Gritty BC Effort Downs Providence
By Greg Joyce, Heights Senior Staff
On a day when Boston College was hurting in size, the battle in the paint is what earned the Eagles the win. Ryan Anderson turned in a gutsy performance with 17 second-half points to give BC a 71-68 win over Providence at Conte Forum.
Freshmen Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon both played the entire game and contributed in major ways, as Hanlan recorded his first collegiate double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Rahon shut down the Friars on the defensive end.
The game featured 14 lead changes throughout the 40 minutes, and in the end, the Eagles came out on top.
“I thought it was a well-played game,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “Neither team could shake the other team.”
It was BC that finally shook off the Friars, as a 3-pointer from Patrick Heckmann with 5:59 remaining gave the Eagles a 59-56 lead that they would never relinquish.
BC hit seven 3-pointers on the day, but it was the play in the key that gave the Eagles the edge over Providence. With time winding down and the Friars hanging around, Rahon found Anderson underneath the basket twice in the final minutes to keep BC ahead.
“[Providence] had a lot of size on their team and with Dennis being hurt and Andrew Van Nest being out with a concussion, I just took it upon myself to be the force in the paint for us tonight,” Anderson said.
The second play from Rahon to Anderson came with the shot clock in its final seconds, as Rahon made something out of a broken play to find his big man for two points.
“I thought it was incredible—end of the shot clock, staying poised, finding [Anderson] in a tight spot and Ryan’s so good at finishing those with his hands,” Donahue said.
Donahue said he trusted Rahon more than anyone else in that situation to handle the ball, and his guard came through for him.
“I just have so much respect for Joe and his understanding of the game,” Donahue said. “He’s just a winner. You gotta make game-winning plays. Someone’s going to have to step up and stop him because he doesn’t lose his poise. He stays with it.”
The Eagles committed a season-low eight turnovers, as taking care of the ball down the stretch allowed them to hold off Providence in the waning minutes.
“It’s huge for us every game,” Donahue said of the low turnovers. “We’re not necessarily going to be the most athletic and physical team, so we got to be great with the basketball. We were great with the ball today. I don’t think there was any bad decision.
“We have to get less than 10 turnovers [per game] in this league if we’re going to be competitive this year.”
Dennis Clifford returned to action for the first time since Nov. 28 in limited playing minutes, still battling an ankle injury and sore knees. But the big man contributed four points and five rebounds, and more importantly, was a force on the defensive end for BC.
“I think a big lift we got was from Dennis,” Donahue said. “I know it doesn’t show too much, but he hasn’t played basketball, literally—except for a couple of games—in two months. He’s not healthy. He’s hurting. His knees are killing him. And his ankle’s not good. But he thought he could help us bang some bodies and I thought he did a great job.”
Hanlan’s 12 rebounds were a career-high for him, and his effort in the paint helped Anderson control Providence’s forwards. Rahon guarded LaDontae Henton—who came in averaging 16.6 points per game—and held him to just four points on the day. The play of the guards helped Anderson slow down the Friars down low, especially when Clifford wasn’t in the game.
“I thought a lot of the guards came in and helped me out on the rebounds,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how many Olivier and Joe had but they were really in there battling for a lot of rebounds for us. I thought it was a team effort of combating their size and strength inside. That was the key to the game.”
The win got the Eagles above .500 going into their small Christmas break, and was a big step forward in the team’s progression. Providence resembles the kind of team that BC will be facing in a lot of its ACC competition, and a win against the Friars did a lot for the young squad’s confidence.
“To pull [the win] out,” Anderson said, “is just big for our program moving forward to continue to grow as a team.”
BC Squeaks By Auburn
By Chris Marino, Assoc. Sports Editor
On Wednesday, the Boston College men’s basketball team pulled off a close 50-49 victory against the Auburn Tigers at Conte Forum. The Eagles were led by their freshman backcourt of Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon, while scoring leader Ryan Anderson struggled to overcome a lingering foot injury. Hanlan ended with a game-high 19 points, while Rahon was equally as pivotal to the outcome with 15 points. While the home squad led by as much as eight in the second half, the contest proved to be a battle of wills until the final buzzer.
