On Tuesday, the Boston College men’s basketball team will tip off the regular season against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 7 p.m. in Conte Forum.
The biggest story this offseason was the loss of Jerome Robinson to the NBA. Robinson was taken 13th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers; he hasn’t seen much of the floor very early in his rookie campaign, although he did tally his first NBA points this past week. Nonetheless, the loss of the All-ACC first team member from a season ago has tempered the expectations for the season, as ESPN picked the Eagles to finish 12th in the ACC this year.
No one player can make up for the loss of Jerome Robinson, though there is a strong case Jordan Chatman can step up and handle more of the scoring load. Yet, the Eagles are a much deeper team this year made up of four returning starters and a strong recruiting class. Thanks to this depth and the corresponding versatility it will provide, the Eagles should remain as competitive as they were last year.
Head Coach Jim Christian stressed the impact of having four returning starters and the importance of continuity along with depth at ACC Media day; He explained, “for the first time we've got guys who have been in the program for three years and four years and can explain some of the things we do and why we do it. I think we're just way ahead of where we were because of that.”
The team will undoubtedly be led by junior guard Kyran Bowman, the returning half of last years premier ACC backcourt. The explosive guard entered his name in the draft as well but deemed it best to return for his junior year at the Heights. It will be Bowman’s team to run, and it will be interesting to see how big of a step forward the talented guard will make this year after a summer of working out with pros.
Junior Nik Popovich and MBA Candidate Jordan Chatman (in is his final year of collegiate eligibility) also return with two years of experience respectively. The smooth-shooting Chatman shot 39.5 percent from three last year while taking 6.5 shots from beyond the arc per game and exploded for some monster outings. Popovich, a skilled big man, reportedly bulked up to 253 pounds in the offseason which should help him continue to improve as a rebounder, as well as help the 6’11 center matchup with any bigs in the ACC. Sophomore Steffon Mitchell brings a lot of experience as well. After being thrown into the thick of things in ACC play following the season ending injury to Deontae Hawkins, Mitchell quickly showed he belonged. The team’s best rebounder at 8.3 per game last season, Mitchell is constantly heralded for making hustle plays and doing “the little things” that coaches love. What truly sets him apart is his extremely high basketball IQ, as Mitchell always seems to be in the right position at the right time.
The Eagles also return frontcourt depth with Junior Johncarlos Reyes, the always energetic sophomore Luka Kraljevic, and junior Vin Baker Jr. The remainder of the Eagles depth will come from new faces. Freshman Jairus Hamilton, an ESPN top 100 recruit, will likely be the teams 5th starter. The 6’8 small forward projects to do a bit of everything for the Eagles and could be an X-factor depending on how long it takes him to adjust to the collegiate level.
The backcourt will also be bolstered by the three new faces. First, Jarius’ brother, junior Jared Hamilton–a transfer from Georgia Southern–will be eligible in the second semester. Additionally, freshman Wynston Tabbs, a three star recruit per ESPN, could potentially play a high number of minutes in relief of Chatman and Bowman. Chris Herren Jr., who reclassified to join the Eagles this season as a preferred walk-on, also provides even more shooting and depth off the bench. Ky Bowman certainly will not need to play 38.2 minutes per game this season and should be able to avoid foul trouble as well with the influx of guards on the Eagles’ roster.
The Eagles are so deep that Christian has yet to commit to a starting lineup, noting that “this year, because we added two impactful freshmen, in my mind, we literally have six starters. I couldn't tell you today which group of the five are going to start.” (Those two freshmen being Hamilton and Tabbs.)
With seven ACC teams ranked in the AP preseason top 25, the best basketball conference in the nation will be as grueling as ever for the Eagles. But, with all the talent and added depth on the roster, this year the Eagles will be as tough of an out as they were at the end of last season. As Christian stressed, “if we do what we're supposed to do, we can play with anybody in the country.”
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