Sports, Men's Basketball, Column

Christian Should Focus On Locking Down Local Recruits

His team down one, Shabazz Napier gets the ball at the free throw line with a second left and manages to get the shot off with 0.3 on the clock. The ball—hanging in the air for what seems like eternity—rattles around the rim and falls through the net. And the Conte Forum crowd goes wild.

Except Napier was playing for UConn, not the Eagles, when he beat the Florida Gators on their home court, 1,210 miles away from Conte Forum.

Napier lived close to Boston College—5.5 miles to be exact—while growing up in Roxbury, Mass. He then went on to play for nearby Charlestown High School and Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. Yet for his college career, he was lightyears away from BC hoops.

Let’s be real for a second. Would a player of Napier’s caliber ever have chosen a team like BC? Probably not. For someone with the skill to carry a team to a NCAA title and then get drafted in the first round, playing for anyone but an elite college program was never likely. After all, BC has only produced four first-round picks in the last 14 years. But to get back to where they used to be, the Eagles are going to need some of these players, and soon.

After the recent National Signing Day, one thing is clear: Jim Christian and BC should corner the market on local recruits.

New England is not known for its college sports culture. It pales in comparison to the hotbed of football in the south and the heart of ACC basketball in North Carolina. In terms of college hoops, UConn is the only major player. Providence and UMass have had recent success, while URI was strong in the ’90s, but much like BC, they all have been inconsistent.

So before BC hoops starts thinking about getting back to the Sweet Sixteen, it needs to reassert its dominance in New England and the northeast. The first step in doing so is making itself into a school that every local player dreams of playing for and then securing their signatures every fall.

A quick look at ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for 2015 highlights the need for a revamped recruiting system. Six players are from New England, and all of them received offers from BC, but none are playing here next year. No. 25 Jalen Adams is from Roxbury and signed with UConn (sounds all too familiar). Two players from Connecticut are going to Louisville and UConn (I’ll concede there). The remaining three are from Massachusetts. Two are going to Stanford and FSU (not exactly powerhouses), while the last one is the most frustrating. No. 91 Aaron Falzon is from Newton, but ultimately ended up at Northwestern after BC rolled the dice on other prospects. Like Napier, so close, yet so far away.

The fact that URI and Providence have top-100 freshmen on their roster shows just how far BC has fallen.

In becoming the head coach at BC, Christian has taken control of a program that has been spiraling downward. The key word here is “program”: Christian was not hired to fix a team and immediately have a winning season. Although this would be nice, these are secondary goals. He is here to rebuild a program.

And to do that, you need to recruit. That’s why he is the right man for the job.

Al Skinner built some really great teams and brought in some really great players—see: Dudley, Jared—but he did not do enough to sustain his success. The reason for this: he did not put in enough time during the offseason, where seasons are won and lost.

Skinner out, Steve Donahue in. But again, Donahue did not have what it takes to be successful on a big-time level. His high-class and professional style was a great fit for the Ivy League but was not enough in the prime time of the ACC.

Enter Christian, a jokester, a real people person and big personality type guy who is exactly what BC needs. He has the skills to recruit BC’s way back to excellence, and he has the staff, too. Assistant coaches Scott Spinelli and Preston Murphy both have local ties, and Spinelli is a noted recruiter in the college hoops world.

Local recruiting isn’t the final answer, but it’s a start. While fans are undoubtedly itching to see a winning season, the revolution does not happen overnight. The long process has begun, and although it may seem a long way’s away, the future is built today through recruiting.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

November 17, 2014