The Boston College Men’s Basketball 2019-2020 season ended on a sour note. After a 58-80 loss to Notre Dame in the first round of the ACC Tournament back in March, the Eagles once again found themselves on the outside looking into the prestigious NCAA Tournament.
Yet, after what seems like ages ago, the tournament was never played due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, March Madness never occurred (well, it did in a different sense) and a champion was never crowned.
Though the tournament cancellation initiated a lull in collegiate sports indefinitely, the BC Men’s Basketball program was not without its questions.
How would the school handle Head Coach Jim Christian, a coach who in six seasons has posted a 38.7 winning percentage with only one postseason tournament appearance (2018 NIT) to show for in college basketball’s greatest conference?
How would the team replace departing players (Nik Popovic, Derryck Thornton, among others) with incoming freshmen and/or transfers?
Most importantly, how would the team take that next step to rise from the bottom of the ACC to among the conference's elites?
In a surprising move, former AD Martin Jarmond brought back Christian for the 2020-2021 season in what will likely be a “prove-it” year for the coach in his seventh year.
Christian responded in a big way, revamping the roster by scouring the transfer market and bringing in some extremely talented local recruits.
The Gavel takes a look at the entire roster for the upcoming season, highlighting roles and expectations for key players and the team as a whole as we inch closer to the start of the season.
The depth of the guard position is perhaps the most exciting and talented it has been in recent years on the Heights.
Expect sophomore Jay Heath (13.1 PTS, 1.3 STL, and 37.6 3P%) to take the reigns as the starting point-guard after putting together a very impressive freshman season. He shared the role with Derryck Thornton last season and mostly played the two-guard with his strong three-point shooting, but will be thrust into a bigger role now that Thornton has graduated.
Alongside Heath, Wynston Tabbs will be the starting shooting-guard, who will be a sight for sore eyes among BC fans after missing part of the 2018-2019 season and all of the 2019-2020 season with a knee injury. Now, he appears healthy and ready to go, seen here working out with Rob Gronkowski as he recovers from that serious injury. Tabbs certainly has the potential for All-ACC recognition if he can regain his form as a premium scorer in all of college basketball.
The forward position is where Christian will have some flexibility to play around with different front-court combinations given a bevy of incoming graduate transfers and freshmen.
To start off, one of the forward positions has already been solidified by the outstanding play of senior Steffon Mitchell (7.8 PTS, 8.7 TRB, and 2.2 STL) who at times can provide a boost on the offensive side (see: February 8th game against Virginia Tech), but sets the team’s defensive tone with rebounding, blocks, and steals.
Christian will likely go to graduate transfers Frederick Scott (12.6 PTS, 5.2 TRB, and 40 3P%) from Rider University or Andre Adams (9.0 PTS, 6.5 TRB, and 63.7 FG%) from Southern Utah University for the other forward positions. Both Scott and Adams provide great length, 6’8 and 6’9, respectively, and rebounding skills that will form a tantalizing duo with Mitchell in the low-block. It will be a welcome sight if they can contribute on the offensive floor, particularly Scott who has shown the ability to light-it-up from deep. Adams would assume the role of the starting center, given his height and size.
If Christian wants to go big, he could put all three (Scott, Adams, Mitchell) on the floor. If not, incoming freshman Demarr Langford Jr. could be ready to take the small-forward position. He’s listed as a guard, but his size (6’5, 195) and speed will play at the three-spot. His calling-card is his elite athleticism and defense, with his shot-making ability likely to develop in college. It is tough to put a label on what position he will play, but regardless, Langford Jr. looks ready to handle the ACC.
First off the bench will be graduate transfer guard Rich Kelly (16.7 PTS, 4.5 AST, and 89.1 FT%) from Quinnipiac University. Kelly may end up being the most productive out of all the graduate transfers on the team because he is a pure scorer, with a 38.7% shooting clip from three, as well as a good ball-handler. He does everything you want out of a guard, moving well without the ball, setting himself up for three off the dish, and playing heavy minutes (34.3 MIN last season).
High-Minute Rotation Players
Looking at the bench, there are some great options that Christian can play around with for his second unit.
Sophomores CJ Felder (5.6 PTS and 3.9 TRB in 20.5 MIN) and Kamari Williams (2.5 PTS and 71.4 FT% in 11.2 MIN) can provide a spark off the bench or adequately fill a starting role should there be a need.
Felder started in 18 of 31 games last season and contributed on both ends of the floor. He can pull down rebounds among the tallest big men and muscle his way to the rim with great finishing ability.
Williams, in particular, is a Gavel sleeper pick coming into next season. He came around late in the season and was quietly effective, averaging 7.2 PPG in games where he played more than 20 minutes. He has an underrated touch from outside the arc, something that will only get better as he continues to develop.
Graduate transfer guard Makai-Ashton Langford (sat out last year) from Providence College will play alongside his brother Demarr for the first time since high school and will assume the role of back-up guard. At PC, he struggled with his shot and turnovers, but possesses great athleticism, ball-handling, and finishing ability that gives hope for Christian and his staff for a turn-around.
The back-up center position will be filled by graduate transfer James Karnik (12.2 PTS, 7.2 TRB, and 57.2 FG%), a 6’9 center from Lehigh University. He provides length and strength on the defensive side, but has no outside shot like former center Nik Popovic. For an elite conference with a new wave of spacing big-men, it may be initially difficult for Karnik to carve out a role, but he will anchor that bench unit down the stretch during games.
Low-Minute Rotation Players
Of the scholarship players, only two are left, senior Luka Kraljevic (0.9 PTS and 1.2 TRB in 7.5 MIN) and incoming freshman Justin Vander-Baan, and both are centers.
Kraljevic will likely not factor into the rotation much next season with a disappointing career on the Heights so far and a surplus of forwards on the roster.
Vander-Baan, on the other hand, may be used sparingly by Christian and his potential is exciting. Not having the prospect pedigree like Langford Jr., Vander-Baan is also local to Massachusetts and towers over defenders with his seven-foot height and wingspan. The hope is that he can develop to become what Popovic was to BC, a talented scoring big-men with potential on the defensive side.
Arguably, this team is the deepest team Christian will work with during his tenure at BC. There is not one player that has all-star potential like recent BC greats Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, yet it may not need that one star to succeed.
The graduate transfers will give the Eagles stability on the starting unit and bench unit. The incoming freshmen will be able to contribute immediately and give promise for the future. The returning players like Mitchell, Heath, Tabbs, Williams, and Felder will see drastic improvements from the previous play given more minutes and a better supporting cast.
All in all, this season will determine Christian’s status at the Heights. It will certainly be one of the more memorable seasons as the Eagles look to lose the label as one of the ACC’s bottom-dwellers.
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