Sports, Basketball, Women's Basketball, Column

Column: Despite Bench Talent, BC Still Isn’t Using Rotation Players to Their Full Ability

When you’re walking from Gasson to Mac, through the expanse of the Quad and Stokes Lawn, it’s easy to overlook the freshmen as you pass. Us first-years are generally smaller and more subconsciously afraid to make ourselves known on this campus, which makes it easy for everyone else to sort of skim right over us. The same can not be said, however, for Jaelyn Batts. 

Standing squarely at 6 feet tall, Batts is not quite so easy to look past. But what makes her stand out the most at Boston College is not her stature but rather her impressive maturity and skill level on the basketball court as she plays under head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. 

Batts is averaging just under 17 minutes per game in the 12 appearances she’s had this season, seven of which were starts. She’s shooting at nearly a 50 percent clip, though she hasn’t attempted the most shots, with 37. Where she really shines is on the boards–– Batts has recorded 34 rebound grabs, including 23 on defense, to stop opponents’ attacks and set up plenty of second-chance points for the Eagles. In her college debut for the Eagles, she shot 4-of-4 from the floor for eight points, and she snagged three rebounds in the Eagles’ win over UMass Lowell back in early November. 

Though her numbers aren’t yet that of a first-round WNBA draft pick, she shows immense potential for her next three years on the Heights.

Even so, Batts is often an underused weapon for the Eagles. BC stands by its steadfast superstars, including Cameron Swartz, Marnelle Garraud, Emma Guy, Taylor Soule, and Makayla Dickens, who are all consistent, aggressive, and older than Batts. The starters have earned their spots for good reason, but it’s nonetheless important to recognize the impact of bench players. And though the most familiar names are nearly always the ones that make the headlines, it’s often the bench or the rotating players that make the biggest difference in determining the winner and the loser. 

Take the 2018 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, for example. Even though Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant garnered the lion’s share of attention throughout the season, it was bench players including Andre Iguodala, Zaza Pachulia, and Shaun Livingston who supported the headliners enough to maintain leads and establish an uncounterable offense even when the stars were resting. 

In the NBA Finals that year, Iguodala recorded 20 points over two games off the bench. He also grabbed four rebounds and recorded a shooting percentage of over 50 percent in field goals, 3-pointers, and free throws. 

As such, the most fitting comparison for Batts on the 2018 Warriors would be Iguodala. His numbers weren’t those of Durant, but without his consistent playmaking and eye for moving the ball in space, the Warriors wouldn’t have had a chance at the championship. The numbers all line up between the two players, so it would be to Bernabei-McNamee’s benefit to rely more heavily on Batts and other players like her. 

Clara Ford has played a similar role to Batts over her two years on the Heights, though her numbers are not quite the same. Ford averaged 6.2 minutes over 22 games in her freshman season. She averaged 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game last year, and she has worked to expand on her numbers this year. In the opener against UMass Lowell, Ford had an impressive three points, three rebounds, and two blocks in just eight minutes of play. 

It’s impossible to understate the importance of a rotation of talented players, particularly in a sport with as frequent of injuries as basketball has. With games multiple times a week, it doesn’t take much for players to get burnt out or suffer overuse injuries, so the rotation of players off the bench is of utmost importance. 

With a talented new class of women’s basketball players who recently signed to attend BC next year, it’s important to recognize the benefit that a strong crowd of newcomers adds to the team. Back in early November, three players officially signed their National Letter of Intent to attend BC to play basketball with Bernabei-McNamee. The three signees included guards Kaylah Ivey and Jo Jo Lacey, as well as forward Sydney McQuietor. 

Ivey is the No. 75 overall recruit in the class of 2020, and Lacey is No. 39, according to Blue Star Basketball, which based on numbers alone, is a good sign for the Eagles. Ivey shines from 3-point range, and Lacey adds depth on the defensive side. McQuietor’s ability under the rim and in the paint is unmatched, and her agility is unheard of for a 6-foot-2 guard. 

Since Emma Guy will be the only starter from the 2019-20 team to graduate this year, the Eagles’ three new acquisitions are likely to play a similar role to Batts, at least in their first year at BC. The majority of the starters this year are sophomores, including Swartz, Dickens, Soule, and Garraud, which means that the lineup will most likely be set for the next few years. Even so, having an incredible amount of talent on the bench––as the Eagles do––will be the difference-maker in games against major ACC opponents.

Often, coaches will build a team around its few best players (see the Cavs’ LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving in 2016), but unless you’ve got the league’s third all-time leading scorer on your side, it will take more than a few stars to build a championship team. The bench players often slide under the radar, but their impact is vitally important to the long-term success of a team and should be regarded as such.

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

January 27, 2020