Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball, Column

Both Basketball Squads Offer Optimism Moving Forward

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my tenure as assistant and associate sports editor of The Heights. This will be my final column as an editor—next week is our final print edition, and then a new board of editors will come in, and I’ll be abroad in Ireland next semester. It took me a very long time to come up with an idea for this column. What is an appropriate way to bid farewell to covering Boston College Athletics? What is there to say after two years of giving my opinions on what’s going on with the Eagles?

Actually, I’ve written some hot takes over the past two years. To be honest, it’s been easy to have strong opinions about what’s been going on at BC during that time. Some administrators haven’t put in an effort to be supportive of the Eagles, some teams have struggled, some teams have done exceptionally well, some coaches have made unpopular decisions, some coaches have led their teams to some pretty sweet hardware. Through it all, BC fans have remained loyal, if very vocal about their opinions.

Victories are sweet, but national championships are even sweeter, and the Eagles have barely cleared the final hurdle in the past two years. Erika and Sophia Reineke have claimed national titles for sailing, as has Scott Rasmussen—but BC’s team sports have failed to claim that elusive national championship. That’s not for lack of trying, though—women’s hockey and lacrosse have come just about as close as you can get, and given it their all, but fallen just short.

As a result, BC fans have become pretty pessimistic. Now, as a diehard D.C. sports fan, I understand pessimism. It’s hard to feel good about your team when, during your lifetime, you’ve had a revolving door of coaches, an owner who can’t stop meddling, front office executives who officially have no clue what they’re doing, and players who enjoy attention more than improving their game (cough, cough, Redskins, cough, cough). In the same vein, it’s tough to feel optimistic when, over the past few years, you’ve had talented student-athletes and good chances, but nothing can come together in the right way, and to exacerbate that, you’ve got a head coach with a knack for making questionable decisions and defending them in unpopular ways. (Do I even need to tell you what team I’m talking about?)

Right, so it’s natural to feel pessimism. Only now, I feel like there’s something to be genuinely excited about—men’s and women’s basketball. Sure, we’re only two games into the season for each team, but the Eagles have already demonstrated that there’s plenty to look forward to in the next couple of years in Conte Forum.

South Carolina State came to town this weekend to play men’s basketball and brought a nice gift along—the biggest margin of victory in Jim Christian’s tenure as head coach of the Eagles. BC put up 91 points against the Bulldogs, with 12 different Eagles recording points in the game. And on Friday night, in the season opener, the Eagles beat Maine by 20 points at home. Yeah, maybe it was Maine and South Carolina State and not, say, Duke and North Carolina, but the win still says good things about BC’s chances this year.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you’re a BC sports fan you know that Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman are the real deal. After Bowman emerged as a serious threat a couple of weeks into the season last year, he and Robinson have controlled BC’s backcourt, offering highlight-worthy plays and becoming some of the more dominant players in the ACC. This year, Robinson and Bowman are just one piece of the talent on the team, rather than the significant piece. You’ve got freshman Steffon Mitchell, who was the leading scorer against South Carolina State after dropping 21 points. He was perfect from downtown and grabbed seven offensive boards against the Bulldogs. You’ve also got Jordan Chatman, still looking dominant in his second year as an Eagle—this weekend, Chatman scored 24 over the course of two games, looking a little shaky from beyond the arc but perfect from the free throw line. Nik Popovic has settled into his role as starting center nicely—he’s played well, but more importantly, he’s looked more confident in the paint. Last, but certainly not least, Teddy Hawkins has played a major part in BC’s success over the weekend, including grabbing an astounding 26 boards over two games and stepping up to lead the Eagles on the court when they needed him most. Mitchell, Chatman, Hawkins, and Popovic have all demonstrated that they can be central pieces to BC’s success this year in addition to the already-elite combination of Robinson and Bowman.

Christian’s squad isn’t the only team to get excited about, though—Erik Johnson’s women’s basketball team also has a lot to look forward to over the next few years. After losing Mariella Fasoula and Kelly Hughes, BC might’ve found itself in quite a predicament, but new members of the team have stepped up to fill in the gaps alongside returners Georgia Pineau and Taylor Ortlepp. Freshman Milan Bolden-Morris, a natural guard and one of the best 3-point shooters on the team, has learned to play a completely new position—forward. She opened the season with 11 points and nine rebounds against Bryant, and continued her hot streak with 13 fourth-quarter points in Sunday’s loss to Dartmouth. Sydney Lowery, meanwhile, contributed 13 points and six rebounds against Bryant. The Eagles are 1-1 on the season, but even the loss to Dartmouth held some positives—they trailed by more than 20 points entering the fourth quarter, and managed to cut into the lead with a comeback attempt that lasted into the final minute of play. That shows grit and determination. It would have been easy for this young Eagles squad to roll over and let Dartmouth blow them out, but they fought back and took it until the very end.

Kind of like Robinson and Bowman, Lowery and Bolden-Morris offer a hopeful future for the Eagles. In fact, both teams have a lot of young talent, proving that fans can be optimistic about the squads for the next couple of years. Robinson and Chatman are juniors, but Bowman and Popovic are sophomores, and Mitchell is only a freshman. Meanwhile, Bolden-Morris and Lowery are freshmen and Pineau and Ortlepp are sophomores. With several years ahead to progress, mature, and develop together, the teams can only improve from here.

Sure, it may have been rocky going for the past couple of years with BC athletics—but after the opening weekend of the basketball season, I’m confident in both teams. Men’s basketball proved that it has depth and that its players have matured over the past year, while women’s basketball proved that it won’t be lost without Hughes and Fasoula. As my time as a sports editor comes to an end, I’m confident that this is no hot take: there’s plenty to be optimistic about with BC men’s and women’s basketball.

Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

November 12, 2017