ST. BONAVENTURE — It was the most glaring need for an otherwise established St. Bonaventure men’s basketball lineup: A big, bruising power forward who could both provide some interior depth and help relieve some of the pressure on Osun Osunniyi inside.
The Bonnies not only filled that hole, they did so with another “big splash” addition … the biggest, perhaps, since Osunniyi himself chose Bona in the spring of 2019.
Karim Coulibaly, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound Pittsburgh transfer, will continue his playing career at Bona, The Athletic’s Andrew Slater reported Friday, much to the delight of SBU fans, whose team had just landed its second high-major transfer in six days. Coulibaly, who entered the transfer portal last week, chose the Bonnies over a host of high- to mid-major programs, including Georgetown, Arizona State, Wichita State, Butler, VCU, George Washington, Marshall and Bradley, per Slater.
A sophomore forward, he stands to be eligible right away due to the impending one-time transfer rule and would still have three years of eligibility remaining.
COULIBALY, a native of Bamako, Mali, is unquestionably one of the more high-profile additions of the Mark Schmidt era. He originally selected Pitt and the Atlantic Coast Conference over an array of similarly high-end offers. He was considered a three-star recruit by both Rivals and ESPN.com.
The big forward displayed flashes over two seasons with the Panthers. This past year, he started 20 of 22 games, averaging five points and four rebounds, adding nearly one block and one steal, while shooting 51 percent from the field in 23 minutes per game. Of Pitt’s regulars, he finished fourth on the team in rebounding, second in blocks (19) and first in field goal percentage (46-of-90).
And though his numbers were modest, the hope is that his size and talent — considered to be high-major coming in — will translate well to the Atlantic 10 level.
Beyond the numbers, he appears to be exactly the kind of guy Bona required: A capable offensive player who can fill the Da’Quan Cook-like role of doing the dirty work needed to free up the star center inside. He also gives the Bonnies a true power forward presence, something they were missing in 2020-21 and a spot that was played ably by the 6-foot-5 Jalen Adaway, who might now be able to play some small forward.
“Bonnie fans, you’re getting one of the best ball-screen defenders I have ever seen at the college level and that isn’t an exaggeration,” tweeted Kyle Saxon, a senior staff writer for Pitt News Sports. “(He) always brings energy, (he’s) a great screen-setter too. He’ll be a really good piece on the interior for you.”
COULIBALY, whose real first name is Abdoul-Karim, arrived at Pittsburgh after a standout career at Scotland Campus Sports (Pennsylvania), where he was the Great Atlantic Conference Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year. He represented Mali at the 2019 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup and had an outstanding tournament, averaging 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists while leading his home country to the championship game, where it lost to the United States.
Now, the 20-year-old will play for Bona and a staff that reportedly viewed Coulibaly as a “high priority” after entering the transfer portal in late March and a “steal” for the reigning Atlantic 10 champions.
Coulibaly, who played both the ‘4’ and ‘5’ at Pittsburgh, is the third member of the Bonnies’ 2021 recruiting class, all of whom have been added in the last week, and the second ACC transfer to join the roster, alongside Wake Forest freshman Quadry Adams. With the Mali native on board, Bona now has 10 scholarship players (with three available rides remaining), a second true big man and some much-needed depth for next season.
All three additions, including the 6-foot-3 Adams and 6-foot-7 Canadian guard Justin Ndjock-Tadjore, who committed on Thursday, can sign their National Letters of Intent beginning April 14, the first day of the spring signing period.