Column: No Alarms And No Surprises With The Departure Of Matt Humphrey
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
I sat down with Matt Humphrey in late January, 30 minutes after Boston College lost a disappointing game to Wake Forest, 71-56. Humphrey shot 3-of-8 for seven points in the loss. After talking about how he thought the season was going, I asked him about his new role on the team. Here’s how the exchange went.
“What do you think Coach Donahue wants from you on the team? What role do you think he has in mind for you?”
“I haven’t really talked to him, but I would say to play defense and rebound. Try to limit the mistakes on the floor and be one of those guys.”
I was slightly taken aback that Humphrey would say he hadn’t talked to Donahue, but in retrospect, it makes the recent reports from CBS’ Jeff Goodman that Humphrey has chosen to transfer hardly surprising. Humphrey’s game and character isn’t designed to be “one of those guys,” a phrase he said with obvious pain and frustration in his voice.
For the first month of the season, Humphrey, whether he was asked to or not, took it upon himself to be the team’s go-to scorer. He and head coach Steve Donahue would butt heads over and over again on the sideline over some of Humphrey’s shot selection, and it usually ended with Humphrey on the bench, head held low, giving that classic look of wide-eyed disbelief on his face. He didn’t know any better. Those wide eyes expressed that he whole heartedly believed all of his shots were good ones, and he was always confident they were going to fall.
Once Humphrey realized Donahue wouldn’t stand for that play out of the junior forward, he adjusted his game to at least stay on the court. Humphrey began shooting a lot less in January, and instead became a reliable defender and excellent rebounder. He kept his starting spot and solid playing time with the adjustment, but his new role killed him.
My most vivid memories of Humphrey on the court are of him working his butt off for a defensive rebound, sprinting down to the corner, spotting up wide open with his eyes nearly bursting outside his head in excitement, and then having to watch his teammates ignore him only to pass the ball elsewhere usually finishing the possession with no points. Humphrey was always our photographer’s favorite player because of his emotive nature on the court. He played with incredible passion and swagger, making him a joy to watch and it will definitely be missed next season.
When I asked Humphrey what his outlook for the team was heading into the season, he referenced Kemba Walker and UConn. He believed that his scoring ability could carry a squad full of inexperienced and young players just like Walker had the year before. This may seem irrational to some, but from Humphrey’s perspective it makes perfect sense. He had spent the past year imitating opposing team’s most elite scorers in practice, and was ready to step into that role on the court.
The problem, though, was that last season wasn’t about Humphrey, but instead it was about everyone else. The young players took their time developing skills and comfort for the college game, something that would have been difficult to do with Humphrey handling every possession. Donahue realized that and kept Humphrey from hindering the development of his freshmen, but it would come at Humphrey’s expense. A nearly season-ending injury to Patrick Heckmann was the main reason Humphrey even stayed in the starting lineup during the second half of the season.
BC and Humphrey weren’t a good match, and they were just never going to make it work. He didn’t fit in with the huge crowd of freshmen on the squad, but he also didn’t fit in with the older group of John Cahill, Peter Rehnquist, Salah Abdo, and Deirunas Visockas. When talking about the older players bonding over the age difference between them and the rest of the team, Cahill and Rehnquist both left Humphrey’s name out. During water breaks at practice Humphrey could be found in his own corner with his own water bottle away from the rest of the group.
Humphrey has dreams of making the NBA, and I hope that he chooses a school that will help him get there. I always felt like he was misunderstood at BC, and once he realized it wasn’t the right fit it was too late for him to get out. It was admirable of him to sacrifice his game and his future in the League in order to help this team win and this group of young players improve until he had his opportunity to transfer at the end of the season. He should find a school that will use him as their primary scorer, because that is what his game and his personality are suited for.
He’s making the right decision by leaving, and that’s not a negative reflection on the program or Donahue. It’s just what he needs to do. Good luck, Humph, and thank you for keeping things interesting.