“At the team meeting yesterday, we talked the things that winning teams do,” Rahon said. “We talked about making tough plays, and giving it for all 40 minutes. Then we all went home last night and watched Butler give it to North Carolina. They played hard. They did all the little things. They battled on the boards. They were able to beat a team that’s more talented than they are. We started texting each other, texting around, saying, ‘That’s how we have to play.’ So we came out here with a bulldog mentality, and hopefully we’re going to keep that for the rest of the year.”
The first half saw Hanlan and Rahon act as the main catalysts behind the BC scoring effort. The squad’s typical scorers—Anderson, Dennis Clifford and Lonnie Jackson—went a combined 0-for-10 from the field, while their freshman teammates combined to go 7-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Eagles struggled to penetrate the lane in the early portion of the game, and were forced to play mostly around the perimeter.
Head coach Steve Donahue was impressed with the pair’s leadership today, and believes that they will continue to contribute to making the offense more effective.
“Our guards had great confidence,” he said. “They have really good basketball IQ. The thing I asked them to do today was manage the game. I think they have the ability to do that for us, and it’s going to keep getting better. We still don’t have an identity sometimes on the offensive end. The ball gets moved around and we wonder why that guy takes a shot. I think everybody occasionally does that. Where’s the flow? Where are our roles? That comes with times and chemistry. These two guys, I just think, are all around basketball players that are going to be terrific in this league.”
Hanlan contributed early, hitting two straight 3-pointers to start the Eagles’ scoring. Rahon added a few outside shots himself, while the rest of the starters were unable to get anything going from the field. Despite a lack of size for Auburn, Clifford only attempted one shot in the half, and looked to pass before shooting on most possessions. Anderson, despite going 0-for-5 and 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the half, finished with six of his seven rebounds.
“I think Ryan had a lot to do with us winning,” Donahue said. “It could’ve been easy for him not to play. Obviously, he was nowhere near 100 percent, but he competed, and got seven rebounds. We just don’t have the depth to do that and win this game. I know it looks in the box score like he didn’t do much, he’s just not healthy. Obviously foul shots and not shooting well from the field, but seven rebounds in limited minutes is huge in a game like this.”
The half saw 12 lead changes, but it appeared that the Eagles would finish on top after Rahon drilled a three from the corner to give his team the 22-19 advantage and then followed with a midrange jumper to extend the lead. With one second left, however, the Tigers’ Frankie Sullivan sank a 3-pointer to give his team the 26-25 halftime lead. The Eagles finished the half shooting 32 percent from the floor, but were 41.7 percent from three-point range. Auburn shot 46 percent, however it was 2-of-7 on 3-pointers.
In the second half, Hanlan continued to control the game with a strong shooting stroke. There were large lulls in the scoring from both sides. With 15 minutes left in the half, Clifford backed his defender in the paint and spun around for the hook shot and put his team up 35-28. The Eagles would not score again for five minutes. The Tigers were stagnant during this period as well, helping BC maintain its lead.
With the minutes winding down, Auburn finally began to mount the comeback. Sullivan proved to be a formidable scoring option against the Eagles. He finished the game with 23 points, including 15 in the second frame. The Tigers got the score to within three, but then Anderson hit two free throws and Hanlan hit a jumper to extend the score to seven. A 3-pointer by Noel Johnson and two successful free throws for Rob Chubb lessened the deficit to two for the visiting squad.
After some more back and forth from both sides, Sullivan went for the three-point shot with his team down by four. Rahon came up too aggressively on his man, and knocked Sullivan down. The shot was good, and Sullivan made the foul shot to tie it up.
“I was mad at myself about that,” Rahon said. “The kid hit a great shot. I just wanted to go down, and either make a play for a teammate or make a play for myself or do something for redemption.”
On the next play, Hanlan drove to the lane and was fouled on the drive. He made the first free throw but missed the second, giving his team the one-point lead. Sullivan let the clock wind down before taking a desperation three, but the shot was no good.
