November 22, 2011
It's no accident Boston College chose to play in a Thanksgiving tournament in Southern California this week.
The 76 Classic in Anaheim provides the Eagles an opportunity to showcase their program to prospects in Southern California, an area Boston College has historically recruited as well as any East Coast program. Not only did ex-Eagles coach Al Skinner pluck former stars like Craig Smith and Sean Marshall from the greater LA area, current coach Steve Donahue has continued the tradition by landing starters Ryan Anderson and Jordan Daniels and two other true freshmen from the region.
"I think it's good for us to every couple years get back to California, in particular Southern California, making sure that people in the basketball community realizes that we're out there," Donahue said. "Especially when you have kids from that area, it helps you get involved with other kids in that area as well."
Boston College's recruiting success in Southern California is one of the more unusual pipelines because neither Donahue nor his staff have longstanding ties to the West Coast. Nevertheless, Donahue intends to continue to recruit the region because he has landed some top players both at Cornell and last year at Boston College.
In late August 2010, promising 6-foot-11 center KC Caudill of Brea, Calif. chose to commit to the Eagles rather than wait for interest from top schools out West to pick up. Then a month later, Valencia guard Lonnie Jackson also snapped up an offer from Boston College, as did Anderson, even though the Long Beach Poly star had just received an in-person scholarship offer from Cal coach Mike Montgomery days earlier.
"I think us being a top 30 school in the country gives us the opportunity to attract kids from across the country," Donahue said. "The other part of that there's a lot of good basketball players out west and not a whole lot of schools for them. The population and the amount of basketball players dictates that you can go get kids maybe that are going to be overlooked by a Pac‑10 school because of the amount of really good players in that area.
"I also think the ACC resonates with kids out in California. They like the idea of coming and playing in an East Coast city, playing against teams like Duke and North Carolina. It's part of the strategy."
Boston College isn't likely to make a run at the 76 Classic considering its first opponent is resurgent Saint Louis, but one thing the Eagles will be able to showcase to potential recruits this week is plenty of available playing time. Holy Cross and UMass have thumped Boston College in its last two games by a combined 58 points, alarmingly bad results even for an Eagles team that starts four true freshman and was universally projected to struggle this season.
The most optimistic comparison for this year's nine-man freshman class at Boston College is to the 2006 class Donahue assembled at Cornell. That crop endured some early struggles, but led the Big Red to three straight NCAA tournament appearances including a Sweet 16 in the 2009-10 season.
"I think there's some huge advantages to (playing freshmen early) if you have kids that are willing to understand there's going to be a lot of failure," Donahue said. "You're going to go through some hard times and learn from each of those. If you're willing to do that, I think you have a chance. You can really make great progress over the next 20, 30, 50 games of your career. Then you have a great group of guys who played a lot of time together."