Sports, Winter, Basketball, Men's Basketball

“Breaking Through to the Other Side”: 2023–24 Men’s Basketball Preview

Jaeden Zackery doesn’t care about Boston College men’s basketball’s ranking in the ACC preseason poll. Facing dismal rankings and low expectations has become almost a yearly tradition, according to Zackery. This year, BC is ranked No. 12.

“We’re used to it,” Zackery said. “We expect the same thing every year coming into the season that we’re gonna be at the bottom. Nobody expects much from us. And we take it as disrespect. And we’re gonna show that this year.”

Heading into year three of the Earl Grant era, outsiders do not expect the Eagles to take a massive leap forward, but the program itself thinks overwise. Along with receiving a hefty investment in the Hoag Pavilion, BC returns nine players—and four starters in Zackery, Quinten Post, Devin McGlockton, and Prince Aligbe—from last year’s squad. 

“Year three is when you really expect to make that kind of leap,” senior Mason Madsen said.

It’s also fresh off a summer tour in Europe playing against teams in Italy and Spain. The tour was made possible because of BC’s large number of returners, according to Grant.

“Once we had them coming back and we were going toward the tour, that gave me a lot of confidence our program is on the right path to get to year three,” Grant, BC’s head coach, said.

But is all that enough for the Eagles to break their 14-year NCAA Tournament drought?

“The goal is that we play in March and have a chance to advance in March,” Grant said. “I don’t know what that means, but I know that means progress, that means breaking through to the other side.”

BC certainly made progress in 2022, going 9–11 in conference play compared to 6–14 in Grant’s first season. Last season, however, ended underwhelmingly, as North Carolina blew out the Eagles in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

The biggest difference this season, though, is the return of one player—Post.



Perennial 7-footer Post opted to return to the Heights for his fifth year of college basketball after testing the NBA draft waters. The 2023 ACC Most Improved Player and 2023 Preseason All-ACC Second Team member said he always knew he wanted to return to BC if the NBA wasn’t calling his name.

“The transfer portal is such a big deal, and the NIL money is a whole big deal, but I always knew that I wanted to be here at BC,” Post said.

Post averaged a team-high 15.1 points in 19 games in 2023. He also became the first college basketball player in 10 years to have a 50/40/80 shooting percentage line while scoring more than 15.0 points per game.

But the key for Post will be staying healthy. His foot injury that kept him out of BC’s first 13 games last season hurt the Eagles’ postseason chances later in the season after rough non-conference losses to Maine and New Hampshire. And his late-season ankle injury essentially ended any ACC Tournament chances despite Post suiting up against the Tar Heels.

“That’s the biggest thing, right?” Post said of staying healthy. “Being a 7-footer, sometimes it’s hard, like, with your body and things, but I feel good. I feel in great shape, and I’ll be there against Fairfield 100 percent.”

If Post does get hurt, the Eagles have the means to attempt to replace him. Sophomore Armani Mighty, fresh off a summer playing for Canada’s U23 national team, is positioned to back up Post after playing sparingly in 2022. The 6-foot-10 center gained 20 pounds of muscle this offseason, according to Grant, and while he can’t shoot like Post, Mighty can certainly body up around down low and command a defensive presence.

“I think it’s time for him to go get some minutes and play,” Grant said.

Redshirt sophomore power forward McGlockton was perhaps BC’s most surprising player in 2022. After not playing freshman year, McGlockton broke into the Eagles’ lineup as a non-stats player who’s also an emphatic roller and finisher around the basket. McGlockton only got better as the season progressed, starting in 10 of BC’s final 11 games after beginning the season coming off the bench.

“I’m gonna still work for my teammates,” McGlockton said. “I’m gonna go on the glass, set screens for my teammates, and do everything I can for the team.”

Forward Aligbe joins Post and McGlockton at BC’s 3–4–5 starting tandem, as the sophomore is poised to take a step up this year. Aligbe averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 2022, displaying his athleticism and hitting clutch shots for the Eagles.

But he often struggled with confidence, appearing confused on offense and hesitant to shoot—not always living up to his four-star potential. That will need to change this season if BC wants to be a legitimate ACC contender.


Zackery, Madsen, Chas Kelley III, and Donald Hand Jr. round out BC’s returners in the backcourt.

Depth won’t be an issue at the position, and there will certainly be a battle for playing time between Madsen, Kelley, Hand, and freshman Fred Payne. But it will be Zackery manning one of the two starting guard positions with transfer Claudell Harris Jr. when the season begins.

The junior Zackery has commanded BC’s offense the past two seasons alongside Makai Ashton-Langford. But with Ashton-Langford and his 12.4 points per game in 2022 gone, it’s up to Zackery to help fill that gap—out of everybody, Grant says he has seen the most improvement this offseason from Zackery. 

“He’s been a really steady hand day to day,” Grant said. “He’s been more aggressive getting to the paint making decisions.”

But aggression and passing up open shots is something Zackery struggled with at times last season, citing confidence issues. Zackery, however, said that will change this season.

“I feel like this year I need to step in that role to be more aggressive and not even just get points but just create for anybody,” the 10.7 points-per-game scorer said.

It won’t just be Zackery replacing Ashton-Langford, though, as Grant sees the replacement more as a collective effort.

“That’s a committee job, in terms of just a lot of guys doing a little bit more to make up [for Ashton-Langford’s departure],” Grant said.