“I thought it was a physical game for sure, and I thought we played hard with the little things that for us are important like outrebounding a team like that,” Donahue said. “I think that’s a typical, physical ACC team that we face. We outrebounded them, and turn it over 12 times. I thought we really competed with them physically. We just weren’t making shots, although I think we had a lot of open ones. For the most part, I thought we really competed.”
The Eagles entered the game with a three-game losing streak in the Charleston Classic, and were attempting to head into the Thanksgiving break with a win. For Donahue and his team, this win was much needed after such a challenging stretch.
“Obviously, it’s tough to go anywhere and lose three straight, but I think we’ve made great progress,” Donahue said. “We’re going to have failure. This isn’t going to be easy, but what I like is that these guys were really determined to try to get a win. Anytime you get a win it’s huge but I just don’t want to get caught up in the results. It’s still not there yet.”
A Walk-On, Jacobs Giving His Best Effort
(Photo by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)
By Chris Stadtler, For The Heights
Drew Jacobs of Mendham High School walked off the court in Plainfield, N.J. after a crushing 74-36 loss in the New Jersey SIAA tournament championship. After a State Championship his sophomore year, two Morris County Championships, and over 1,000 points scored, the point guard had been relegated to a non-athletic regular person (N.A.R.P.). In just seconds, the first team All-Morris County athlete went from the biggest game of the season to being finished with competitive basketball.
Late in his senior spring, however, Jacobs’ N.A.R.P. status began to lose its certainty. “I really didn’t have college basketball on my radar. I was extremely lightly recruited and was expecting to go to college as a student,” said Jacobs, who had already chosen Boston College for school in the fall.
Then his coach Jim Baglin sat down with Jacobs and said he’d like to put him in contact with BC’s Director of Basketball Operations Izzi Metz. Jacobs credits Baglin for giving him the goal to walk on to the Eagles’ basketball team.
“My high school coach was the one who convinced me to give it all a shot,” Jacobs said.
Over the course of the summer, Jacobs remained in contact with Metz and met with head coach Steve Donahue during orientation. His fate hardly sealed by a phone call, Jacobs had a lot to prove.
Jacobs is not your typical Division I recruit. He’s a pale guy, and at 6-foot-1, he’s nearly the shortest kid on the team. He is a far cry from the highly recruited Ryan Anderson or the athletic fellow freshman guard Olivier Hanlan. Jacobs did not even receive more than a passing mention in The Heights’ Basketball Preview last week. Most unlikely of all for a DI basketball recruit, he was put on Newton Campus.
Taking just this into consideration would be short-sighted and naive. Last season, Jacobs averaged 22 points per game. He was the only returning starter on a team that had won four Morris County championships in a row, and led his inexperienced team to a share of the NJAC division title.
“Drew is a great leader and a great all-around player,” former teammate David Yee said. “He always takes charge. If you give him the ball, he will do something special with it.’’
If you give Jacobs just about anything, it seems he will do something special with it. Without a guaranteed roster sport, but just a potential tryout, Jacobs was up at 6:30 a.m. every morning preparing for just three practices with the team in September. Between pool workouts in the morning and individual basketball skill training sessions in the afternoon nearly every day over the summer, Jacobs was hardly the average freshman college student. Even on Newton Campus, Jacobs took advantage of what some consider second tier to Upper Campus. While most people were playing Xbox after dark, “that kid,” as he was affectionately called, could be seen seemingly chasing the shuttles up the parking lot until he reversed direction for the last leg of his suicide sprint.
For a potential walk-on at BC, though, this has to be the attitude. Jacobs’ learning curve will primarily involve adjusting to the quickness of the college game. He calls it his biggest obstacle.
“I had to overcome the difference in the pace and speed of the game,” he said. “I have never faced athletes even remotely close to the ones I have seen and am seeing now. The moves that worked in high school, where the biggest guys were 6-foot-3, simply don’t work at the DI college level.”
In late September, Jacobs did his best to take advantage of his small sampling of play. In early October, he was told that he had earned a spot on the 14-man roster. When asked if he ever had doubts, Jacobs said, “I tend to overthink a lot of stuff, but my personal philosophy has been that, if you doubt yourself as a player, you’ll never be successful and able to reach what you’re capable of doing.”
Currently, Jacobs’ role on the team is that of a practice player. In the season opener against FIU he remained in sweats during the game. Despite the lack of early action, the walk on might gain some unlikely minutes. After the transfer of sophomore Jordan Daniels, Jacobs could see some time. Donahue likes to have two point guards on the floor at times—Daniels and Hanlan would have run that scheme. With the departure of Daniels, Jacobs could find a few minutes as one of the other point guards on the team. Additionally, he could also see time as a quick-fix defender, given the defensive skills he honed over the summer.
“Over the next four years, I plan on helping the team out in any way I can,” Jacobs said. “I plan on playing as tough as possible during practice and helping everyone prepare for high-level competition. I feel like if you are working your hardest and pushing everyone to reach their potential, good things will happen.”
Column: Departure of Jordan Daniels Shrinks Eagles’ Ceiling for 2012-2013
(Photo by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)
By Austin Tedesco, Asst. Sports Editor
The Boston College hoops ceiling just fell a hair over five and half feet.
Five days before the season opener, sophomore point guard Jordan Daniels has decided to transfer from the Heights, per a release from BC Athletics. The move was first reported by John Rothstein of CBS.
“I’d like to thank Boston College for the opportunity to be a part of this community, ” Daniels told The Heights. “Coach Donahue has a great program, however I feel this is the best decision for me at this time. It’s been a pleasure to develop a bond with my Eagle teammates and I sincerely wish them all the best.”
“It’s a surprise yeah, for sure,” head coach Steve Donahue told The Heights. “We had talked a couple of times in the preseason about where his role is and things of that nature. I just think it got to a point for him where he just wasn’t enjoying himself in the role that he saw himself in. He talked it over with his parents and then we talked about it real serious last night that he thinks he’s going to stop playing and transfer.”
The decision came as a shock, especially since just last week Heights editors sat down with Daniels to discuss the upcoming season.
“I think we made a little progress but that’s just one year under our belt,” Daniels said at the time. “I feel like we have a ways to go. Part of changing the basketball culture here at BC is we have to improve and win games too. We’ve gotta keep getting better and give our students something to watch.”
Daniels was clearly focused on the upcoming season, and for good reason. Despite all the hype around freshmen guards Oliver Hanlan and Joe Rahon, who are both very talented and have a ton of potential, Daniels was going to be a big part of Donahue’s seven-man rotation. He’s killer in the pick-and roll, underrated on the defensive end, and played a bigger role than anyone else in the upset over Florida State last season.
The freshmen are going to struggle. Donahue has conceded that Rahon is in a shooting slump lately and that Hanlan wasn’t able to make plays or get to the rim with the ease he was expecting against Northeastern. These are only a few of the issues that are going to come and go for both guys from now until March.
Despite Daniels’ lack of size and strength, he had a whole season under his belt and plays with an impressive amount of composure. He would’ve been able to come off the bench and settle down the offense when the inevitable turnovers start racking up for Hanlan and Rahon. Last season, Daniels only broke from his stoic nature one time on the court, letting out a joyous scream when the Eagles sealed the victory over the ‘Noles.
The rotation of consistently reliable players now only stands at Dennis Clifford, Ryan Anderson, Lonnie Jackson, Rahon, Hanlan, and Patrick Heckmann. Heckmann is himself still a bit of a question mark after missing so much time last year and disappearing during games.
“All of these things that happen – they’re all part of growing the program,” Donahue said. “I think the guys are going to miss him. He’s a great kid and he was a great member of our program. We’re a tight knit family. I think in that part we’re still trying to get used to him not being here. We’ll get over it, fortunately – or unfortunately depending on what way you want to look at it. I think we’ll be a good basketball team. I’m real confident in the guys that are playing. Going forward you’ve obviously got to make sure you get another guy that can handle the ball and I think we’ll do that over the next couple recruiting classes.”
