With the crisp fall weather slowly transitioning into the winter, there’s one thing that Dontavia Waggoner emphasizes as one of her biggest adjustments to Boston College after transferring to the Heights in 2021: “it’s real cold, too cold,” she tells me over Zoom on a cold Friday afternoon. Originally from the South, the Nashville native started her collegiate basketball career at NC State as a four-star recruit and the 35th overall prospect coming out of high school.
She played in 16 games as a member of the Wolfpack, averaging 2.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in just over seven minutes a game, and scored a career high 12-points in a game against Coastal Carolina. However, after the 2020-21 season, Waggoner recognized that she wanted to be in a program that was better-suited to helping her succeed as a guard at the collegiate level.
Transferring from a bigger school to a smaller one had its perks. Waggoner no longer has to walk 20 minutes to the gym, a task that surely would be grueling in the cold winters she’s not 100% adjusted to yet. Instead, everything is within a small radius at BC — “here you have food, academic counseling, SAAS [Student Athlete Academic Services], Yawkey, and then your classes are right around the corner.”
“The campus is also really pretty,” she shares, which has become one of her favorite things about the Heights.
As to adjusting to a new school? The whole program was extremely welcoming as well, she notes, reiterating why she’s glad she made the decision to transfer. “It solidified how homey [this program is] and how open everyone is to new people.”
Waggoner already had some ties to the Boston College women’s basketball coaching staff while looking to transfer; former assistant coach George Porcha was a close friend of her trainer’s. She credits Porcha with some of her success, as he really emphasized getting stronger off the court. “He was all about getting into the gym, working out and giving [us] extra work,” Waggoner says. “I kind of liked that idea because I knew I needed to elevate my game to another level.”
While Porcha and several members of last year’s coaching staff are no longer at Boston College, Waggoner recognizes the opportunity to lead a new era for the Eagles. “Last year’s coaching staff — we really got along well and when they left, it was like okay, we kind of have to start over,” she says. “With the new staff, I like it because not only do we have a new staff, we also have new players.
“It’s like we’re making our own little team and starting a new era. We’re young, and I really like that.”
Although she isn’t even 21 yet (though she will be hitting the milestone soon), Waggoner is the oldest member on the team as just a junior, and with that comes the additional responsibility of being a leader. “It’s different,” she answers when asked about what it’s like playing that role on a young team, noting that last year she was one of the younger players on the team, and there were seniors to look to for leadership. “I had to step into a different role being the team leader and being the oldest, and I’m still trying to get used to that. It’s been going well though.”
Along with emerging as a leader for the young BC team off the court, Waggoner is also leading on the court. Though she came to the Heights as an aggressive defensive player, Waggoner has been setting personal offensive bests this season. With 129 points in 10 games played, Waggoner is currently BC’s top scorer. Shortly after we spoke, she broke her single game scoring record against Boston University, scoring 27 points to lead the Eagles to a win over the Terriers on December 4.
She attributes her offensive growth to knowing that she was going to take on a bigger role for the team on the court this year, and really working on elevating her skills during the offseason. “I was in the gym constantly, like in the summer when I went home and when I came back, just trying to work on my game to get it to a point where I know I [could help] my team out,” she shares.
Waggoner points to her composure and her jump shot as two aspects of her game that she thinks she’s improved on the most. Developing her confidence for her shots was key — “When I get more confident, then it’ll be easy,” she says. “Most of the time when I’m in games, my coach tells me if you don’t believe in it don’t shoot, and if you do feel right, shoot it because I trust you.” She recognizes that sometimes she’s in a rush and doesn’t know whether to shoot or not, but has been encouraged to shoot more because teams are playing off of her. She’s sharpened her skill set through in-game experience as well, knowing when to make the correct passes and keeping an eye on the shot clock. However, she is “always, always, always” continuing to work on her jump shot and her ball handling.
As for her defensive game? “It’s always been there,” she notes. From her first games at BC, Waggoner made an impression as an aggressive and high energy defensive player. She was leading the entire country in steals with 32 as recently as November 30, and she currently has 36 steals on the season. “I’m just building off of that [since] my defense kind of starts my offense, and I think that coming into this new year [offense] was what I really had to work on.”
With such a young team, the emergence of freshmen on the court is present — rookies Taina Mair and T’Yana Todd have been seeing huge minutes with Waggoner, and they have adjusted well to playing together. “[Both of them] coming from high school and being able to contribute” is huge, Waggoner says, “it helps us out a lot when we need buckets because we can count on them to score. I never have a problem when the ball is in their hand[s] for the last couple of seconds because I feel like they always know the right shot.”
But while Waggoner’s game has improved and she knows she can trust her young teammates, BC continues to be a program that is underestimated by the media and other teams. As a young team that had a tumultuous end to the 2021-22 season, Boston College is in a position where they have to prove the doubters wrong. Following last year’s March Madness snub and a loss in the WNIT, almost all the top scorers from last year’s team transferred to other schools in the conference.
Although some teams might struggle when faced with adversity, for BC the doubters fuel the team. When asked about their attitude towards the end of last, Waggoner’s response reflects that: “Well, we take it as: we took an L, we move on. You can cry about it for that day and then just move on — so I think we’ve come to a sense like we don’t ever want to be put in that position again.”
As a result of everything that transpired in the offseason, Boston College was picked to finish 13th in the ACC out of 15 teams in preseason polls. Regarding the ranking, Waggoner says, “we don’t like that, we don’t take that really lightly — so we need to prove the doubters wrong and we’re going to do it for sure.”
Elaborating on their goals for the season, Waggoner shares that they are trying to prove that they have what it takes to be a tournament team. “We’re aiming to make the tournament this year and to go on a run in the ACCs. It’s going to be a really big test,” she states.
She does recognize that this team is young though, and sometimes that mindset can get in the way. “Sometimes you can tell that we’re a young team,” she explains. “But I think once we get that mindset out - that we’re a young team - we can play with anybody.”
With ACC play beginning on December 10, she tells me that the ACC is always in the back of their minds during their intense practices. “There are instances where Coach Mac will be like, we’re not going to allow this in the ACC because it’s not going to be the same so we have to pick it up right now,” she shares. The team understands the competition that awaits them, and the level that they’ll have to play at when to win conference games. But the Eagles also don’t discount the non-ACC games that they play. “We’re playing day in and day out for every game,” Waggoner says.
When I point out that they’ll be facing some of their former teammates on their new ACC teams when conference play kicks off, Waggoner remains unflustered and responds “I’ll say let the best team win. We’re looking forward to playing them when the game starts — we’re not friends on the court, but we can be friends after.”
As BC prepares to host #9 Virginia Tech (and former Eagle Taylor Soule) at Conte Forum this week, it is clear that Waggoner’s adjustment to Boston College could not have come at a better time for the Eagles. Despite the cold weather, she’s found her place on the Heights off the court, frequenting step competitions on campus and waiting for the Honey Q Chicken to appear back on the menu at the dining halls. And on the court, she’s hitting her stride, ready to keep putting up big numbers and proving BC’s doubters wrong.