Oct. 10, 2012
Heading into last season, it was difficult for head coach Steve Donahue to truly know what he had in his team. Donahue's squad featured 11 newcomers and five of them started for most of the year. As he enters his third season at the helm of the Eagles, he has a much better understanding of where the team stands this fall.
Boston College returns 75 percent of its scoring from a season ago, 73 percent of its assists and 70 percent of its rebounds and minutes played. A combined 118 starts will also be returning for the 2012-13 season.
Donahue is beginning to see his program take the shape he wants.
"There are a lot of great things that I am really proud of that our program is starting to become. I love the character of our team, the work ethic, the way they fit into the Boston College community. All of the standards that we talked about setting; they are getting to the point where we are starting to see great progress in all of those aspects. As we get bigger and stronger, and as we add more pieces to the puzzle - I feel strongly that we are putting together a great representation of Boston College basketball in the ACC."
Donahue took the Eagles on a 10-day tour of Spain the week before classes started, where they played four games against international competition. The trip gave BC a chance to bond as a team, but it also provided the staff with an early look of how the team looks heading into the preseason.
"That trip was beneficial and eye-opening because we have a real understanding of where we are at, at the earliest point you can possibly have," Donahue said. "Typically, coaches try to get a feel of where they're at, but I am pretty sure what our strengths and weaknesses are. That being said, I think we have a great amount of improvement to do, but I'm also cognizant of the fact that we are so much better than we were a year ago. When you look at all of the things that these guys have been through in one year, we benefited greatly from it. We talk about things that we want to accomplish daily to make us better each and every day - just believe that if we do it that way, we are going to be where we want to be at the end. I think it's important to have goals and standards that you constantly talk about.
"We're light years ahead of where we were in regard to experience and physical maturity. I think we are going to look back at last year - and even though it was difficult to go through - it was really something that we are going to be appreciative of; that we were able to put so many guys in those situations at such an early part of their career. We will start seeing the benefits this year and the next three years."
The Eagles return four players to the backcourt from last season in junior Danny Rubin, and sophomores Jordan Daniels, Patrick Heckmann, and Lonnie Jackson. Daniels started 25 games at point guard and Jackson started 24 times at shooting guard. They averaged 8.3 and 6.4 points, respectively. Daniels led the team with 82 assists, while Jackson made a team-best 57 3-pointers.
The 1-2 spots are boosted by a pair of incoming freshmen - Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon. Hanlan is a 6-4 product from Canada who has international experience and averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a senior. Rahon is another addition from California who was an all-state honoree in all three of his varsity seasons. He averaged 22.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in his final high school season. Donahue will use both of them, along with Daniels and Jackson, in a four-guard rotation.
"In our system, I think it's critical that we have multiple guys that we can consider a point guard. I think we have that now in Jordan, Joe and Olivier. I am comfortable with all three of those guys running the point. We'll probably play two of them at the same time. Jordan did a terrific job from January on in the ACC. He has improved his overall game, his defense has gotten substantially better, and I think he can help us at the point guard spot because he is hard to keep in front while we are getting full court pressure.
"Olivier and Joe both have really good feels for the game and can create stuff for themselves and others. The fourth guy in that lineup is Lonnie Jackson. Lonnie was our leading assist guy two games over in Spain and he improved immensely in those four games."
"Both Joe and Olivier were guys that we were able to recruit for a couple of years, so we know them a lot better than we did the previous class. I'm very confident in both of those kids because I know them so well. I know how they were coached and I've known them since their sophomore year in high school. Both are good sized, have good overall toughness and really good skill levels. I think both of them are able to step into this league physically and compete more than the group could last year. I think they are of substantial help to us and will help our sophomore class. I expect really good things out of both of those guys."
The biggest area of concern for the Eagles is at the wing spot. Heckmann saw a majority of the time there in 2011-12 and averaged 8.3 points per game. He had a 32-point game against UC Riverside in the 76 Classic - the most points by a freshman in a game in the conference last year. However, a bout with mononucleosis gave Heckmann some hardship on the court during the season.
"The wing spot is where we are probably most concerned because we really only have one guy with size that can play the three and that is Patrick," Donahue said. "He had an interesting summer. He played a lot of basketball with his national team in Germany. He did a good job over in Spain. I think we all know that Patrick's ability can really make us a good team. The ebbs and flows of last season is concerning and I think he realizes that. He had some great games and then other times he really struggled.
