Basketball, Column, Sports

Bergamini: BC Took A Promising Step Forward This Season, But There’s Still Work to Be Done

Programs are not built overnight. They’re not built with one conference tournament run or two seasons with a new head coach—or even a court storm over the No. 6 team in the country

And while Boston College men’s basketball has won three ACC Tournament games in the past two years under second-year head coach Earl Grant and did in fact defeat No. 6 Virginia this season, sending a wave of BC fans onto Conte Forum’s floor, there is still work to be done within the program. 

That’s not meant to take away anything from the Eagles’ accomplishments these past two seasons. Grant’s three ACC Tournament wins match Jim Christian’s ACC Tournament win total—and Christian was at the helm of the program for seven years. 

Yes, BC’s 24-point loss to North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament might understandably leave a sour taste in many BC fans’ mouths. But the reason it did is because of all of the growth that this program has endured the past two years under Grant. 

For a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since the 2008–09 season, any glimmer of hope opens the floodgates, inviting disappointment when lofty expectations don’t come to fruition. 

Pulling off an 82–77 overtime upset win over Wake Forest last year and then being three points away from defeating Miami in the quarterfinals of the 2022 ACC Tournament brought excitement and buzz around a program in need of all of the above. 

That national recognition won’t come overnight, but Grant has made it clear that he is taking BC in the right direction and will slowly garner attention around the team in Chestnut Hill. Quinten Post taking home the ACC’s Most Improved Player award—the first Eagle to ever do so—this season is an example of that. 

BC’s improvement under Grant in two years, starting from its 6–14 conference record in the 2021–22 season to a 9–11 record in the 2022–23 season—its most ACC wins in 12 years—shows that this is no fluke. To follow the pattern, 11–13 conference wins in 2023 would put the Eagles right in the thick of the ACC and another step closer to snapping its 14-year NCAA Tournament drought. 

And Grant’s done all this through a Big East–esque, defensively menacing approach, penning the slogan “gritty not pretty” as the style of this new era of BC men’s basketball. The slogan was certainly capitalized on when BC held the Cavaliers to just 48 points, and especially there in regards to BC going 5–0 when holding teams to under 50 points, 13–2 when holding teams to under 60 points, and 21–4 when holding teams to under 65 points during Grant’s reign. 

But what is most fascinating about the transformation under Grant thus far is every player’s undeniable commitment to the team. It’s obvious, just from attending practices, games, press conferences, and locker room visits while covering the Eagles, that the team—one through 16—buys into Grant and his message. 

Grant’s persona lights up any room he’s in, whether it’s with athletes, reporters, or just regular students at the Margot Connell Recreational Center. And on top of it all, Grant backs up his personality with gritty wins on the court. BC notched three ranked wins this season—its most since the 2008–09 season—leading the Eagles to finish as the No. 10 seed in the ACC. 

The 2022–23 season brought some incredible highs and some incredible lows, with some players making huge strides while others still have room to grow. That’s what it takes to build a program. And before the 2023–24 team becomes finalized in a world of crazed NIL recruiting through the transfer portal, here’s a look at my postseason grading of the Eagles’ roster.

Quinten Post: A

The only thing holding back BC’s 7-footer from an A+ is his availability. Post averaged 15.1 points per game, completely uplifting BC’s offense with his ability to bully down low but also pose a threat from 3-point range. He also averaged 5.6 rebounds per game, tied for the most on the Eagles’ roster. In the 13 regular season games played without Post this season, BC averaged 64.3 points per game, shot 41.3 percent from the field, and 26.6 percent from 3. But when Post returned, BC averaged 67.9 points, shot 45.3 percent from the field, and 36.5 percent from behind the arc in the regular season. If the Netherlands native returns next season, postseason play would not be out of the question for the Eagles. 

Jaeden Zackery: A-

Zackery went through a few dry spurts offensively throughout the season, citing a lack of confidence at times, but one thing that was never lacking was the sophomore’s defensive presence. Zackery had eight games with at least three steals, often guarding the opposing team’s best player. And while his 3-point shooting percentage took a dip—which was bound to happen after shooting 47 percent last year—Zackery’s play in the post proved to be one of BC’s most reliable scoring options. The Eagles were 7–1 this season when Zackery scored 15 or more points. 

Makai Ashton-Langford: A-

The rock of BC’s offense and team identity for the past three seasons, Ashton-Langford was always capable of getting hot or creating his own shot when BC needed it the most—his game winner against Wake Forest in the Eagles’ final road game of the season proved this. The graduate guard was also a talent on the defensive end—he often used the phrase “gritty not pretty” in his postgame press conferences—backed up by his 120 total steals as an Eagle. His steady presence and always-confident demeanor will be missed next season. 


Devin McGlockton: B+

Perhaps the most unexpected grade, McGlockton went from not playing as a freshman to becoming one of BC’s most important players during his redshirt-freshman campaign. McGlockton emerged as an ACC Sixth Man of the Year candidate before being inserted into the starting unit, using his tight end–sized hands to catch feeds from Zackery and Ashton-Langford. McGlockton’s left handed putback layup against Virginia remains a highlight moment from the season. 

Prince Aligbe: B

The biggest recruit of the Grant era thus far, Aligbe offered freakish athleticism yet also a professionalism that made it seem as if he was an NBA veteran. The freshman sometimes appeared lost on offense and unsure of his role, but he always played unselfishly, hitting a fair amount of crunch-time buckets. If Aligbe builds on his strong frame and tweaks his 3-point shot, he could take a massive leap next season. 

DeMarr Langford Jr.: B-

Langford Jr.’s grade was the most challenging grade to give out due to numerous injuries and minimal improvement from the 2022–21 season. But Langford Jr. provided an athletic presence that could score from anywhere on the court—primarily inside the arc. Grant made the decision to play the junior at point guard this season, a position that didn’t fit his style of play particularly well. Regardless, there’s no denying Langford Jr. would be a massive part of Grant’s squad next year if he returns. 

Chas Kelley III : B-

The freshman may have only scored in double figures twice, but Kelley proved to always be a very reliable option off the bench for Grant throughout a season of injuries. Kelley’s 3-point shot is one of the best looking strokes on the team, and his 17 points against Virginia Tech on Feb. 8 in his back pocket proves he can score at this level.

Mason Madsen: C+

Brought in as BC’s undeniable 3-point shooting specialist, Madsen showed glimpses of what he could be, but never fully lived up to his potential. He shot 30 percent from behind the arc, often showing more comfort inside the arc with his pull-up mid range jumper. Another year on the Heights should allow Madsen to get his feet under him. 

CJ Penha Jr.: C

The Division II transfer came out hot during BC’s first stretch of the season, notching 15 points or more on three separate occasions. But Grant slowly reduced Penha’s minutes to the point where he was hardly playing during conference play. While a defensive liability, Penha was one BC’s better 3-point shooters, often brought into games when the Eagles’ offense was stagnant. 

T.J. Bickerstaff: C-

Bickerstaff proved to be a serviceable backup to Post, but was not equipped to be a full-time starter when the 7-footer was out with injury. He was often too turnover happy—committing 45 total this year—and didn’t offer much offensively during either of his years with BC.

(Donald Hand Jr., Armani Mighty, Andrew Kenny, Quinn Pemberton, Abe Atiyeh, and Jonathan Noel were not graded due to injuries/lack of playing time).



March 19, 2023