MEN'S BASKETBALL: BC Gains Valuable Experience During Time In Spain
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Last year’s Boston College men’s basketball team flashed promising potential at times, but inexperience and fatigue wore the squad down over the course of the season on its way to a 9-22 record. This year, the Eagles are looking to turn that inexperience into confidence and success in head coach Steve Donahue’s system, and a preseason trip to Spain during the last week of August has played a huge role in the team’s development heading into the season.
“I’ve done these trips three times, and they’ve all really been great experiences in all aspects of [the players’] lives,” Donahue said before the summer began. “The one thing they always remember out of their four years is their foreign trip, and where we went, and the fun we had, and just the experiences of seeing a part of the world that maybe you’ll never see again.
“For us, basketball-wise, I think it’s so key because we’re really still growing in chemistry and still trying to figure out who we are. So I think it’s a huge advantage for someone like us, as young as we are, to do this trip and then obviously to get that experience before the season even starts.”
After spending the summer taking classes and getting in two one-hour workouts a week, the players finally had an opportunity to get in real two and half hour practices as a whole unit with the coaching staff one week before heading to Spain.
“We had some of the hardest practices,” said sophomore point guard Jordan Daniels. “They were just highly intense. We knew we were being prepared to play against professional guys down there in Spain. And then our mindset is a little different this year. We feel more comfortable.”
Added to the sophomore-heavy lineup this season are two freshmen: 6-foot-4 point guard Olivier Hanlan from Quebec and 6-foot-2 shooting guard Joe Rahon out of San Diego. Both players can play each position, and Donahue sees them as immediatelty integral to the team.
“They both have great basketball IQ,” Donahue said. “They both really compete, which is critical. It comes naturally to them. They both really defend. They’re really good in all aspects of the game and they have pretty good size for guards. Both have long arms and both are good athletes. Both are probably more physically ready to play in the ACC than the group last year was initially. They both can be point guards—they both can be shooting guards. They’re just great all-around basketball players.”
For both players, the intensity of the first few practices was an adjustment initially.
“It was fun, but it was really different,” Rahon said. “Coming from high school, we’d have our fair share of two-hour practices but nothing of that tempo with these kinds of players, so it was an adjustment on my body. My body was a lot sorer that week than it’s probably ever been, just because of the workload.”
Donahue had to slow down the offense last year so his team could stay competitive, but this year he’s looking to pick up the pace so he can get these players to work the same way his Sweet 16 team did at Cornell.
“We have to play a whole lot faster than we did last year,” Donahue said. “So that was our first chance to get the guys, and we ran a ton of stuff full court. For us to play the way we’re going to have to continue to try to play is to make sure that in practice we’re going as hard as we can for as long as we can to build up the cardio fitness, because I thought that was an issue with so many of the young guys last year – that we’d kind of run out of gas and then I’d have to find out a way to play a little slower to keep us in the game a lot longer.”
That conditioning that held the team back last year has already made a significant leap heading into the 2012-2013 campaign.
“I think they’ve done an incredible job over the last six months building themselves up strength-wise and cardio fitness-wise,” Donahue said. “Every single guy is so much more along than they were a year ago. It’s just amazing.”
After a week of practice, the team took off for Madrid, landing around 7 a.m. Hardly any of the players slept on the plane, and although they had a few hours to rest before their 1 p.m. practice, most of the players took off to explore the city. Everyone met back up at 1 for a shootaround to get the kinks out.
“We started out dragging at first,” Daniels said. “The time difference got to us.”
“It was very hard,” Donahue said. “We weren’t going to practice again so I just wanted to get our legs out, get used to playing over there with the balls and the funky courts and everything about it. For the first day, I always think it’s good to exercise and get your legs going not even for the basketball side of it but just to enjoy the trip.”
The next day, the team faced Eurocolegio Casvi and fell 86-77. The players had to adjust to bent rims and foreign officiating as well as their own sloppy play.
“In the first game, I felt like we were just sloppy and I was trying to get used to how everything went at game speed, especially against real competition,” Rahon said. “This offense is pretty complex, so it just takes time to get to know it and get to know the ins and outs of it, but by the fourth game I felt like I was a lot more comfortable personally.”