Before Daniels’ departure, the combination of Andrew Van Nest, Eddie Odio, John Cain Carney, KC Caudill, and Danny Rubin looked reliable enough for the eighth and ninth guys, but one of them will need to step in and log some serious minutes. So far, no one has stood out. If the Eagles are going to be successful this year, the top six are going to need to log an absurd amount of minutes or one of these bit players will need to make a serious jump.
Daniels was concerned with his playing time, but he stated to The Heights before the season that he was comfortable with the competition Rahon and Hanlan brought.
“[The freshmen] coming in it makes things more competitive,” he said. “We all want to be out there, but I think that when you look at the big picture that just makes us better as a team. Going at each other each day and just making each other better. I feel like they just add to the team.”
Donahue did say Monday, however, that he’d had to talk with Daniels more than the other three guards about playing time.
“Everybody has a chance to jump over another guy and get the role that they probably want, so I can’t set on [a rotation],” Donahue said. “As we go forward it’s something that we have to communicate with them and make sure it’s something they understand – I’ve had that conversation with Jordan in particular. The other three I haven’t necessarily – all four are playing a lot, probably a little more than Jordan, in his mind, but that can change.”
In terms of future success, this is a setback but not a major one for the Eagles. Daniels isn’t built to be a starter on a competitive ACC squad, but he could’ve been deadly as a backup point-guard to Hanlan in the next three seasons. He could’ve confused and shook up defenses with his unusual size and speed and it would’ve given the Eagles a strong advantage on the offensive end with a productive second unit, but those dreams leave with Daniels.
This squad will struggle more than initially projected, especially early, without Daniels in the rotation, though it does open up more playing time for Hanlan and Rahon to grow. The team might be better prepared for a tournament run next season or the season after because of the move, especially since it opens up another scholarship for Donahue.
Daniels is a great kid, maybe almost to a fault on the court, and has always gone above and beyond to be polite and helpful with the media.
“Lonnie competes on the court, that’s what Lonnie naturally does,” Donahue said. “I think Jordan is working to that. Jordan is such a nice person that he has to be able to turn it on and off and it’s probably something that he has to think about each day, where Lonnie is just – when he’s in competition, it’s competition.”
Daniels will be missed, and hopefully he does well as he continues his career. The future for BC basketball is still bright, but for this season, at least, the Eagles just took a significant step backwards.
Heights Sports Editors Preview “Pack Power”
(Photo of freshmen Olivier Hanlan, left, and Joe Rahon, right, by Graham Beck/Heights Editor)
Men’s basketball kicks off the season with “Pack Power” tomorrow night. In a preview for the event, we decided to draft two hypothetical squads for the intersquad scrimmage and also make picks for the contests. Sports Editor Greg Joyce drafted his own squad against Assoc. and Asst. Sports Editors Chris Marino and Austin Tedesco. Joyce had the first pick, and then there was a snake draft to fill out the six-man rosters. Here are both squads followed by explanations for each pick.
Marino and Tedesco won the toss, and elected to go second. Joyce got the first pick, then Marino and Tedesco got two picks for their squad, and then Joyce got two picks and so on until the rosters filled at six players each.
Joyce - 1. Ryan Anderson So. F 6-8 220
“The man can do everything except grow facial hair—that comes in his junior year. But for real, I am a believer in the Anderson Workout Plan (see Thursday), and I want that drive on my team.”
Marino - 1. Dennis Clifford So. C 7-0 250
“Despite being picked at No. 2, we already think we have the steal of the draft in seven-footer Dennis Clifford. He has the body type of Tyler Zeller and the ball handling skills of most point guards in the ACC. Someone please tell us how you can cover that?”
Tedesco - 2. Olivier Hanlan Fr. G 6-4 188
“Not only will Hanlan be the best play-maker on the squad, but he’s also got incredible size and strength to match up with any guard Joyce’s squad will throw at us. I’m expecting most of our points to come off an unstoppable Clifford and Hanlan pick-and-roll game.”
Joyce - 2. Lonnie Jackson So. G 6-3 173 and 3. Joe Rahon Fr. G 6-2 195
“Two pure shooters right here, but also solid defenders. You gotta perform on both sides of the court on Team Joyce. Jackson lit it up in one of BC’s preseason scrimmages, and he’ll do the same against Team Marino and Tedesco. Meanwhile, Rahon absolutely can and will cover his classmate O. The two might not be talking in their dorm room after this smackdown.”
