Photo courtesy of Boston College Men's Club Basketball / Facebook

A Family Mentality Has Propelled Club Basketball to Nationals

The men’s club basketball team celebrated a Valentine’s Day to remember last weekend, going undefeated in the NIRSA Regional Tournament and leaving as champions. With their victory, the Eagles have sealed their spot in the national tournament this coming April.

Skating through pool play with ease, it was the playoff bracket on Sunday that really challenged BC. Facing Northeastern, Dartmouth, and Villanova, the Eagles knew they had a tough road. “It just gets more difficult, teams are better, they know what they’re coming for and what you have to offer them and they try to stop you in as many ways as possible,” said DJ Fajana, MCAS ’16.

After being eliminated last year by Dartmouth, the match against the Big Green was a personal one as BC was looking for payback. The boys knew just what to do to shut down their opponents two bigs, a “freak of nature” and a “do it all man,” as Fajana put it.

Their slow start against Northeastern could have been the end for the Eagles on that dreary Sunday morning. Falling behind early would have killed their confidence and made for a long, uncomfortable ride back down the B Line. This, however, was a new year and a new team. "It was difficult, but we overcame it," said Miles Powe, CSOM '18. "We adjusted nicely," added Conor Powers, MCAS '18.

With a championship match against Villanova set, the Eagles knew what to expect from a team that mirrored their balanced roster and play. Fajana credits the two-point victory to luck and a few big plays that went the team's way; however, there is no shortage of talent on the Eagles’ roster. "There are a lot of really good basketball players at BC, more so than I even anticipated when I started playing club," said club president Drew Jacobs, CSOM '16.

The pool of talent at BC all together was colossal enough that choosing the 25-man roster became a challenge for Jacobs and the team's two coaches. Jacobs noted that they had to cut a lot of guys who had the talent to be on the team, but a simple numbers issue was the unfortunate reason for disheartening cuts. Even after finalizing the team's 25 players, there is still a travel roster that is even smaller.

Consisting of five seniors, five sophomores, and three freshmen, the travel roster is a balance of seasoned veterans and new talent. From freshman to seniors, there is a hunger that has driven this team to give its all on the court, an eagerness for the younger guys to get out on the court and prove themselves, and a continued passion and respect for the game which combine for the ultimate threat.

Photo courtesy of Boston College Men's Club Basketball / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Boston College Men's Club Basketball / Facebook

The team got its first taste of action this past fall at a tournament at James Madison, but they were missing one of their key players, center Kiernan Hughes. In his absence, the Eagles found opportunity, using the hole to push some of the younger players out of their comfort zone, forcing them to step up. While Hughes' absence was a blow to the Eagles, it helped many of the guys on the team develop much faster.

When Hughes returned in the BU tournament, he helped propel the Eagles to the top, winning the Most Valuable Player award along the way. But, BC's victory in the regional was thanks to a full team effort on both sides of the ball. “I couldn’t tell you how ecstatic we all were to win and finally get that BU tournament,” said Fajana.  Powers followed up, saying: “We had a bigger goal in mind this time around, so we busted our asses and it paid off."

It is the team’s camaraderie and chemistry on and off the court that has propelled them to the club basketball national stage. "We get along together and we’re very comfortable playing with each other," said Fajana. "Everyone plays with a high basketball IQ and it helps everyone out and makes it easier."

The tournament win was a full circle moment for the Eagles, since that’s where this whole thing started. Three years ago, they participated at the intramural level in the same BU tournament, knowing they had the talent and passion to compete at the same level as the club teams.

So, they filled out the necessary paperwork and set their sights on becoming a club. "It has been interesting," said Jacobs, who joined the team his junior year (the team's first year as a club). "The old president is the kid who started it. It has been cool to see how the club has progressed."

Last year was the Eagles first year competing in the national tournament; they came in second place, falling to Cornell. This year, they are heading back hungrier than ever and seeking revenge.

“It was really cool to see that even in our third year, it’s finally starting to come together,” said Jacobs. “It took a while to figure out how we wanted to play, but going 6-0 this weekend, we finally figured (it) out.”

It has not and will not be an easy road to the top for the Eagles, who struggle to find games outside of tournament play as there is no league for club basketball just yet. The team still has aspects of their game to improve, but they face the challenge of when exactly to do that in a game setting. Trying to figure out the best way to move forward and take advantage of the momentum they have has been one of the biggest challenges for the team's executive board.

Despite the speed bumps the Eagles face, they have remained positive and confident that their grit and hard work will pay off. Their dynamic will prove very formidable for any thing or any opponent that tries to stand in their way.

An eclectic group, they bring a wide array of personalities to the table, but despite that range, there is a sense of togetherness on and off the court which creates an ideal environment for talent to flourish. The mixture of the team's laid-back yet competitive nature makes for a culture that values more than just winning.

“We’re just a very energetic team and just love to pump each other up. Everyone who is on the team is invested in winning, and everyone has different roles,” said Powe. "No one can match our energy off the bench, especially the electric sophomore class," added Powers.

With a change in mindset, the Eagles see their games as a simple pickup match with the boys, just getting out on the court and having a good time with friends. "We took more of a family approach to the season," said Powers. In addition to their passion for the sport, it is their attitude that has led them to their success, because as much as talent and hard work is important, it is harmony, understanding, and camaraderie that makes the good teams great.

"You heard it here first, we're winning the 'ship," concluded Powe with a confident smirk.

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Katie McGirney