On, Friday, Nov. 10, Boston College men’s basketball will tip off against Maine to open up a new season, one with more optimism than we have seen before in the Jim Christian era.
The offseason brought a flurry of praise for the returning backcourt of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. After being named first team All-ACC Freshman and All-ACC Honorable Mention respectively, Robinson has gone on to be named preseason 2nd team All-ACC and a candidate for the Jerry West Award, annually given to the best shooting guard in the country.
“I think he’s (gotten) more of an appreciation of how hard it is to be a really good player,” said Christian of his junior star. “The daily grind, the understanding of how to take care of your body and how to grow your game, and the attention to detail that you really need.”
Despite all of the love Robinson has been shown this off-season, he continues to rave about his backcourt mate. “You are talking about a guy that can create plays for himself that you would never think would happen. So much energy and poise as well. If you see him having a bad day, it's rare. The kid is always uppity and ready to go,” Robinson said at the ACC media day.
The rest of the Eagles' roster has seen some change, but there remains reason for positivity. Graduate transfers Mo Jeffers and Connar Tava both have moved on, while junior AJ Turner transferred to Northwestern, joining a Wildcats team fresh off a Cinderella tournament run.
Losing three starters seems devastating at face value, but Coach Christian’s club should be poised to improve despite the losses. Deontae Hawkins, a 6’8” power forward, comes in as a graduate transfer from Illinois State. Hawkins led a 28-win Redbirds team in both scoring and rebounds while being a serious threat from long range, shooting over 44 percent from deep. As one of the best options on the transfer market in the nation this off-season, Hawkins should greatly improve BC in terms of talent and is a far better fit than BC’s plug-and-play grad transfers in years past.
Jordan Chatman will likely fill in Turner’s void, an unfamiliar task for the junior guard. Over the Eagles’ last 11 games last season, Chatman was already taking away the starting spot at the three, making seven starts and playing no less than 23 minutes per game. Another year shooting 42% from long range and 91 from the free throw line will go a long way toward creating space for Bowman and Robinson.
The fifth starter will likely be BC’s biggest question this year, as the team is without a ton of size and strength. Nik Popovic will look to make a sophomore jump with likely increased minutes. Popovic has added muscle to his 6’11” frame and will hopefully give BC more interior presence in a larger role. Another option for the Eagles will be Steffon Mitchell. The freshman is undersized but an excellent defender and could be very valuable protecting the paint and rebounding without the pressure to score alongside four experienced competent scorers.
Other new faces include three more freshmen. Vin Baker Jr., son of Vin Sr. who was a 13-year NBA star has great length and ball skills for a wing. Avery Wilson, a guard from Georgia, will likely fill in some of the rare minutes when both Robinson and Bowman take a seat. 6’10” Luka Kraljevic is the most recent European recruit by Scott Spinelli. A skilled big man, Kraljevic comes to BC much like Popovic a year ago: a very talented offensive player who needs to put on weight and improve defensively.
One expected contributor who will not be helping the Eagles this season is sophomore wing Mike Sagay. Sagay announced that he received his release early Friday morning and will be transferring from BC.
The team has already taken the floor in two scrimmages against out-of-conference schools. In their first taste of competitive action the Eagles handled Bryant 87-59 in the first contest and fell to No. 23 Seton Hall in a closed door contest. Bowman led each game in scoring with 26 and 29 respectively.
With two legitimate stars in the conference, BC should be dangerous in every game they play, but Christian has voiced that he has higher expectations for the season.
“Every year, I think there’s one team that you come in here and you don’t know what to expect from them and they catch you by surprise, but not us,” Christian said. “I think we’re that team.”