Patiently Working

Although he achieved his initial notoriety for launching three pointers at Patriot missile rates, Luke Bonner showed against Notre Dame that he has the potential to be a quality Big East Center.

Bonner, a freshman center who is playing behind D'or Fischer and Kevin Pittsnogle, hasn't gotten a great deal of time this year. Although head coach John Beilein has tried to get the New Hampshire native into the lineup on occasion, it has proved difficult to move both Fischer and Pittsnogle aside for any extended period of time. Finding minutes for those two players has been a tough enough task, so chances for Bonner, other than mop up duty, have been limited.

However, against the Irish, the seven-footer got his chance against some top flight competition. Even though much of it came with the contest already decided, Bonner showed some of the talent that could make him a tough competitor in the Big East conference.

The best thing about the appearance, other than his sweeping hook shot (more on that in a moment) was the unruffled demeanor that Bonner showed on the floor.

"I was pretty relaxed, actually," said Bonner, who scored four points in five minutes of action. "I've been waiting for my chance and being patient, and doing what I can in practice.

"I have been trying to do extra work, anything I can do to get ready," he added. "I felt prepared, so I just went in there and gave 100%."

The big center battled Notre Dame's physical front line well, grabbing an offensive rebound and standing his ground on a couple of bull rushes from Irish front courters Jordan Cornette and Torin Francis. He converted the offensive rebound into a stick back hoop, and also treated the crowd to what figures to become his signature move.

On the play, Bonner received the ball on the right block, and finding an opening into the lane, swept across the paint with a graceful move and launched a skyhook that found nothing but net. It was the first time Bonner hit the shot in a college game, but likely not the last.

"If I can feel the defender playing me straight on my back, it's pretty much there," Bonner said as he described finding the opportune moment for the hook. "It all depends on what the help defense is doing around me. If there's no one fronting me, I can usually get it off on anyone. But if people are doubling down on you, you have to look to kick [the ball] out, because it's much tougher to get the shot off then."

Prior to hitting the hook, Bonner had achieved notoriety for firing up five three-point attempts in just nine minutes of action in West Virginia's 82-48 win over New Hampshire. While playing against his home state school no doubt helped spur the barrage of shots, Bonner has the green light to fire away from beyond the arc, despite his 0-9 stat line on treys this season.

"He can make those shots. He does it in practice," head coach John Beilein said. "He's not as accomplished yet as Kevin, but he can shoot it."

Like many other freshmen, Bonner is still learning the college game, and there's no doubt that he will come back next year much more prepared to face the rigors of Big East play. However, he's getting a crash course right now in playing through adversity, and it has him a bit on the defensive.

"This is all brand new to me." Bonner said of fighting through WVU's losing streak. "I have no idea what is causing it. But I've gone through things like this before, and you just have to come back the next day ready to play. You have to focus and work your way through it.

"Obviously we hate to lose," he added. "That's human nature. We're just dying to get a victory and end this little stretch here."

Although he has gotten just 53 minutes of playing time in 11 games this year, there are some encouraging signs to be seen during his time on the court. He has yet to turn the ball over, and has recorded three assists, which shows that he's not just looking to shoot the ball when he does see the floor. He's also grabbed one rebound for every four minutes of action, which is the second best such ratio on the team.

While none of those numbers are going to earn him a spot on the Big East all-rookie squad, they do offer promise for the future. With Fischer departing after this season, there will be an opening for playing time behind Kevin Pittsnogle at the five spot, and if Bonner can continue to improve at his present rate, he could be poised to snap up those minutes in 2005-06.

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