Working diligently to fit in provided the opportunity for Matt Mobley to stand out.
Mobley, St. Bonaventure’s talented transfer guard, excelled out of the gate and is half of one of the nation’s most productive backcourt duos. He is an able wing man to all-conference guard Jaylen Adams and is rapidly carving out his own reputation, all while simply taking direction and appreciating the moment.
“I really came here to help the team win, score the ball a little bit, so I feel like I’m doing that,” Mobley said. “Just trying to contribute as much as I can and help the team win. I think I’m playing OK so far.”
Twenty months removed from a quality, though hardly spectacular, season a couple of rungs down the competitive ladder, he now earns notice for an Atlantic 10 contender. The Bonnies (12-6), who host Saint Joseph's Tuesday on ASN, improved to 4-2 in the conference with a 71-52 victory at Saint Louis Tuesday night on ASN. Mobley led the way with 23 points, including six 3-pointers. He also had seven rebounds.
The 6-3 junior from Worcester, Mass., is fourth in the A-10 in scoring (19.9 points per game), a shade behind his compadre and backcourt mate, Adams, the conference’s leading scorer at 21.8 ppg. Mobley shoots 44% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 84% from the foul line.
“He’s got a lot of confidence in his game,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “He works on his game. He’s got a good skill set. He can shoot the ball from beyond the (3-point) arc, he can take guys off the bounce, he can finish at the rim. He’s getting to the foul line. We’re pleased with what he’s done, and I think he can even get better.”
Mobley blossomed since his high school days, when he had just one Division I scholarship offer, from Central Connecticut State. He averaged 6.8 points per game as a freshman at the Northeast Conference school, but believed that he could, and should, improve. More offseason work and attention to detail between his freshman and sophomore years resulted in a 17.2-point average and the NEC’s Most Improved Player award.
He sought a competitive step up, and drew interest from Boston College and several A-10 programs. He settled on St. Bonaventure due to Schmidt’s vision, comfort with the campus and future teammates, and the opportunity for playing time.
Mobley used the year sitting out as a transfer to his advantage. He took Schmidt’s advice to heart and treated practice like games. He worked even harder at conditioning and on refining his skills, challenged daily by Adams and departed all-conference guard Marcus Posley. At times, Schmidt said that Mobley was the best player on the practice floor.
“You just never know with a transfer,” Schmidt said. “You can do it in practice, you can do it on the scout team, but can you do it when it really counts? He was taking a step up in competition, a better league. But we knew that he had the ability to do it. We just didn’t know when the lights went on if he could, or would.”
After a modest first half in the season opener against St. Francis , Mobley took off. He scored 28 points versus Florida in the Bonnies’ second game. He topped 20 points in six of the first eight games. He dropped 33 on Canisius in a recent overtime loss.
“He’s everything we expected him to be and probably more,” Schmidt said.
Mobley is also St. Bona’s second-leading rebounder, and ninth in the A-10, at 6.1 per game, a function of the team’s makeup rather than a latent power forward gene. Because the Bonnies’ post players are young and relatively thin, the coaches emphasize boxing out, and they need the shooting guard to scratch back and rebound. He grabbed 12 boards in a win against Hofstra and 10 versus Pepperdine.
“Our ‘bigs’ do a great job of boxing other people out,” Mobley said, “so that leaves me a lot of room and space to get in there and grab the rebound. My job’s easy. It’s the ‘bigs’ that are working hard and boxing out. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t get any rebounds.”
Rebounding prowess aside, Mobley’s offensive production is his most notable value. He and Adams complement each other, and he is a capable point guard when Adams needs a blow or is in foul trouble.
“Jay draws so much attention, he gives me the ball in great places to score,” Mobley said. “He makes it really easy for me to score, because he’s so good. When he’s on the floor, I know I’m going to get a couple open looks just because of the attention he draws.”
Mobley and Adams rarely come off the floor. Mobley, in fact, leads the nation in minutes (38.4 per game), while Adams (35.5 mpg) is 26th. They are integral to the A-10’s top scoring offense (82.2 ppg) and the team’s chances. Schmidt isn’t concerned with heavy minutes, given frequent media timeouts and breaks.
“In order for us to be successful, our backcourt, Matt and Jay, have to play well,” Schmidt said. “That’s a big part of our offense, giving them the freedom to play. They’ve done everything for us so far, and hopefully, that can continue.”
Mobley knows that much is expected of him, but he isn’t occupied with his own statistics.
“I try to keep it team-based as much as possible, so I don’t really set any personal goals,” he said. “I just want to go out there and win. … I’m trying to score, rebound the ball, play defense, make the right play, try to make the right play each time down the floor, and just play hard.”Dave Fairbank is a freelance writer based in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @FairbankOBX.