Jim Christian is sitting in the pilot seat—not of a commercial jet filled with luxuries, but of a fighter jet that just lost its second engine.
Since 2009, Boston College’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament, the program has been in a steep nose dive. Now, following the recent exodus of Olivier Hanlan and Will Magarity, Christian must add a few more maneuvers to his repertoire to pull his team back to its feet.
The departure of Hanlan, who declared for the NBA Draft and opted out of his senior year, is no surprise after his best season with the Eagles yet. But Magarity’s decision to transfer came as a bit of shock with all the attention surrounding Hanlan. What does this mean for the future?
For a rebuilding year to happen, a team has to scrap most of its players and start from scratch, and this process requires one solid explosion to kick off the process. For the Boston Celtics, that blowup occurred when Danny Ainge hired Brad Stevens and dished Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets.
Hanlan was probably never going to play better than he did this past season, in which he averaged almost 20 points a game and was in contention for ACC Player of the Year. After losing three of his fellow starters—Pat Heckmann, Dimitri Batten, and Aaron Brown—Hanlan was left with no team there to support him. The draft was his only option and the right decision personally.
But from a broader view, in terms of the program, Hanlan’s decision is also the right one. Unless Christian and the Eagles turn into Danny Ainge and the Celtics, who can be constantly blowing up its team to acquire stock in the future while simultaneously contending for a seven-seed in the playoffs, a final season from Hanlan wasn’t going to bring anything except a few more wins, at most.
So while the loss of Hanlan officially kicks off the beginning of a new uphill climb for BC, all of the energy in the program can be focused on developing the young players, which means giving them playing time.
As for Magarity, his exit just makes an unfortunate situation much worse. The lack of depth that plagued the Eagles last year was most evident in the post, especially when Magarity went down with a concussion toward the end of the year. Without Magarity, only Dennis Clifford and Idy Diallo remain as true big men—a scary thought given that Clifford has never been the same since injuries last year, Diallo didn’t see a minute of regular season action, and the three incoming freshmen so far are all guards.
Magarity is the type of player that benefits a team on the rebuild. He’s not the everyday starter that Clifford is, but he’s steady, and on a young team he would have provided experience as a junior. Instead, Clifford and Garland Owens will be the only returning players who have started a game. That’s not good.
To recap the roster as it stands, the Eagles are left with Clifford, Diallo, Garland Owens, Daryl Hicks, Steve Perpiglia, and Sam Donahue. That’s not a good situation to be in.
Perpiglia and Donahue will never be in the regular rotation, and can only hope fill the role of bench players, acting as the heart and soul of the team while pushing their new teammates in practice.
Clifford has a lot of weight on his shoulders to provide the majority of the offense after averaging a tame 6.9 points per game this season. Next to him, Diallo is hit or miss at this point. The only glimpse of Diallo was the exhibition against American International College, in which he showcased his size and raw power but little else in terms of scoring or defense.
Another big question mark is Daryl Hicks, who has yet to play a game here due to two torn ACL’s. If the ups and downs of Clifford’s career are any indication, then immediately coming into a big role after extended absence due to injury is a big, long-term undertaking.
The only glimmer of hope is Garland Owens. Following the loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament to end the season, Batten—whose role was to bring the energy and defense—looked at Owens across the locker room and referred to him as his little brother. If Batten represented the core values of a Jim Christian team, then Owens has received the torch and will take over for Batten in the coming years, and could play a key role in the development of A.J. Turner, a top rated recruit.
While the addition of Turner next year represents a step forward for the program, the incredible exodus of 10 players is a huge step backward.
No need to hit the eject button quite yet, but Christian needs to do a lot to pull his ailing fighter jet back up to full speed next year.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Editor