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BASKETBALL PREVIEW: At Guard, Ruffin And Holt Quarterback New System

Tiffany Ruffin And Tessah Holt Will Be Two Important Guards This Year For BC

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

As the women’s basketball season approaches tipoff on Friday night, the team prepares to implement one major piece of its new game strategy against its first opponent, Boston University: focus. The team returns to the court after a tumultuous 2011-2012 season and a major change in coaching staff that will impact the results of this season. For two of Boston College’s junior guards, Tiffany Ruffin and Tessah Holt, this upcoming season presents both major challenges as well as an opportunity to revive the women’s basketball program in Chestnut Hill.

For both Ruffin and Holt, family played a large part in their interest in basketball. Ruffin recalled watching her father play in an adult basketball league when she was a child as one of her main sources of exposure to the sport. Her father’s influence grew when he made the transition to coach as Ruffin grew up.

“My dad coached me from third grade until freshman year, which was really cool,” Ruffin said. “He has a lot to do with [my love of basketball], I would say, and he kept me pretty involved throughout my growing up.”

Holt had a built-in role model in her cousin, Tiffany Travis, who played in the WNBA as a member of the Charlotte Stings.

“When I was a little girl, I used to watch her all the time, so then I was like ‘Hey, I want to play basketball,’” Holt explained. Being the youngest of five very active siblings also pushed the guard to aggressively approach her basketball career.

Despite the similarities in how they got involved in the game, the teammates had very different paths to their career as Eagles. Ruffin had been eyeing BC from a young age, as she visited campus with current teammate Karima Gabriel early in her high school career.

“Being from New Hampshire, BC is kind of the school that has the best basketball, best academics, it’s close to home, all my friends and family can come to every home game, and it seemed to be the perfect fit from the first time I saw it,” Ruffin said. “It’s beautiful, and there’s not anything more you can ask for from a college experience.”

In contrast, Holt began her college career playing for the Florida Gators, even though it seemed apparent to her mother that BC was the true place for her.

“My mom thought I was going to choose BC from the get-go. She bought me all winter clothes before I even made my decision,” Holt said, laughing. “And I then decided to choose Florida, so I had a whole bunch of winter stuff I never wore.”

Holt spent her freshman season with the Gators before deciding that BC was the better fit for her, citing academics and the relationship she built with previous head coach Sylvia Crawley, who resigned from the program in March.

The major staff shift that occurred this summer will play a huge role on the road to the Eagles’ success this season. New head coach Erik Johnson takes over the reins of the program, assisted by an entirely new staff.

The coaching change had a significant impact on the players, many of whom, including Ruffin and Holt, were recruited by a completely different coaching staff. For Holt, who transferred to BC after experiencing a personal connection with Crawley, the transition was enormous.

“[The transition] was hard because I’ve been the person that came from, ‘I transferred to this coaching staff,’ and now they’re leaving,” Holt said. “It was a big transition, but I just embraced it. I really like this coaching staff. They’re passionate and they hold us accountable.”

Johnson relies on a coaching system of perfecting fundamentals and an emphasis on a unified group, describing his methods as “team basketball to the extreme.” From Ruffin’s perspective, the detail-oriented approach has helped the Eagles center their game.

“If we want to beat teams that are more athletic than us, we need to be disciplined, we need to have high energy, we need to be focusing every play, and we can’t have slip-ups,” Ruffin said. “[Coach Johnson] is really big on focusing as long as you can in a game.”     

The new system based on the idea of focus has already appeared to elevate the game of the entire team, especially the guards. Johnson is confident in Holt’s ability to be a leader of the team.

“Tessah Holt has really grown as a point guard, and really, in terms of having to assimilate a whole new system, as a point guard you’re the quarterback out there, and she’s done a great job at getting [the new methods],” Johnson said.

Ruffin agrees that the overall effect of the new coaching style has also helped open up players into leadership roles.

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