"You will see a more consistent Patrick and I think that is a key to our team. If we can play him and get the really good minutes that we got at times last year, that will help us greatly. We need a more consistent floor game. He is a guy that has to have a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. There are times when he is our best defender, he draws a lot of charges, but there is an inconsistency in his game there. I think he had the biggest transition to college basketball just because the style of play (in Germany) was so different. In a word, I need him to be more consistent."
Rubin has spent the most time of any of the guards at Boston College and in Donahue's system but saw his playing time decrease last year. He appeared in 19 games with one start after starting 23 games as a freshman. He was a good contributor in Spain by scoring in double figures in two games.
"Danny has done an incredible job with his strength and conditioning," Donahue said. "He has made himself a really good Division I athlete. He showed signs in Spain of being consistent with his shot. What he needs to do to stay on the floor is play with confidence. I know that is easier said than done, but he rebounds and competes, and it is our job as coaches to get him to play confidently."
Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford were the two most consistent players for Donahue and the Eagles a year ago, and will likely is be the leaders on the court this season. Anderson averaged 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 2011-12, and was one of two unanimous choices to the ACC All-Freshman Team. His 7.4 rebounds led all conference freshmen.
Clifford averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman and those numbers should only improve as he has bulked up in the offseason to better prepare himself for the daily grind of the ACC schedule. Donahue knows that the pair will be looked upon for leadership.
"Both of them lead by example. I want them both to be more verbal and they have been, but they're not where they need to be. I think it's difficult to ask guys to be leaders so early in their careers. It's not like they are older than the other guys, and with that being said, I think they are very confident in their games and their leadership can really help this team. I spoke to both of them about that and they have shown that ability. Dennis has done an incredible job in the offseason; he is 25 pounds heavier and played a ton of basketball. He is much more confident in his skills, in his shooting and in his overall ability. Ryan's getting better. He's a guy that just understands the game so well and knows he can compete at this level. He continues to improve as well.
"Ryan is more of a four but can play the five. His shot is still a little unreliable; however, he can make shots from outside so people have to get out on him. I think you're going to see a guy that has a really great year. He understands how to score and really passes it well. He knows how to defend. He is stronger and more athletic than he was last year.
"Dennis has done a remarkable job of being ready to play. He had really big games in Spain. He is finishing better, slowing himself down and guarding better. I think you're going to see a much more productive rebounder than he was last season. The hard thing is that we play him so many minutes. I'd like not to do that."
And that is where depth will need to come into play. Sophomore KC Caudill spelled Clifford for the most part last season, playing in 28 games and averaging 9.8 minutes.
"KC's determination of how much he gets to play is his physical conditioning," Donahue said. "He is a very smart player and a tough kid that plays hard. His body has to improve enough to enable him to get on the floor and play against this type of athlete. He is working hard at it and could be someone that really helps us this year."
Newcomer Andrew Van Nest is a graduate student who graduated from Harvard in the spring and can play immediately. He only appeared in one game last year but saw a lot of time in 2010-11, appearing in 23 contests.
"Andrew is an interesting wild card," Donahue said. "He wants to help us win in any way. We are trying to teach him the system. I've been impressed that he moves very well. He has a pretty good understanding of the game. Even though he played four years, he never really played substantial minutes. I think with his age and our situation that he could give us valuable minutes off the bench. He could help us with our physicality and rebounding."
The other two returners that provide depth in the frontcourt are John Cain Carney and Eddie Odio. Cain Carney was used in 10 games last year while Odio appeared 24 times, averaging 5.9 minutes a game.
"John is a four-five," Donahue said. "He was banged up and did not play in Spain. No one in the program - no one - works as hard as John Cain Carney. The guys will all admit that. At some point in his career he will be a valuable guy on the floor. He is a valuable guy off the floor. He does everything and the guys respect him. I think you're going to see someone that gives us really good minutes in his career. I'd love it to be this year, but I know when we put him out there; you're going to be really appreciative that he is here.
"Eddie has done a really good job in the weight room since he got here. He is 20-25 pounds heavier. He's our best athlete and another guy that I would love to play with more confidence, more tenacity. He has done a terrific job in every aspect of the program. I think he's getting close to helping us and I hope it's this year."