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ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein talks Earl Grant’s recruiting for BC basketball

This week, we took a few minutes to catch up with Adam Finkelstein, a college basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN, and founder of the New England Recruiting Report, which focuses on high school basketball and recruiting in New England.

Last week, when Boston College landed the commitment of 4-star Prince Aligbe, Finkelstein had praise for the commit and for Earl Grant’s start at BC:

Thank you to Adam for taking a few minutes to speak with us; below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

BCI: A few months into the job, what’s your overall impression of the job Earl Grant has done recruiting so far? It seems like he’s put together the building blocks for a solid first class [in 2022].

AF: “I think he’s done a good job. I think the BC fanbase doesn’t always want to acknowledge how challenging the job is today, because some of the proud history of the program, but it’s a really hard job for a variety of reasons.

I think that he came in with just the right approach - he said right from the beginning that it’s an evaluator’s job, and the way I interpreted that is that he understood that you weren’t going to be able to go blow-for-blow on the recruiting trail with the top programs in the ACC from day one. Instead, you had to find prospects who are potentially undervalued, that were still ascending in their development, and trying to build the roster that way.”

BCI: How have the first commits for ‘22 [Chas Kelley, Donald Hand, and Prince Aligbe] fit in to that blueprint?

AF: “I think that’s exactly what he’s been doing with this first class. When you look at the players in this class - Chas Kelley was a perfect example of this.

If you look at the program Kelley played with, Team Durant, he was on a team that had Rodney Rice, a top 50 prospect in the country, Dariq Whitehead, a top 10 prospect in the country, Judah Mintz, a top 75 prospect... all of those guys are together in the backcourt.

So someone like Chas Kelley just doesn’t necessarily have the sheer volume to put up big numbers on that team. So you had to peel back the onion to see what he was capable of producing, and I thought BC was really smart with that one. Kelley’s got a chance to be very good, and it’s not necessarily obvious, because his numbers weren’t inflated based on who he was sharing the ball with.

Donald Hand is a similar story. Hand played on a loaded squad that has a top 100 player going to VCU, another top 100 player going to Illinois, and another going to North Carolina - and there’s only one basketball. So he’s sharing the ball with those people. His numbers aren’t going to be as high as someone who is potentially the focal point of the offense, so you have to be able to project that out in terms of how he’d play at the college level.

You take those two guys, who would have had better numbers in other places, and you look at their collective size in the backcourt, what that’s going to mean from a defensive standpoint in terms of being switchable.

Then you add someone like Prince Aligbe, who is an elite athlete, another guy who can potentially play multiple positions, and continues with that theme of being switchable defensively, in terms of being able to switch up coverage on the man-to-man - which is something that a lot of coach Grant’s teams did successfully at Charleston.”

BCI: We know BC is a big rebuilding project and that can make it challenging on the recruiting trail - what has Grant’s strategy been in terms of selling the program?

AF: “I think he’s emphasizing the opportunity in terms of the ACC, the academics, the history, the immediacy of the minutes that may be available, and I think the other thing that he’s doing — I haven’t heard him speak as outwardly about this, but he’s not getting caught up in what BC doesn’t have, which is differentiating him.

If you have a prospect that visits the three high major basketball programs in New England - BC, UConn, and Providence - BC is just very different in terms of the daily athlete experience, from the dorms, to apparel, to the level of fan support, and that’s a challenge.

But Grant is leading with an attitude that they’re not going to use BC’s challenges as excuses, and that has permeated throughout his staff.”

BCI: Are there certain names or positions BC fans should be keeping an eye on in the coming months in terms of what Grant will be looking for to round out his class?

AF: “The interesting thing about what they’ve done so far is that everyone they’ve gotten is multipositional. So it gives them a lot of flexibility moving forward.

Because of this, I think BC is in a position where they can prioritize talent above any position. I think whether that’s a big man or a guard, if there’s someone who fits into the vision of what they’re doing — not just in terms of depth and talent, but in terms of the kind of toughness Grant is looking for — they will take just about anyone who fits in to that.”