Opinion: The Jabari Effect

“And with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft the (team tanking the hardest) select Jabari Parker, Duke University.”

The anticipation of these mid-summer words wielded nearly enough power to sell out Conte Forum. Jabari Parker-- two words that make even Dick Vitale speechless. Students from all corners of Boston assembled to watch the future of the NBA grace Conte Forum with his presence. Even Danny Ainge, sitting courtside for the game, showed up to behold the 6-foot-8 Mormon prodigy, day-dreaming of seeing him play on the parquet floor of the TD Garden.  

Did I mention there was even a game? Caught up in the hype of a 18-year-old freshman, the game itself offered no more excitement for Ainge than those played by his Celtics. Our Boston College Eagles, struggling mightily at 6-19, hosted a storied Duke hoops program—one ranked eighth in the nation. Of course, Duke won. That surprised nobody. Duke made winning a habit of excellence since Coach K first took over.

On the flip side, winning looks more and more like lightning caught in a bottle for BC in the Donahue era. The game served as a microcosm for BC hoops over the last two years—playing to the level of their competition before falling apart late in games. One day the Eagles play on the verge of upsetting Syracuse, the best team in the nation. Days later, they fall to Georgia Tech, a perennial bottom-feeder of the ACC.

Just last year, two minutes stood between BC completing a David-Goliath upset of a star-studded Duke roster. What happened? Where was that BC team last Saturday?

Surely BC’s lack of consistency stems from perpetual roster change year-after-year, right? Not quite.

Poised to return all five starters, each a sophomore or younger, the future looked all too promising. The press anointed Olivier Hanlan, the 2012-2013 ACC Rookie of the Year, the prophet destined to lead BC back to the promised land of March Madness. A young Ryan Anderson blossomed before our eyes and it appeared coach Steve Donahue had finally sent the program to brighter pastures.

But, cruel reality stepped in. Plain and simple: potential means nothing unless it translates into wins. At this point in the season,  Donahue would consider it a blessing to finish with more than 10 wins, six shy of last year. The program wants to avoid another year of mediocrity, a year of false hope and moving one step forward but two steps back.

Jabari Parker did more than just dominate BC, he exposed the faulty wiring of a crumbling program on a live ESPN broadcast, casually dropping 29 points. He made hundreds of SuperFans rub their eyes and scratch their head at why a prospect the caliber of Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart or himself will never wear maroon or gold anytime in the near future.

A wise man by the name of Vince Lombardi once said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising after you fall.” The program needs to change before returning to prominence. Whether that rolling wind involves a new coach or dynamics of recruiting, BC has to accept their long road to recovery, one marred by setbacks and humiliation by teams like Duke and UNC.

Who knows? Maybe in the next four years we will be lucky enough to witness more than five wins at Conte. Better yet, a season with more than one win in February. Imagine that! Until then, there’s always hockey… and Jabari Parker to watch from afar, of course.

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