Column: Boston College can’t recruit

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Without Jerome Robinson, BC went only 14-17 this season, putting head coach Jim Christian’s job is in jeopardy. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons/Creative Commons)

In 2017-2018 Boston College went 19-16, their first finish over .500 since 2011, went to the NIT and produced the No. 13 overall selection in 2018 NBA Draft in Jerome Robinson. Robinson was First Team All-ACC which propelled him up draft boards to the Los Angeles Clippers in the lottery, but he also left early, inhibiting a potentially dominant 2018-2019 season. Without him, the Eagles went 14-17, and now head coach Jim Christian’s job is in jeopardy.

Robinson is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, and played at Broughton High School, where fellow NBA guards Devonte Graham and John Wall also honed their craft. Robinson’s key running mate, Ky Bowman, is from Havelock, North Carolina, was All-ACC honorable mention in 2017-2018 and All-ACC Second Team this year. Freshman Jairus Hamilton, the No. 58 prospect in the 2018 ESPN 100 recruiting rankings, is also from the Tar Heel state and all three are coups considering the presence of revered programs in UNC, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest.

Them being in Chestnut Hill rather than Chapel Hill is great, but it has not translated into winning. That is in part because Robinson and Bowman have been essentially by themselves when it comes to elite talent to run with and it is hard to compete that way. This year Bowman played in 96.8 percent of BC’s minutes, first in the country per KenPom. Last year he played 94.5 percent, good for fifth, while Robinson played 89 percent, 51st nationwide. They played those minutes not just out of merit, but necessity.

When people point to the Eagles’ ineptitude in the ACC, where Boston College had one top-five finish all the way back in 2006, they point to lack of comparative panache, resources and location. But that last one is wrong, at least in some regards. While nabbing recruits in fertile North Carolina is great, the Eagles’ own backyard of New England has been yielding top recruits for years. The Eagles have failed to land them, and that has made all the difference.

Since 2007, the beginning of ESPN 100 archives, New England high school and preparatory schools have produced 82 ESPN 100 prospects. Boston College has signed one of them, Rakim Sanders from the St. Andrew’s School in Rhode Island. That was in 2007. In total they have signed four top 100 prospects, and Hamilton this year was the first since Ryan Anderson in 2011. For comparison, Providence has signed eight, but six are New England Prep products and stepped things up since bringing in former BC assistant and Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley. Cooley, a Providence native, was also the reason BC landed Sanders, and Sanders ultimately transferred to Fairfield when he became head coach there. UConn boat races them both with 15 total ESPN top 100 prospects in that time span.

In more localized analysis, the New England Recruiting Report, operated by ESPN scout and former Hartford assistant and Choate head coach Adam Finkelstein, has ranked recruits back to 2007 as well.

In that time Boston College has signed five NERR Top 25 recruits. That is less than Providence (10) and UConn (nine) while barely above Harvard (four) and URI (four). Even UMass, who has unquestionably failed to win at a high level in the A-10 as well, has more than the Eagles. The endings are not be-all-end-all (former Eagles star and San Antonio Spurs draft pick Olivier Hanlan was ranked No. 17 in 2012, for example), but it is a hard way to compile a squad for ACC competition.

When it comes to the local premier, sneaker-sponsored AAU programs, Providence has made inroads with Adidas-sponsored Mass Rivals in landing Makai Ashton-Langford in 2017 as well as David Duke and A.J. Reeves in 2018. URI has hired former Nike-sponsored Expressions Elite head coach Ty Boswell and Adidas-sponsored New England Playaz (now folded) head coach John Carroll to their coaching staff. Harvard and Yale, with slightly laxer admission standards, have nabbed academically oriented recruits from all three programs as well as players from the Middlesex Magic, a top unsponsored program that produced players like the Milwaukee Bucks Pat Connaughton and 2019 Ivy League player of the year A.J. Brodeur.

It is not a problem that solely befalls BC. DePaul and Illinois perennially have failed to keep top Chicago recruits in state, and it has cost them in the standings as well. Elite recruits aren’t guaranteed to be meaningful to a program. Top Providence recruits Ricky Ledo and Brandon Francis never suited up in black and gray. Jamaal Coombs-McDaneil, a top 50 recruit who went to UConn, had a meager and short-lived time in Storrs. Makai Ashton-Langford, also at PC, and players like Goodluck Okonoboh, a top 30 recruit from Boston who played at Wilbraham & Monson, as well as BABC, and went to UNLV, underwhelmed in college. Ashton-Langford is now transferring from Providence.

Still, what the Eagles have done in recent times is simply too paltry. Missing out on top recruits like Andre Drummond or Nerlens Noel is understandable. Failing to get Connaughton, or Bonzie Colson Jr., son of former BC assistant Bonzie Colson, who both went on to All-ACC careers at Notre Dame despite lacking elite recruit status, is not.

It is unknown how long Christian is for The Heights. But he will get at least one more year. He was considered a surprising hire at the time, and it depends on your perspective of whether landing stars in Bowman and Robinson a keen eye or luck in was assessing his chops. Heading in the 2019-2020 season the Eagles are nary a top 100 commit nor a NERR top 25 prospect yet again meaning the Christian cohort better hope it is the former.

Martin Jarmond is not the AD who hired him and comes from Ohio State where the Buckeyes are a juggernaut of an Athletic Department, making recruiting far easier. He must not be blinded by this, but rather recognize the challenges, and the opportunities that face Boston College. In 2017 Boston College knocked off a top Duke team in Conte Forum. That wasn’t anything near a sign that the Eagles were repositioning themselves atop the ACC hierarchy, because that is unlikely to happen, but it was emblematic of the fact that BC can compete in this league. They just need to find the right players. They don’t need to look too far.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.

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