The 2019 Men’s basketball season was known to be one filled with uncertainty and a lot of change for the whole program. Not to mention, the sad passing of long-time BC announcer Andy Jick only added to new direction that the Men’s team was going into. Naturally, BC made sure to honor his legacy before tip-off as he was an integral part in bringing life to BC athletics and someone that this whole community will cherish forever. On the court, things also seemed different as Jim Christian sent out a new squad with some new faces that were unrecognizable whose expectations were wrapped in ambiguity.
The starting lineup consisted of Jay Heath, Derryk Throton, Jairus Hamiton, Nic Popovic and Steffon Mitchell. Not to mention a bench that seemed like it was a mile long with a ton of new recruits whose last games played were in their High School gymnasiums. Now, these recruits were playing under the lights against a formidable ACC opponent to kick off their collegiate careers, and oh boy did they seem ready for it.
The first half gave the BC crowd a glimpse into what the incoming class had to show. Jay Heath stood out to me as a born-to-be basketball guard with his sheer versatility, ferocity and strong desire to drive into the paint to finish his layups, even if that meant going up-and-under to get it done. Derryk Thornton, the grad transfer from USC, also proved himself to be a valuable leader on the floor by leading the offensive attack with precise ball movement that lead to solid open looks from the likes of Jay Heath and CJ Felder. But, I would be remiss for not mentioning our vets. Mitchell owned the defensive glass in the first half, collecting 6 boards and 1 block as well as being the catalyst to a fantastic transition dunk. Despite all of this positivity, there was a bit of an unfortunate circumstances for the Eagles as Jairus Hamilton went down early in the first with a tweaked knee and never returned. Hoping for the best as he has proven a valuable asset to this team.
Going into the second half, the pace seemed to slow down a bit for the Eagles. The Demon Deacons were able to find some rhythm off of the strong play from their senior guard Brandom Childress who was finding his way to score both inside and outside the perimeter. A lot of that had to do with BC’s lackluster performance shutting down the perimeter allowing for some wide open threes. This allowed Wake to slowly creep its way back into the game and eventually cut the lead to as low as six with four minutes left to play. Yet, this young Eagle squad refused to crumble. Derryk Thornton continue to operate as the early leader on this team by making some clutch shots and making sure all set-pieces were run to perfection. Not to mention, Freshman Jay Heath had a fantastic showing in his first night as an Eagle by wowing the crowd and keeping them engaged with some freakishly great takes to the rim. All-in-all, while there was a brief moment of sweating from Eagle faithful, the squad was able to hang tough and secure their first win of the 2019 season.
As for some personal takeaways, here is what I have to say. This team is fun to watch (and I mean it). Derryk Thornton proved that he has been around this block before with his time as a Trojan and I can foresee him as being a great leader for this team. In a similar vein, I do not envision him being the sole scorer on this team as this team has had in team’s prior as I saw a TON of talent on the floor tonight. Jay Heath looks built and ready for ACC play and can make some fantastic plays under the rim. CJ Felder is another name I’d expect to hear called frequently. He provided terrific support off of the bench and helped anchor down the paint with Popovic making Wake forced to rely on the three. Granted it is early, and Wake looked to be a rather broken team, but this win is surely a huge confidence booster for this young squad.
The Eagles will travel south to USF for a noon tip-off this Sunday.