Stefan Bonneau is the star guard of coach Chris Casey's men's basketball team at LIU Post, which has a bye into Saturday's semifinal round of the ECC Tournament. Top-seeded Post (21-5) is hoping for a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Neither Casey nor Bonneau could have visualized that scenario. Casey was an assistant at St. John's when that university recruited Bonneau, who was hoping to join the Red Storm after two outstanding seasons for Orange Community College.
"His scoring numbers were ridiculous," Casey said of Bonneau's 30.9 average as a sophomore in 2007-08 at Orange. "He was a high-level scorer."
But Bonneau said his academics prevented him from attending St. John's. "Basically, it was a heartbreaker because I really wanted to go there," he said. "I didn't do what I was supposed to in the classroom.''
But, Bonneau said, "It still worked out pretty good."
Bonneau also had been recruited at Post by then-coach Tim Cluess, who left for the head-coaching job at Iona and was replaced by Casey. "My friend, Justin Burrell at St. John's, said, 'Do you want me to remind [Casey] about you?' " Bonneau said.
That turned out to be unnecessary.
"The same day [Casey] got the job, he called me saying, 'Are you still interested in coming?' '' Bonneau said. "I was like, 'Yeah.' It was so weird it happened like that."
Casey was thrilled to see Bonneau, who has led the ECC in scoring the last two seasons, averaging 18.9 and 22.1 points. "I like guys who can score, and I knew he could score in a lot of different ways," he said. "We were very excited to get him."
Although he's only 5-10, Bonneau's forte is dunking. He received enough votes to make it to the Final Four of a national contest on the Web. "He obviously can jump, but there are a lot of guys who can jump," Casey said. "The thing with him, in 25 years of coaching, I haven't been around a guy that's been a better game dunker than he is. He recognizes when he has an opportunity to go ahead with the dunk; 99.9 percent of the time he's successful with it. He also makes threes, assists; he's got an all-around game."
Bonneau said he started dunking in ninth grade when he was 5-6. "They said, 'You jump so easy,' '' he said, "but it takes a lot of energy."
Winning the ECC Tournament would yield an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. "That would be great. Me and my teammates are trying really hard to get there," Bonneau said.
And it doesn't matter what division it is. "Just because it's not D-I doesn't mean it's not good-quality basketball," he said. "There's a lot of guys [in Division II] who could have played at a high-level D-I."
Farmingdale, St. Joseph's set
Skyline Conference champion Farmingdale State (22-5) will meet Hartwick (23-3) at Oneonta Friday in an NCAA Division III Tournament first- round game.
St. Joseph's (L.I.), which is 21-4, will face Albertus Magnus (21-7) at Middlebury College (Vt.)