The Boston College’s men’s basketball team will return to the court on Wednesday after six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Jim Christian said the hiatus solidified how important it is to live in the moment.
“Try to get your team better today, make sure that they keep making the right decisions off the court, and you know, take care of themselves as best they can and just keep moving forward,” Christian said.
The players have been on campus since students returned in September. Much of the work they were able to do during that time consisted of individual workouts, limited to four hours per week then increased to eight hours. Now, teams will be able to be on the floor for 20 hours per week.
“It’s just so great to see after not having them for six months,” Christian said. “Just to see them come back and have fun and be normal, have fun, play basketball, be normal. Just enjoy the game, enjoy each other.”
The season is set to open Nov. 25, but the Eagles’ schedule is still being finalized. As it stands, they will open with the Empire Classic at Mohegan Sun Casino, along with Baylor, Villanova, and Arizona State. The event originally was supposed to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, with Michigan as one of the headliners. But the Wolverines backed out and were replaced by Arizona State.
“We’re finishing all that up,” Christian said of the schedule. “We waited on the ACC because we can’t do anything. So, there are days we have to hold for the ACC, and they’re still doing their thing. I think we have a pretty good thumbnail of who we’re playing. I think we’re still looking to add one more game. But we’re just waiting on the ACC now.”
Before the pandemic, Christian was optimistic about the season. Although the Eagles finished last season with a losing record for the fifth time in his six years on the bench, Christian was brought back for a seventh year by former athletic director Martin Jarmond, who saw a need for stability as BC navigated uncertainty.
Guard Wynston Tabbs spent the offseason on campus rehabbing a knee injury and has been cleared for contact in practice, giving the Eagles another threat in the backcourt alongside top returning scorer Jay Heath. Worcester native and Brewster Academy alum DeMarr Langford is creating a buzz, but Christian believes the Eagles’ greatest asset will be their depth, something injuries have robbed them of during the coach’s tenure.
“It’s competitive as hell over here,” Christian said. “This is the most competitive group we’ve had from top to bottom. We have a lot of depth, especially on the guard spot, especially on the perimeter. It’s really good.
“And you’re going to need it. This is going to be a year where depth is going to help you win because you don’t know what’s going to happen game to game, day to day. So, it’s a really good year for that.”
Still, as the Eagles have learned since the start of the pandemic, each day could present a different curveball.
According to a Sports Illustrated report Tuesday, the NCAA submitted a proposal that would grant a one-time transfer to athletes without requiring them to sit out a season.
“I’m not even worried about it,” Christian said. “I think this is going to be an interesting year, because of what could happen. We’ve seen it in other sports, not as much in college football, but when there’s cancellations because of COVID. I think it’s a good thing, these kids have another year of basketball if you’re going to be shortened or impacted by something beyond their control like that.
“So, long-term effect, who knows? There’s so many things going on in college athletics that are tied to that. There’s discussion of possibly transfers being immediately eligible. You have a group of 2021 recruits who are coming out, so there’s a lot of different things hitting at the same time and, you know, it’s going to be tough on these kids to make decisions.”
While those questions can hijack focus, Christian said he had no doubt his players would be motivated going into the season.
“We’re 40 days away from playing our first game,” he said. “They want to play basketball. So, they have to make sacrifices. You have to make sacrifices, and you have to make good decisions if you want to have a season, because things can be wiped out with something you can’t even control.
“I think they love playing. And that’s a good group to work with. I haven’t found that to be an issue at all, you know, being motivated and excited to play. Again, we didn’t do anything for six months, that’s a long time for kids who love to play basketball.”