Sports, Men's Basketball

Observations From Jim Christian’s First Crack At It

Never get on the bad side of Jim Christian, because that stone-cold glare will kill you.

Patrick Heckmann learned this the hard way, as Christian stared him down after a defensive mistake in Thursday night’s exhibition against American International.

As far as exhibition games go, this one was pretty standard. A D1 program played a warm-up against a smaller D2 school—both sides looked rusty and out-of-sync. But shake off the dust, and more than a few key things reveal themselves about Christian and his team.

Defense is the backbone—this much was clear from the tip-off. The entire coaching staff was extremely vocal on D, shouting at the players to have proper stance and a sense of urgency. While Olivier Hanlan admitted they messed up on a few rotations, Christian felt they played very well at times. For the stretches that were bad, though, Christian was quick to sub or call a timeout. As Christian roamed the sideline, he let the offense take care of itself, but when AIC exposed the Eagles, he would drop his hands to his sides, shaking his head in utter disappointment, and call to the bench for a replacement.  Play poor defense, and you find yourselves at the receiving end of Christian’s venomous stare.

If there’s one thing Christian loves more than defense, though, it’s statistics. In the post-game presser, he cracked a quick joke to lighten the mood, then jumped right into scrutinizing the box score with an insatiable appetite for the finer details of the game. He dove into defensive rebounding percentage, pleased that his team beat its goal of 76 percent of balls rebounded. He was also disappointed in his team, though, for only grabbing 10 offensive boards—two fewer than he wanted—and only forcing 14 turnovers, six fewer than the goal.

Dennis Clifford is back. He put in a fairly solid effort, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds, but in this case, Christian has to put aside all the analytics to understand the true impact of Clifford’s return to the court. The presence of a seven-footer is incomparable on both ends of the ball, especially in BC’s help-defense oriented style. Whether he was running the court for a fast break bucket, knocking down an elbow jumper, or out-muscling three guys for the layup, Clifford looks to be back to his old tricks. He looks pretty damn good for a player who hasn’t played in two years.

Heckmann is the player to watch this year. Highly touted as a freshman, the German has had some ups and downs in the last few seasons, but if the exhibiton was any indication, he may just reach his true potential in his final year. Heavily involved on offense early on, Heckmann constantly drove to the hoop with determination and speed. Finishing the night with 14 points, six assists, and 5 rebounds, Heckmann’s all-around impact was a big bright spot for the Eagles, and he looks to be finding a consistency with his new coach.

In Christian’s early quest to rebuild this program, Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten prove to be experienced leaders. Brown can flat-out ball, enough said. But more importantly, he’s a leader. At the start of the game, he high-fived every player and coach on the bench to pump his teammates up and make sure they were ready before he took the court. Afterwards, he told his all his teammates to be in the gym for extra shots during their off day. Fellow transfer Batten brought high intensity and defense to the game as well, and he drained a few threes while he was at it.

At times, Idy Diallo looked like a freshman. At other times, Diallo looked half-man, half-beast. Often out of position or ambitiously looking for an alley-oop, the towering freshman is still in need of a lot of coaching. His potential, however, is immense. Late in the second half, Alex Dragicevich found Diallo down low, and the monstrous power forward threw down a huge slam, causing the bench to explode. With early signs of Diallo’s brute strength and raw ability, the Idy Project is going to be fun to watch in the years to come.

The Christian era has arrived. While the exhibition game shows promise, BC will not know exactly how steady this ship is until the season opener. As for now, the defensive focus of this team appears to be a sturdy hull going forward, and on Thursday, the team showed the talent needed to navigate the stormy seas of the ACC.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

November 7, 2014