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ACC Preview #14 - Boston College

BC is still in a hole but there is hope for the Eagles

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Under Armour Reunion
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Ky Bowman #0 of the Boston College Eagles attempts to steal the ball from Mustapha Heron #5 of the Auburn Tigers in the first half of the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2016 in New York City.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It sounds kind of funny to say it since his career record there is just 29-67, but we’ve been impressed by BC under Jim Christian.

To be clear, the Eagles have been at a significant talent disadvantage for a while now.

Still, you could see at times that this was a team that listens in practice and tries to do what they've been taught, and that reflects well on the coaching staff.

Getting talent?

That’s been tougher. But for the first time in a while, BC has some. First though, let’s look at who’s departed.

Last year they had grad student transfers Connar Tava and Mo Jeffers, both of whom were one-and-done on the other end.

AJ Turner is now in Chris Collins’ Northwestern program. Guard and Greensboro native Ty Graves left for St. Louis. Garland Owens graduated.

Most of them were rotation players.

That should be a big hit but BC has some solid young players and some promising freshmen.

Start with the all-NC backcourt of junior Jerome Robinson and sophomore Ky Bowman and ask yourself: why didn’t State or Wake or Clemson (or Virginia Tech) work harder to get these guys?

Because they’re pretty good.

Mark Gottfried could have saved money on that chopper he used to recruit Dennis Smith (who only stayed a year) and gotten at least three out of Robinson, who was just a mile or so from campus at Broughton High.

Robinson averaged 18.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore. He was also third in the ACC in steals with 1.72 per game.

He’s locked into the lineup and will be for as long as he stays at BC.

His sidekick, Havelock’s Ky Bowman, was a complete revelation. He averaged 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game but in ACC play that went up to 17.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists. That’s really impressive.

He originally committed to play football at UNC but changed his mind because basketball, he said, was his first love. And he also said this, which might explain the higher in-conference stats: "I'm looking forward to playing all of the teams that didn't recruit me and showing them what they missed out on."

Mission accomplished, and too bad for State and Wake, among others.

Getting this guy out on the break is a beautiful thing. He’s totally fearless. BC’s had a tough time getting fans in the stands but that should be easier now because the backcourt is a blast.

With his focus now purely basketball, we’re excited to see where Bowman takes his game next.

If BC is lucky, they’ll have a competent center too.

Well, as a freshman Nic Popovic was basically competent so that’s a little unfair. He just wasn’t good enough to help BC to improve much.

He came in at 6-11 and 243 and if he can improve his conditioning he could easily double his minutes (13.8) from last year. He’s somewhat like Duke’s Antonio Vrankovic, a skilled player who needs some time to develop a basketball body. We’ll see how much progress he has made. If he’s made a lot, BC is going to be much, much tougher.

Like Tava and Jeffers, Jordan Chatman was a grad student transfer; unlike them, he finished his undergrad work in two years and is now a BC junior basketball-wise and enrolled in law school.

As far as his bona fides go, he hit nine straight threes against Virginia Tech last season. He can obviously shoot and clearly has a great deal of personal discipline.

We expect him to start but whatever BC does with him, having more talent on the floor is going to help him get open which will in turn open the interior for other players.

This year, BC will add another grad transfer in 6-8 Deonte Hawkins from Illinois State.

Hawkins was balkin’ for a while -in June he committed, in July he decommitted and in August he recommitted. So what is BC getting?

As a senior he averaged 14 ppg and 6.5 rpg. The MVC is a reasonably tough conference so that’s impressive. He also hit 44.3% from three point range. Reportedly, he can play around the basket as well.

That gives BC a solid starting five for the first time in what seems like forever.

Of course you need more than that. Depth will be an issue for this team and developing some of the younger players and the guys who haven't played a lot will be key.

Last season, once you got past the Dynamic Duo backcourt, big minutes went to Turner (30.8), Tava (25.3), Jeffers (20.3) and Graves (18.8).

Popovic pulled 13.8 and after that it gets sketchy.

Johncarlos Reyes played 6.4 mpg. Junior Ervins Meznieks got in nine games and averaged 4.6 mpg. Mike Sagay got into 15 games for 4.5 mpg.

Reyes could become a competent backup but we wouldn’t expect much more than that. Meznieks is a junior now who hasn’t shown much so far.

And Sagay was a freshman last year. He’s reasonably athletic and at 6-5 could cover a couple of positions as needed.

BC’s not able to recruit at a totally competitive level yet so the Eagles have to be resourceful. That means working hard to find diamonds in the rough or late bloomers.

BC brings in four freshmen and at least three could be really intriguing.

The most likely to play immediately is Luka Kraljevic. A 6-8 Slovenian, he’s another Euro import brought in by assistant coach Scott Spinelli.

There’s typically a period of adjustment for Europeans to NCAA ball but the reports on Kraljevic are encouraging. He could be a nice surprise.

He’s said to have a versatile offensive game and, like most freshmen, needs to fill out.

He should at least be in the rotation and could exceed expectations.

Vin Baker Jr. is also a really intriguing recruit. He grew something like six inches in a year and suddenly became a forward with guard skills. He’s really skinny and looks about 12 but in another year or so he could be a pain to deal with. And he might not be finished growing - his dad, Vin Sr., is the 6-11 former NBA star.

Steffon Mitchell is a 6-8 forward out of Minnesota who spent a year in prep school. The other schools that went after him were typically a step or two down from the ACC, including Northeastern and Boston University.

Mitchell says he sees himself as 3 or a 4 and used his prep year to really improve strength and conditioning. He’s a guy who could surprise a bit or could also spend most of the season on the bench. But even if that’s the case, he could make a difference in practice or on the scout team while he waits his turn to move up.

Finally there’s 6-3 guard Avery Wilson out of Georgia.

He’s a little under the radar so there’s not a lot of news available about him. But like Bowman, he apparently played football in high school too and at 220 he’s built like it.

He certainly won’t start but he’ll benefit greatly from playing against Bowman, Robinson and Chapman every day.

Look, there are a ton of questions with this team, largely about depth and secondary roles. No one outside the program knows how much Popovic has improved. BC has had a real weakness at forward and Hawkins, Kraljevic and possibly Mitchell could address that nicely.

It’d be nice if Sagay carved out a solid niche and freshmen are generally wait-and-see.

But there’s got to be some optimism here. Last year BC finished 9-23 and there were, by our estimation, there were six other games they could have won. But they showed character and competed to the best of their ability, which is what we liked about the team. It’s not easy to keep trying when you’re losing constantly.

This year they’ll have more talent and enough three point shooting to open up lanes and the inside. Bowman, Robinson and Hawkins will benefit. It should also help Popovic.

This year they’ll win more and some of those close games will go their way as well. BC’s not back but they’re on the way. For now, consider this team potentially dangerous in every game.

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