Marino - 3. Patrick Heckmann So. F 6-5 205
“German sensation Patrick Heckmann returns to the Heights after a summer of playing overseas, and should give our squad the best size advantage in the wing. After missing most of last year with mono, he’ll be looking to make up for lost time.”
Tedesco - 4. Jordan Daniels So. G 5-8 153
“Although the hype surrounds both freshmen, Daniels proved his capacity for sharp-shooting and smart play against FSU last year. Donahue’s offense thrives on having two point guards on the court at all times, and we grabbed two good ones.”
Joyce - 4. Eddie Odio So. F 6-7 205 and 5. Andrew van Nest Sr. F 6-10 247
“Time to get some sizable forwards, who can play in the key but also step out on the wing for a trey to ignite Power. Odio has some definite underdog/sleeper characteristics to him, and they’ll be on full display with his big minutes. Van Nest has the Harvard smarts to him, and he clearly knows how to beat the Eagles. He’ll fill in Team Joyce on the secrets before the game.”
Marino - 5. Danny Rubin Jr. G 6-6 190
“As the most experienced player on the Eagles’ roster, Danny Rubin should provide our squad with some valuable wisdom, while also sporting a quick three-point stroke.”
Tedesco - 6. John Cain Carney So. F 6-7 220
“We’re going with Carney as our bench player. I think he has a decent shot to crack the rotation this year, and he’ll at the very least provide some good energy on the defensive end for our squad.”
Joyce - 6. KC Caudill So. C 6-11 275
“Bring on the boos, but someone’s gotta knocks some bodies over down on the low post. I’m looking at you, KC.”
Each Sports Editor also selected one player to win the Shooting Stars, Knockout, and Half-Court Shot contests.
Joyce - Olivier Hanlan Fr. G 6-4 188
“Olivier brought some Drano with him all the way from Canada. It’ll be on full display during the Shooting Stars contest.”
Marino - Lonnie Jackson So. G 6-3 173
“Lonnie was a major threat from beyond the perimeter last season, and he’s shown no signs of shying away from the big shot. Head coach Steve Donahue has commented on Jackson’s competitive nature and focus, so watch for him to break away from the competition in this one. He’s a very streaky shooter – in a good way.”
Tedesco - Joe Rahon Fr. G 6-2 195
“Jackson is probably the favorite going into this contest, but I’m going to take the freshman Rahon to steal it from the sophomore. His mechanics are great and I think he should be a little more consistent than the streaky Jackson.”
Joyce - Lonnie Jackson So. G 6-3 173
“Lonnie Jackson has this one in the bag. He can stroke from the charity stripe, but has the speed to recover when someone (Hey KC) knocks his ball into the corner.”
Marino - Jordan Daniels So. G 5-8 153
“Jordan has one of the quickest jumpers on the roster, and if he were to miss his first shot, his quickness should benefit him in rushing after those second-chance opportunities. Don’t underestimate his fast-paced style of play.”
Tedesco - Olivier Hanlan Fr. G 6-4 188
“I don’t see how O loses this event. Great shot, freak athlete, and fierce competitor.”
Joyce - Danny Rubin Jr. G 6-6 190
“Danny Rubin. Absolutely no question about it.”
Marino - Dennis Clifford So. C 7-0 250
“Something just tells me Cliff could be the guy to pull this off. He already has the ability to shoot it from outside with the same precision as his guards, but he might also have that extra strength to knock it down from a little bit further.”
Tedesco - John Cahill Graduate Assistant
“This one is easy. John Cahill takes a step off the bench and shows up all of his former teammates to steal the win since he’s had time to practice these kind of shots in his spare time.”
“Pack Power” opens at 6:00 PM tomorrow with free pizza and drinks for the first 300 students. Power Gym opens at 6:30 and the event starts at 7. Also, The Heights basketball preview comes out on Thursday. Be sure to pick up a copy.
