BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Learning To Bounce Back
After A Turbulent Freshman Year, Heckmann Is Ready To Give It Another Go As More Prepared Sophomore
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
After a tumultuous 2011-2012 season, the Boston College men’s basketball team won’t hesitate to admit that growing pains can find their way onto the basketball court. A freshman-dominated BC roster experienced the adulation of upsetting a ranked conference rival and the frustration of multiple losing streaks. Yet the Eagles are poised to keep the past behind them as dawn breaks on a new year. For sophomore guard Patrick Heckmann and his teammates, Sunday’s season opener will be their first step toward the ultimate prize—redemption.
“We just had to learn a lot, I guess,” Heckmann said, looking back on his freshman year. “None of us were used to the level of intensity … it was a process of learning.”
For most freshmen, adjusting to the signature quickness and competition of basketball at the collegiate level is daunting enough. Aside from improving on the court, working to earn playing time, and taking on tough ACC defenses, Heckmann had another unique obstacle in his path: adjusting to life overseas away from his home country of Germany.
“Off the court, it was definitely language in the first place,” Heckmann remarked of the challenges he faced as an athlete and student new to the United States. “Studying in a different language is hard. I had to get used to that. My teammates knew that, and they helped me a lot with getting stuff right … in class and off the court, and I think everyone at BC was just really nice—teachers, students, faculty members.
“On the court, I think it was a faster game maybe. It was tougher. People are more athletic here, the tempo is much faster going up and down the court, so those things I had to adjust to.”
Despite this difficult transition, the guard broke into the Eagles’ rotation with solid play, showing off the skill set and potential that brought him from the German national team to the Heights. Heckmann enjoyed double-digit scoring efforts in three of his first four games, including a stellar performance against UC Riverside in which he tallied 32 points—the most scored in a single game by an ACC freshman all season. It seemed as if the rookie had provided an answer in the backcourt for a struggling squad, and a promising collegiate career was well on its way.
That is, until Heckmann was delivered an untimely mononucleosis diagnosis that threatened to turn his season upside down.
“It was hard,” Heckmann said. “I was sitting there every day for two and a half hours watching practice. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t lift, couldn’t condition—nothing. It was hard spending time without doing your favorite thing in the world.”
After being sidelined with the illness for seven games, Heckmann bounced back and salvaged what remained of his freshman season. Yet head coach Steve Donahue recognizes that this unfortunate disruption in his player’s development, in addition to adjusting to life in a foreign country, had an impact on the sophomore’s consistency during his first year.
“I think out of all our guys, Patrick is probably one of the ones that had more higher peaks and low moments out of the freshman year,” Donahue said. “I think we probably should have expected that. He comes from a completely different basketball background, educational background, probably didn’t really understand what this was about, where the other guys at least live it and had been to college games—[he’d] never been to a Division One game—things of that nature. We’re still in that transition spot.”
Nevertheless, Donahue believes that Heckmann can make the transition from good to great through constant improvement, turning moments of brilliance into a solid season-long performance.
“I think that’s his biggest hurdle, is getting over [mistakes] and moving on, because I thought last year he had a tendency that if he made one mistake, there were about three or four coming right behind it,” Donahue said. “In the same sense, if he’s playing well, man, he’s on a roll and he gets it going, which he showed as well. I just think he needs to be more consistent day in and day out.”
The feedback and encouragement with which Donahue has provided Heckmann and his teammates will continue to play a pivotal role in the team’s transition from a rebuilding team to a potential contender in the ACC. Even after a season in which the Eagles finished 9-22, the sophomore guard credited his head coach with providing BC’s men’s basketball program with a solid foundation for a bright future.
“He did a great job,” Heckmann said of Donahue. “I probably don’t know other coaches that wouldn’t get frustrated. He just stayed calm through the entire year, he didn’t really get in anyone’s face. He knew what challenges he was facing, and I think he led us through it … we can see now that he’s getting more aggressive, but he knows that we’re at the certain point where we can take it. So he’s getting on us to make us better, of course.”