Aug. 24, 2012
Head Coach Steve Donahue and the Boston College men's basketball team embark on a 10-day tour of Spain that begins on Saturday and ends on Labor Day. The Eagles will play a total of four games in Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. BC Athletics sat down with Donahue to discuss the trip and what he has seen so far this summer.
For much of this summer you have been able to spend a couple of hours each week on the court with the team. Over the past four days you have been able to conduct full practices as you get ready to head to Spain. What have been your observations so far?
"To be able to spend time this summer was a unique opportunity for us to see where we're at very quickly. With a young team - so many guys going from that freshman to sophomore season - I thought it was a great opportunity to get better. My first observation is that everyone is more confident. They handle themselves differently and they go about their business. There's no lack of understanding of what we're doing. They know what their plan is each and every day, and they just show a lot of more confidence in what they do. They're bigger, they're stronger and they're all better. The thing that I like is that they are running practice more than I'm running practice, which is what you want your team to do."
Has anyone or anything especially caught your eye?
"Because they are two new players, I think Olivier (Hanlan) and Joe (Rahon) have really opened everybody's eyes. They're going to be very good ACC players. Their ability to jump in and compete right away - and really be solid from day one - picking up all the things that the other guys already know. I think those two guys in particular over this week have really jumped out at us."
How about the sophomores? Have you noticed a significant difference (improvement) in their physical appearances and/or on-court play?
As you get ready to head overseas, can you tell us how the trip to Spain came to be?
"The first thing that is apparent is that their bodies are different. I think Nick Asermelly and the whole strength and conditioning program - since the season ended until now - have done a great job changing their bodies. All of them are stronger. I think that's the first thing you see. I think their skill levels have improved, particularly Dennis' ability to step away from the basket. Ryan's handling the ball better. Eddie's finishing better. I think Lonnie Jackson and Jordan Daniels are much better with the basketball. Those things are all apparent from that group. They've all improved greatly."
"It's something I've done in the past at Penn and Cornell. I think it benefits your team next season and the following years because it's an opportunity to get these practices in, get together, and really spend time with each other. I also think it's something that we can give back to our players; something that they'll look at for years to come and think what a great experience it was. When I talk to my former players, they always bring up the foreign trip as one of the best experiences of their college lives. I went to our administration and said that this is something we should probably do. This would be a great year to do it and I appreciate their willingness to agree to that and support it. I'm thankful that we have that opportunity here at Boston College to do it."
What are your primary objectives for the trip?
"The number one thing is that we really experience a different part of the world, a different culture with each other bonding at the same time. I'm not necessarily worried about seeing execution or anything like that. It's more fun and educational, and we will be giving back. We're going to do some community service there. I just think it's a great opportunity to get together with each other and really bond, learn what we're all about, and enjoy a part of the world we may never get to see again."
What is your philosophy on the games you will be playing? Is your primary motivation to win each game? Or will you vary your rotation in order to see different combinations on the floor?
"Winning isn't that important to me, although competing is extremely important. I think we need to learn to compete especially against bigger, physical, stronger guys which this trip will afford. I'm more interested in all of our guys playing a lot of minutes. Playing our style is more important than who plays, but playing fast and sharing the ball, and competing on the defensive end - all of those things are way more important than winning. With the 24-second clock, the one thing we didn't do last year that is a big part of how we're going to play, we didn't play fast. We have to be able to play fast. If we're going to win in this league I think we have to average 72 to 78 points a game. We're not going to be a team to grind it out in the 60s. We have to be able to score and this gives us another segment leading up to the season of what I anticipate. I think the pace of our game has been great these first four days. The most improvement I've seen is their ability to not get fatigued, stay with the game plan, keep pushing the basketball, and playing at a good pace."
What do you believe will be the long-term benefits of these 10 days overseas?
"There are a couple of long-term benefits. You get a great summer out of the guys because they know they have a trip coming. It wasn't a typical, `Let's get to the weight room.' We know this trip is coming and it's a chance to get better. You combine that with all of the new guys building a bond together. Not only did they play a year together, but they did the summer and the foreign trip with all of the same guys. I think you'll see those benefits this year because it's almost like you stole another season for their development. It's all the same guys that experienced what we went through last year and here it is now, we get to experience this. You'll get to see that in our play this season and the coming seasons."
How do you think playing in Germany for much of this summer will affect Patrick Heckmann?
"I think we will look at it this year and figure out if that was a positive or negative. Obviously you lose not being in the weight room and getting stronger, but he got coached every day this summer and played great competition. I've been pleased with how he came back. I think he's more confident. He's playing at a better pace. He's an important guy for us. He's played so much basketball that I'm concerned that the season is going to wear him down. I have to be aware of that for September in particular, that we slow things down a little bit and we mentally and physically get away from it a little bit; him in particular because he has played so much ball."
Anything else regarding any of the players?
"Dennis' play has continued to improve, but I think he has made a huge jump in his overall game - his ability to stretch the defense now, shoot the ball from the perimeter and really run the floor. His size and the time he has put in to improve his body I think is pretty evident and you'll see that in his play."
"The two guys that people haven't seen in Joe and Olivier, I think they are going to be really good ACC guards. I think it's real apparent that when we get in league play this year or going forward, they are going to be two of the better guards in the league. They do all aspects of the game well."