, but two junior college guards this spring — the second of whom, Jaren English, was announced officially just a day before the Poyser news became public — was the final motivation for his departure.
Still, there might have been something to be said for having a guard with four years of collegiate experience, a guy capable of scoring 20 points, who’s played on the biggest stage in Atlantic 10 play, on your roster.
And for as much he tumbled down the depth chart, his season averages of nine points on 40 percent shooting and two rebounds would have been more than acceptable for just about any other first-year Bona payer.
Poyser, who’s ostensibly choosing the professional route in lieu of having to sit for a second time in three years, understandably chose to move on, though. And perhaps Bona was ready to move on from him.
Considering the night of that Duquesne game, when Poyser remained in the RC until the wee hours, this seems like the best, and most unavoidable, decision … for both player and program.
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)