Dennis Clifford Named Captain of BC Men’s Basketball Team
(Photo by Graham Beck, Heights Editor)
By Austin Tedesco, Asst. Sports Editor
Dennis Clifford has been voted the captain of the Boston College men’s basketball team for the 2012-2013 season. The sophomore appeared in all 31 games for the Eagles last year and started in 25. He averaged 9.1 points per game and 4.7 rebounds, and was also named ACC Rookie of the Week during January.
Clifford made huge strides during the summer according to head coach Steve Donahue and his teammates. He also played very well during the team’s trip to Spain in August.
“What I think you’re seeing from Dennis is, there’s maturation in every aspect of his game, but what he’s really starting to get comfortable with is really being a great finisher,” Donahue said. “A lot of his stuff came off of pick and rolls, pick and pops, driving to the basket, and he’s really finishing because he’s stronger, he’s more athletic, he’s more confident, slowing down, not being nervous and rushing his stuff in small areas, and he scored everything. I think he missed like three shots the whole night. So it was an impressive performance [the team’s first game in Spain].”
“He was just working,” said freshman guard Joe Rahon. “He came out from the start—and we didn’t play particularly well in that first game, but Dennis was phenomenal. He carried us in that first game. He was really our go-to guy all trip. Whenever we needed a bucket or anything, we’d throw him the ball in the post or give him the ball in the high post and let him facilitate and decide what to do with it. He never stopped working on the glass offensively, and defensively he was great. He’s been a great leader for us too this past summer.”
The Eagles open up their season 11 days from today against Florida International at home in Conte Forum.
Be sure to check out The Heights’ annual Basketball Preview, which comes out next Thursday, Nov. 8, jam-packed with features and analysis on the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Reflections On A Trying Season
By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor
ATLANTA— Just 20 minutes after their season officially ended in a 78-57 loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament, head coach Steve Donahue and his players tried to put the season into words. With the season finally coming to a close, the postgame interviews allowed for the team to reflect on the season that had just concluded, and the future as well.
A year that included nine wins and 22 losses is no doubt a tough one to last through for Boston College. The mental and physical toll that a season in the ACC can have on any player is rough, never mind a group like the Eagles—one laden with nine freshmen, four of them in the regular starting lineup.
BC was led all year by its fearless leader in Donahue. The attitude of a team always starts at the top, and the Eagles had an amazing example to follow by looking at Donahue. Right from the first time I talked Donahue this year before the season began, it was easy to tell the mindset he was going to bring to the gym each day.
“There’s going to be failure when you’re out with this many young guys in something new,” he said back in November. “For us to achieve great things, I honestly believe we’re going to have to fail. Now the key part is how do you handle that? Are you patient? Are you understanding? Did you learn from that and react in a positive way and got better because of that? I firmly believe all of our kids are good enough to play at this level. But to have them all go through this at the same time and not expect that you’re going to get some failures is just unrealistic.”
When I talked to Ryan Anderson, Jordan Daniels, and Lonnie Jackson in late October, they echoed their coach’s expectations. And over four months later, even after a 22-loss season, their positive outlook remains the same.
(Photo by Daniel Lee/Heights Editor)
“[This season] is going to help a lot,” Daniels said in the quiet BC locker room. “The feeling that we get after a game like this, it really pushes us. You really don’t want to feel that again, losing like that. So we got a year under our belts, we know what to expect coming into next year, when we’re not freshmen anymore. That’s just motivation for us. We’re still learning the ropes, but we’re going to get in the gym and just work on every aspect.”
Instead of sulking over a gloomy season, the Eagles are focusing on how they can use this season to better themselves in the future. Sitting right next to Daniels, Jackson had a similar attitude as his classmate.
“This year gave me a barometer of how hard I have to work and where I have to get to be a guard in the ACC,” Jackson said. “I can’t wait to start getting better, getting in the weight room, and working on my game—just taking my game to the next level. I’m going to use those mental images [from the season] in my brain when I want to give up during my workouts, when I want to quit. I’m going to use those as motivation to keep on pushing.
“The season was great, and we fought hard in this game. Next year we just gotta find a way to get over the hump.”
