Ask a Boston College basketball fan how to fix the program, and you're likely to get any one of several answers. They'll range from who should've been hired as head coach to who shouldn't have been fired, what could've been to what should've been. There's the range of emotions about the rise, the fall, the potential to rise again, and if any of us will be here to see it when if and when it happens.
The one thing I tend to notice about BC basketball fans, however, is their tendency to get behind the concept of recruiting. Obviously a coach needs to be able to recruit the right players for his system in order to be successful. In basketball, getting the best player with the best overall talent is one thing, but being able to utilize a player's strengths within that system is just as important, if not more.
We tend to discuss BC through the lens of the four year development program. We talk about the current, present day struggles and link it back to players who were brought in under a previous regime. Although we don't take away from any of the effort they put forward on the floor, we watch head coach Jim Christian with the understanding that he needs to be able to bring in his own guys and develop them in order to be successful.
The concept of four year development in basketball is something I tend to look with an eyebrow raised. This year's NBA Draft will feature an absurd amount of players under 20 years old, "one and done" type players who played one season in the NCAA before moving on. It's a concept developing further and growing much more prevalent since the professional league signed its collective bargaining agreement in 2005, and it's something that makes the concept of recruiting in basketball even trickier than the muddy waters in which it already resides.
In 2005, the NBA and the NBA Players Association signed a new CBA that impacted a player's eligibility for its entry draft. The two-round draft would require players to be a minimum of 19 years old at the end of the calendar year of which the draft took place and be at least one year removed from having played high school basketball. Amidst criticism of the growing number of high school athletes chosen in the draft, of which more were chosen than collegiate freshmen or sophomores, it was designed to funnel players into college and make them wait before entering the league.
Instead, there was a gradual shift to the concept of the "one and done" college player. The 2005 NBA Draft represented the fourth consecutive year in which 10 or more college juniors or seniors were chosen in the first round. In 2004, 12 first rounders and 18 second rounders played substantial college ball, with 18 players going in the first round in the succeeding '05 Draft.
Following the shift, there remained a couple of years of which juniors and seniors permeated the first round of the NBA Draft, but the dynamic shifted greatly in the last couple of years. In the past two years, more first rounders fit the youngster, freshman/sophomore criteria than did the more veteran, junior/senior criteria. In this year's draft, only two of the projected top 15 selections are 21 years old - Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. Players with seemingly endless ceilings but virtually no experience are all considered better options, and the projected top five are all 19 years old or younger (remember that an athlete can be selected as long as he turns 19 before the year is over and has been removed from high school basketball by at least a year).
So what's the point?
The point is that while the majority of draft picks are still upperclass prospects, the younger guys are becoming more and more of a commodity. A place like Boston College can develop a player like Olivier Hanlan over three years, but that type of player might not ever show up on a draft board. Further downstream, I can't help but wonder aloud what kind of challenge that creates for the coaching staff on the recruiting trail.
I'm personally not as familiar with basketball recruiting, and I obviously don't know the recruiting strategies employed by Coach Christian. I don't know what he values, how he's intending to build the roster. But I do know that to say you're going to develop players over four years shifts the paradigm of who exactly you're looking to recruit in a highly competitive atmosphere for players harboring dreams. The new CBA was designed to deter high school kids from jumping right to the NBA, but that's exactly what's happening. It might be one year later, but that's what's happening. And, in my opinion, it's doing something that's worth mentioning. It might not be better, and it might not be worse. It's just the current present state.
I'm not saying that Boston College should aspire to become a school of "one and dones." I believe a team type of game is always more successful than one stressing the individual, and Wisconsin proved that to be true when they felled Kentucky in the Final Four. Consider that the NBA employs much smaller amounts of athletes compared to the NFL, but there are hundreds more Division I basketball programs than there are FBS football teams. That means there's a substantially larger talent pool to reach from, one where there's more hidden gems who only have the college game to aspire to.
I believe Jim Christian can rebuild this program through his scheme, that he knows how to implement it and has a plan moving forward. I have no reason to believe otherwise for right now, although I reserve the right to change my mind more than a few times in the future.
I'm curious what everyone thinks about the recruiting trail and about Boston College's place on that road. Do you think there's an impact to the college game caused by the NBA, and do you think that's impacted BC? How do you think Coach Christian rebuilds the program, and how does BC get back to the brass ring they used to hold?