Aug. 25, 1997
1997-98 Men's Basketball Outlook
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - As Al Skinner enters his first season as the Eagles' head coach, one might wonder what the future -- immediate and long-term -- holds for Boston College basketball.
Take a minute and think. Boston College has been to the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four years. Over that period, the Eagles have won 73 games, claimed one BIG EAST regular-season title and captured one BIG EAST Tournament championship.
While the Eagles were flying high in Chestnut Hill, Skinner was leading the University of Rhode Island basketball program to similar success. In the last five years, the head coach won 77 contests, including two 20-win seasons (1995-96 and 1996-97), and brought the Rams to three post-season tournaments -- NCAA Tournaments in 1992-93 and 1996-97, and the NIT in 1995-96.
Joining these two forces together can mean only good things for the Boston College basketball program.
As he readies for his first season at Boston College, Skinner is cautiously optimistic about the season ahead. Five lettermen, including three starters, return from last year's team that won 22 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"We have a good core of players returning (from last year)," Skinner said. "To be successful, we're going to need the seniors to step up and take a leadership role. They need to continue the sense of team that they've had."
Seniors Mickey Curley, Antonio Granger and Duane Woodward are all experienced performers, having played key roles for the Eagles since their freshman seasons. The 6-foot-10-inch Curley provides a physical presence in the lane area, while Granger and Woodward lead the perimeter attack. The leadership provided by these three seniors will be one key to the Eagles' season.
Skinner emphasized his desire to play a more up-tempo style than Eagle fans have seen in the past. He concedes the learning process will take some time. The players will have to make some adjustments -- and some sacrifices. Skinner also recognizes his role in the transition.
"They're also going to have to learn a different style of play," the head coach said. "The quicker they learn, the more chance of success we'll have. I suspect they'll be quick learners, given their experience and the number of games they've already played.
"I know what I want to do. I want to play more agressively offensively," the head coach said, "and I want to play a number of different defenses, but we'll do whatever we have to do to make this team successful."
In addition to his five returnees, Skinner will welcome three newcomers to the program. Guards Kenny Harley and Javier Rodriguez, and forward Jonathan Beerbohm signed with the Eagles after Skinner became the head coach on April 17, 1997.
"These three freshmen have the opportunity to play right away," Skinner said. "It will be on-the-job training, but how well and how quickly they learn will go a long way in dictating our style of play. I'm confident that they'll be up to the challenge."
Senior Duane Woodward returns as the leader in the Eagles' backcourt. Having already played 86 collegiate games in his first three years, the Queens, N.Y., native has established himself as one of nation's top guards. A dependable playmaker, Woodward has also worked to improve his outside shooting. His work has paid dividends as his scoring has increased in each of his three seasons, including his 10.7 point per game average last winter.
Joining Woodward in the backcourt are sophomore Damien Foster and freshmen Kenny Harley and Javier Rodriguez. Foster, an athletic shooting guard, saw limited action in his first season. He saw action in 10 games, but gained valuable experience in daily practice sessions with teammates Woodward and Scoonie Penn. Foster should benefit greatly from Skinner's more up-tempo style.
Harley, who played his schoolboy career at All Hallows High School in Bronx, N.Y., promises to bring a defensive intensity to the team. A slasher, Harley scores very well taking the ball to the basket. Rodriguez, a native of Vitoria, Spain who played at Trumbull (Conn.) High School, is an accomplished international player. Considered one of the best young point guards in Spain, he will provide the passing and ballhandling abilities necessary to effectively run Skinner's offensive system.
"Kenny is very aggressive defensively. He will help set the tone at the defensive end for the way we'd like to play," Skinner said. "Javier will have to set the tone offensively. His ballhandling and his ability to learn the point-guard position will go a long way in determining how good a transition team we'll be."
The Eagles' frontcourt will feature two returning senior starters -- swingman Antonio Granger and center Mickey Curley -- as well as junior forward Kostas Maglos. Granger provides the Eagles with a long-range scoring threat. The Detroit, Mich., product led all BIG EAST players in three-point field goal percentage last season, shooting 40.7 percent from beyond the arc. Granger enters his senior season ranked sixth on BC's career three-point list with 115 successful treys.
Curley, who has played in all 89 games since coming to the Heights, is a force in the middle. The senior led BC in blocked shots last winter, and ranked second behind Danya Abrams in rebounding. He finished the season with an 8.3 point per game average, while shooting 56.5 percent from the field.
Maglos also figures to be a factor in the Eagles' frontcourt success this season. The new coaching staff will look to take advantage of his versatility and athleticism by utilizing both his perimeter skills and his back-the-basket abilities. After playing a secondary role through much of his sophomore campaign, Maglos emerged as a key performer in the Eagles' stretch run last winter. While the team raced to a BIG EAST title and into the NCAA Tournament, the Athens, Greece, native raised his scoring average considerably -- from 3.1 ppg to 7.3 ppg over the season's final nine contests.
The 1997-98 Eagles promise to present a new look -- an up-tempo, aggressive style of play at both ends of the floor. Skinner is certain that his team has the ability to put points on the scoreboard, and believes they'll also be able to make the defensive changes he's seeking.
"We won't have any problem scoring points," the head coach said. "We have enough people who can score, and I'm sure the players will enjoy this change in style of play. Duane and Antonio's perimeter skills should give Mickey the opportunity to score down low. I also want to take advantage of Kostas' perimeter skills.
"Yet the biggest adjustment will come at the defensive end," Skinner continued. "We will attempt to play a number of different defenses, but we're going to have to learn those defenses first."