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Runnin’ the Point: Seniors ready for final ride
The Quinnipiac men’s basketball seniors are preparing for their last season
One last go-around.
Leaving your mark.
The final chapter.
Seniors constantly hear these traditional clichés when they reach their final year of school. Quinnipiac men’s basketball seniors Abdulai Bundu and Andrew Robinson better get used to hearing those phrases.
Bundu and Robinson technically aren’t the only seniors on the rosters – Cam Young is back as a graduate student and Andrew’s twin brother Aaron has an extra year of eligibility after redshirting in 2016-17 – but they are separating themselves as two key leaders.
Just by watching practice, you can see that the seniors have a role in leading a team filled with four freshman guards (Savion Lewis, Tyrese Williams, Tyree Pickron, Matt Balanc) competing for minutes.
“I do [think they’ve been vocal leaders],” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “We have a really good group of senior leaders, guys that are four-year college players, but the tricky part is they haven’t played for me for four years.”
At this stage, a senior like Bundu or Robinson has the same amount of experience under Dunleavy as current-sophomores Rich Kelly or Jacob Rigoni have. The thing that separates them is the four years of playing college ball.
“It’s sometimes hard to help guys all the way with Xs and Os because it’s only my second year too,” Robinson said. “But, [my goal is] just to show them the off the court stuff, leading by example and doing the right thing – going to class, keeping your grades up – that’s the most important thing.”
Academics have always seemed paramount for these guys. Robinson has made the MAAC All-Academic Team each of the past two years and was an Academic All-America nominee last season.
On the court, though, these Bobcats are still striving for more in what will be their final season of college basketball.
“[Bundu] is a guy more than anybody who knows how to play to his strengths,” Dunleavy said. “He’s certainly working on adding some things to his game, but he knows what makes him unique and special. The things that he brings to the table help you win basketball games. There’s nobody on our team that plays with more effort and more commitment to the team.”
“Dulli,” as everyone calls him, is mostly a shot-blocking big man who thrives in the pick-and-roll offense. This summer, though, the 6-foot-7 forward worked on other aspects of his game. In the modern game, a big who can shoot it from deep adds immense value – especially in Dunleavy’s offense that emphasizes spacing.
“Me and coach worked on [my shooting] all summer,” Bundu said. “It’s something I added as the summer went on and I’ll continue to put it in during gameplay. It’s a slow and steady process.
“Coach also told me to work on ball handling stuff. When we do that dribble hand off, just being able to do multiple dribbles before I give the ball up. Then we can fake a handoff. Then just a little bit of inside-outside is what I focused on this summer – catch, pivot, understand where my teammates are on the offensive end, just incase I need to make a pass so I can hit them right in the pocket for a catch and shoot.”
Bundu has attempted one 3-pointer in his three-year career, so it’ll be interesting to see how much he actually adds to that total this season.
On the other hand, shooting isn’t a concern for Robinson. In his career, the 6-foot-6 guard has attempted 248 threes compared to just 52 shots from inside the arc.
Last season, Robinson made 37 shots from deep, a career-high, and shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range. Those stats came in a career-low 22 games, as a nagging ankle injury forced him to miss the final 11 games of the season. This season is about staying fresh throughout the long season.
“There’s always bumps and bruises to go along the beginning of the season and there’s a lot of weeks of practice,” Robinson said. “I’m just trying to stay in the training room. Coming in [to the training room] to keep my body healthy has been a big emphasis this time around.”
Robinson suited up for the final few games of the season at the MAAC Tournament, but he never got on the court. After a six-month offseason of working out at home in Maryland and at Quinnipiac for summer sessions, the ankle is fully healed.
“I think [Robinson is] just starting to feel comfortable physically again – and that makes all the difference,” Dunleavy said. “Last year was hard at the end of the season, just battling and rehabbing to try to get back for those last games. It killed him to not be there. But now he looks fresh and he’s ready to go.”
Like Robinson, Bundu dealt with injuries throughout last season – they just weren’t quite bad enough to force him to miss time. Bundu had a sports hernia toward the end of the season, which he believes hindered his effectiveness.
Now healthy, these two are ready for their final ride in Hamden – and they don’t want to leave anything on the table.
“I want [our team] to be the best we can be,” Robinson said. “Whatever our potential is for the season, just maximize it. Hopefully everybody can stay healthy this year. By the end of the season, I hope to look back on the season and just say that we got everything we could possibly get out of the season.”
Dulli is looking for a more tangible reward when March rolls around.
“At the end of the year, I just [want] to hold that MAAC chip. Just hold that MAAC chip,” Bundu said. “I came here my freshman year, I’ve seen this place do a complete 180. At the end of the year, I [want to be able to say I] started a legacy.”
The legacy of this class started to form last season when the Bobcats reached the MAAC semifinals in Dunleavy’s first season. If they can secure the team’s first ever MAAC Championship, it’s safe to safe that legacy will be firmly cemented.