Kelley will be a big part of that committee as BC’s likely sixth man. The sophomore found himself playing a lot last year due to Hand tearing his ACL in the second game of the season. Expect Kelley, who showed his potential with 17 points in a win over Virginia Tech last season, to only improve in 2023. 

Sharpshooter Madsen is looking to bounce back after struggling in his first year in Chestnut Hill in 2022. Madsen averaged just 5.8 points on 30 percent 3-point shooting. He did manage to provide solid defense and cameo offensive spurts amid mistake-free basketball.

Madsen, however, revealed he was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which is likely why his play took a hit last season. He said his new medication should make him feel as good as he’s ever felt. 

“I still have pain, so it’s like an everyday thing just to get through practice,” Madsen said. “But I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel kinda, and I’m just excited to play healthy for the first time since my freshman year.”

Hand, a sophomore, returns with only one college basketball game under his belt. Fully recovered, the highly-touted recruit brings scoring and shooting to the Eagles’ rotation—something BC desperately needs to improve on after shooting 31.9 percent as a team from three last season. 

But throughout the offseason, and now the preseason, the Eagles have improved in those areas, according to Grant and Post. 

“This is the best shooting team I’ve been a part of in my three years at BC—100 percent,” Post said.

Hand expects to make an impact immediately. 

“I feel like I’ve put in a whole bunch of work to get back,” Hand said. “So once I get into position to be in a game, make plays and stuff, I’m gonna make it happen.”

Grant, however, is a bit more cautious with Hand returning to form right away.

“You’re gonna have to understand—you miss a year, you’re gonna have to be patient and find some peace in knowing this process might take a little while,” Grant said. 


BC acquired only one transfer this offseason, but it’s a significant one in Harris. Harris averaged 17.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists last season at Charleston Southern. He’s a long, athletic guard who can create his own shot while also stretching the floor, seamlessly fitting into the Eagles’ needs. 

“I feel like I’m a big piece in the offense when it comes to scoring the ball and making plays,” Harris said. “I’m kind of filling in [Ashton-Langford’s] shoes, expected to do what he did, plus more.”

Harris described how he’s come to learn from the play of teammates like Zackery and Post, including where they like the ball on the court, when they like to cut, and more. Being a new scoring threat, Harris said, will only help the others find more open looks. 

“The next level of my game is to make plays for others,” Harris said. “I feel like me scoring opens the floor up, attracting two, three [defenders].” 

BC’s freshman class consists of guard Payne, forward Elijah Strong, and center Jayden Hastings. With BC’s plethora of returners and depth, it may be challenging for these freshmen to see the court. But that decision is becoming harder day after day, according to Grant. 

“The young freshman—I’m gonna have to give some of those guys a chance,” Grant said. “Fred Payne and Elijah Strong have both been really really good.”

Post couldn’t even highlight one of them because each has been so impressive in the preseason. 

“All three of them have played at a very high level,” Post said. “They’ve fit right in the system. They’re learning, they’re eager … they don’t give up a lot of the defensive end.”

The 6-foot-2, left-handed Payne brings a fun-loving energy, but also a furious defensive mentality. 

“Anything Coach Grant needs—if you need to stop, you need a bucket,” Payne said.

Hastings likely won’t see the floor barring injuries, as he’s behind Post and Mighty. But the IMG Academy product brings front depth the Eagles haven’t had since Post backed up James Karnik in 2022. 

Strong is in a similar position, as he brings some raw, youthful athleticism that could be utilized if Grant needs to reach deep into his bench. 


This is easily the most talented team of Grant’s tenure so far. Not only should Post be an All-ACC First Team candidate, the returning core of Zackery, Aligbe, McGlockton, and Kelley will only improve, and the addition of Harris and recovery of Hand cannot be understated.  

BC has historically suffered terrible non-conference losses early in the season under Grant. 

The season opener against Fairfield on Nov. 6, though, should be smooth sailing. Richmond, however, on Nov. 15, Vanderbilt on Nov. 29, and St. John’s on Dec. 10 are three games to keep an eye out for. The rest of the non-conference matchups are more than manageable for the Eagles. Expect a 9–2 non-conference finish. 

The Eagles open up ACC play against NC State on Dec. 2 in Conte Forum, 10 months after getting trounced by the Wolfpack at home. Other notable home ACC games include North Carolina on Jan. 20, Syracuse on Jan. 30, Miami on Feb. 17, and Virginia on Feb. 28. BC will take on Duke on the road on Feb. 10. 

Continuing Grant’s upward trajectory in the conference, expect BC to win more than last year’s nine total conference victories. An 11–9 conference record seems like a reasonable leap, with confidence that, if the Eagles are rolling come March, an ACC Tournament run is in the cards. 

Going all the way is the goal, according to Harris. 

“We’re trying to win the ACC Championship,” Harris said. “Nothing below that. Honestly, I got high hopes for this team.”

There should be high hopes in any coach’s third year. That’s what “breaking through to the other side” means. But overblowing exceptions leads to disappointment, as we’ve seen time and time again with BC. And it’s no easy task making the NCAA Tournament in the ACC—Clemson finished with a 14–6 ACC record in 2022, and missed the tournament. Expect BC to firmly qualify for the National Invitation Tournament for the first time since 2018.

November 3, 2023