After I talked to the freshmen, I walked out of the locker room to find Matt Humphrey walking down the hallway to the bus by himself. While Anderson, Daniels, and Jackson all remained upbeat, the eldest member returning to next year’s team seemed to have a little less patience with the way the season went.
“It’s real trying,” a visibly frustrated Humphrey said of the season. Leaning up against the wall and choosing his words carefully, the junior continued. “Especially when I’m used to a certain way of doing stuff. I understand everybody’s young, but we played 30 games this year, you know? We should have, toward the end of the season, tried to come together—which we did, for the most part. We got a few wins. It is what it is.”
The freshmen have three more years to work with, while Humphrey has just one. Even though his demeanor is different from his teammates’, and at times it appears negative, it’s tough to blame him. The young guys know they have the time to come together and create something special. Humphrey does not have that luxury.
Regardless, the team will now have the offseason to work on a number of areas, but first will come some rest. After playing 31 games, guys like Anderson and Dennis Clifford will especially benefit from the time to recover.
“This was a hard stretch for all of these guys,” Donahue said. “And not only are they young guys, but they’re big guys. I don’t know how many guys, whatever class they were in this league, played more than Dennis Clifford and Ryan Anderson. They were playing 30-plus [minutes] every game. The games we were in there, they were playing 35 or 37 [minutes]. No bigs play that in this league. It’s just our lack of depth. So they’ll get their bodies back.
Anderson answered honestly when asked about the upcoming downtime.
“A lot of us freshmen are tired and worn down from a long ACC season, and it is going to be good for us to get a little break,” Anderson said. “I think Coach made a good point that it’s good for our bodies to rejuvenate after a long season like this.”
Meanwhile, Daniels took a harder approach to the downtime, though it’s possible that he had more left in the tank than some of his bigger teammates.
“It is [nice to have the rest], but you’re willing to fight through [the fatigue] to keep playing,” the speedy point guard said. “We all don’t want it to end, but now that it’s here, we’re gonna do what we have to do to get ready for next year.”
Standing in the hallway outside of the locker room, Donahue elaborated on points he made in his press conference. Though the season was likely more frustrating for him than it was for anyone else, he remained energetic about the future. As usual, he had a hoarse voice from all the in-game coaching he did, but his tone was positive when talking about his players.
(Photo by Daniel Lee/Heights Editor)
“I have great confidence in that they really want it,” he said. “There’s no doubt. They’re great kids, they really understand what it takes, and we’re going to have a great six months. We have a foreign trip planned at the end of the summer, we’re going to add pieces, and we’re excited. I can’t wait to get going—I wish we could hop in the gym right now and start teaching.”
Donahue continued to reflect on the season, when a reporter asked him if he thought he got everything he could out of his team this season. It was like the team was a sponge—they tried to soak in everything they could from their coach, while Donahue tried to wring out every drip he could out of his players. He responded that he thought he did get everything he could have from his team, though it was a “fine line” determining how hard to push his players.
“You want to get in practice and stay there for four hours and teach them and do everything you can. I tried to teach as much as I could every day, but there was a stretch there where I had to back off,” he said. “We could talk about things and show things on film, the assistant coaches were grabbing guys. It was so overwhelming at times.”
And leave it to the former Cornell coach to throw in a math analogy to describe the learning process.
“You think about doing math—you can’t throw high-level calculus out there when you haven’t learned Algebra One,” he said. “It was kind of like that. I had to slow down.
When all was said and done on Thursday, BC had recorded its 22nd loss, the most in school history. Walking into the BC locker room, the somber body language throughout hit you like a brick wall. But luckily for the program, the words spoken by its freshmen were nothing but encouraging. They had clearly learned from their coach, who summed it up perfectly in the end.
“I think in two years, if the guys do what they should do, and we add pieces, I think we will look back on this as an unbelievable opportunity that these guys had and that we will be that much better for it, if we utilize it properly,” Donahue said.
The words are there. In eight months, there will be nine freshmen-turned-sophomores in the BC locker room with a year of experience under their belt. At that time, we might begin to see the impact of the season that just ended. Only time will tell.