Hockey fever might be sweeping Boston College and the Northeast in general, but lost in the excitement of potentially another year of dominant hockey is the fact that basketball is only a short month away! Jim Christian faces a steep uphill battle of molding the team into a contender and a complete overhaul of the program will take time.
While this year is mainly a stopgap before Christian and his staff can begin building the program with their own recruits, the return of Olivier Hanlan coupled with the few recruits and transfers that Christian was able to secure after his hiring make this year an intriguing one. If Christian can pull an Addazio and make the team gel in spite of the new faces and a few key departures, year one of the Christian era could turn out to be surprisingly competitive and fun.
Although Christian has the look of a "Dude," mimicking Addazio’s turnaround from last year will be a daunting task. Co-captains Joe Rahon and Ryan Anderson, who were both ranked as BC’s top three for minutes, points and rebounds, have transferred to the warmer climates of Saint Mary’s and Arizona, respectively. It’s possible they transferred solely to escape New England winters, but their departures leave two significant holes in the starting lineup.
Luckily there won’t be a third, NBA-sized hole, as Olivier Hanlan shocked pretty much everyone by returning to BC for his junior year. Without Hanlan, this year probably would have been a bloodbath, but with Hanlan in tow, Christian can focus on replacing the production of last year’s co-captains.
Despite having limited scholarships to bring in reinforcements, as well as a shortage of time to find them, Christian was able to recruit low-risk, high-reward players for this year that don’t tie up recruiting flexibility for later years. In May, Christian brought in reinforcement #1, as the 6-foot-11 Idrissa “Idy” Diallo committed to BC, decommiting from Cal despite offers from USC, UCLA, and Oregon. Ranked the 128th best player in the class of 2014 by Rivals, Diallo is an athletic, lanky and big man that gives BC size up front and mitigates the loss of Anderson. Despite his rawness, Diallo might be thrust into a larger-than-expected role this year, as he can immediately help with defense and rebounding.
To attempt to replace the production of Rahon in the back court, Christian brought in two shooting guards: fifth-year transfer student Dmirtri Batten from Old Dominion, and Aaron Brown from Southern Miss, who both have one year of eligibility remaining and are eligible to play immediately. Batten, at 6 feet 3 inches and 205 pounds, averaged 11 points and 4.2 rebounds for Old Dominion last season, while the 6-foot-5, 215 pound Brown averaged 10 points and 4.3 rebounds for Southern Miss (but shot at a much more efficient clip than Batten).
Batten and Brown should compete for the starting spot next to Hanlan, and the combination should ultimately replace much of what Rahon brought to the table. Perhaps just as important, these two additions don’t tie up scholarship spots for the next four years, allowing Christian to replace the lost production of Rahon without hindering his long-term recruiting ability.
Christian did a good job of attempting to replace Rahon and Anderson with such limited resources, but the success and watchability of this season falls on his ability to gameplan effectively and bring the team together. Christian was able to bring in the highly-priced Scott Spinelli from Maryland and Preston Murphy from Rhode Island as assistant coaches, and the coaching staff as a whole should be miles ahead of Donahue’s staff from last year. Christian’s Ohio team from last year outranked BC by 91 spots in points per game, 60 spots in field goal percentage, and a whopping 150 spots in assists per game.
The assists are key; assists are the best indicator of how well a team passes, and rapid ball movement and constant motion often compensate for a dearth in talent. Defense and rebounding will be an issue this year due to BC’s lack of size, but if Christian can complement Hanlan’s NBA-level talent with a cohesive system that emphasizes ball movement instead of the stagnation of Donahue’s past teams, BC could put together a surprisingly fun and entertaining year.
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