A season after finishing 13-19 and facing a canceled ACC tournament in 2020, Boston College men’s basketball is back with a revamped roster. Three players transferred and four others graduated, leaving BC without key pieces from last year’s team. But along with the return of a familiar face—Wynston Tabbs, who was out with an injury—BC has two new recruits and four graduate transfers to bolster its depth.
The coaching staff remains the same, led by sixth-year head coach Jim Christian and assistant coaches Scott Spinelli, Bill Wuczynski, and Chris Cheeks.
BC will start the season competing in the 2k Empire Classic, then go on to play four more non-conference games and 20 ACC games. The Eagles will be up against at least one ranked opponent—No. 3 Villanova, and potentially No. 18 Arizona State—before having the opportunity to go up against other ACC teams.
During his appearance on the radio show Packer and Durham in early November, Christian said that playing the best teams in basketball would bring about some level of normalcy.
“We didn’t come back in the summer, so our players weren’t here for like six months, and they were dying to come back and play,” Christian said. “And when I saw how happy they were just to be back and have some normalcy—you know, let’s just go back and play the best teams we can play. I mean that’s the mentality I think we have to have for these kids.”
Despite a challenging start to the season, BC will be looking to climb out of the bottom of the ACC rankings. The ACC preseason media poll put the Eagles at No. 14 out of 15 teams, so BC will need to exceed expectations if it wants to pull itself out of that spot.
The Eagles’ returning talent is, for the most part, the core of last year’s team—especially for the guard position. BC sophomores Jay Heath and CJ Felder, who were thrust into important roles last season when starting guard Tabbs needed surgery on his left knee, will return this season. As the team’s leading scorer, Heath averaged 13.1 points, as well as 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a freshman. With more development this year, he could be ripe for further breakout as one of the top options on the team.
Felder averaged 5.6 points, four rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 22 minutes per game off the bench. With more competition at the guard spots this season, how the rotation will shake out is yet to be seen.
Not on the guard list is arguably the most important player on the Eagles—forward Steffon Mitchell. Mitchell earned an All-ACC Honorable Mention and was a part of the All-ACC Defensive Team last season, averaging 7.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.
“I think if you ask coaches in the league, everybody would want a guy like [Mitchell]: a guy who doesn’t need the ball every possession but can dictate the outcome of the game,” Christian said. “And that’s what makes him special, just his competitive nature.”
Despite a core group of returners, this BC team is much different than the one last year. Four-star recruit Jairus Hamilton transferred to Maryland, Julian Rishwain transferred to San Francisco, and Chris Herren Jr. made his way to San Diego. The loss of Jairus Hamilton will likely have the greatest impact on the Eagles, as he averaged 9.5 points a game and started 20 out of 32 contests as a sophomore.
Key players Derryck Thornton and Nik Popovic also graduated, with both now playing overseas in Serbia. Hamilton’s brother, Jared Hamilton, also graduated.
Starting guard Tabbs is expected to be back this season. As a freshman, he averaged 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in about 31 minutes per game. If back at full strength, Tabbs will be a welcome addition to strengthen the squad.
The team has also infused the roster with graduate transfers. The Eagles recruited Frederick Scott from Rider, Andre Adams from Southern Utah, Rich Kelly from Quinnipiac, and James Karnik from Lehigh. Adams will miss the 2020-21 season with a torn achilles. The other transfers will play a large role in the Eagles’ depth and bring more experience to the team, which might be what they need right now.
Transfer Makai Ashton-Langford from Providence is also on the Eagles’ roster, having sat out last season due to the NCAA transfer rules. He still has two seasons of eligibility left and will provide BC with a strong option at guard. BC also brought in two freshman recruits for the upcoming season: small forward Demarr Langford and center Justin Vander Baan.
BC will begin its season Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Eagles will be playing in the 2k Empire Classic, along with No. 17 Arizona State, Rhode Island, and No. 3 Villanova. Baylor was also scheduled, but the No. 2 Bears withdrew after head coach Scott Drew tested positive for COVID-19. With two ranked teams still participating, a victory against either team will help show whether BC has taken the steps it needs for a successful season.
“I think we’ve got a lot more pieces than people think,” Christian said. “I wouldn’t do this unless I had total belief in this team.”
Read the full schedule breakdown here.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor