Team preview: Boston University

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(Information in this team report is as of Oct. 1.)


Coaching changes often bring uncertainty and disruption. The new coach has his own way of doing things, from how the team practices to its style of play that may differ from the previous coach. And usually it takes some time for the players to adjust to the coach and vice versa.

For the BU seniors, coaching changes have become a way of life. They are now on their third coach after Patrick Chambers left for Penn State this spring. But this coaching change might be less disorderly than the previous one.

Chambers, a former Villanova assistant who was at BU for two seasons, left for Happy Valley because former Nittany Lions coach Ed DeChellis took over at Navy. The Midshipmen needed a coach because Billy Lange decided to return to Villanova as an assistant to Jay Wright.

And when BU went looking for its new coach, the school continued the Villanova connection by hiring another former Wright assistant, Joe Jones, who had spent the last year as an associate head coach at Boston College. Although the two men never worked together under Wright, Jones shares a kindred philosophy with Chambers.

"Because we're from the same basketball family, there are going to be some similarities in some of the things that we do," Jones said. "But like I told [the players], there are going to be some things that are going to be different that they're going to have to adjust to as well. For them, there'll be some things that will be similar whether it's terminology or just the way I handle things just because we both learned under Jay."

Boston University Terriers

Jones's familiarity with Chambers' way of doing things should help ease the players' transition from one Wright disciple to another. Jones also doesn't plan to tinker too much with the veteran team, given the success it had last season. The Terriers closed out the season winning 11 in a row, including the America East Tournament, to earn their first trip to the NCAA tournament in nine years.

"We'll keep things simple," Jones said. "I don't think we'll over-complicate things. There will be some concepts and some things Patrick was doing that we'll keep the same.

"We definitely want to play fast. We want to get the ball up the floor. When someone does a decent job against us in our initial push, we have the ability to flow into the offense."


Jones -- who had been Columbia's head coach for seven seasons before his time in Chestnut Hill -- inherits a team that loses the America East Player of the Year, John Holland, but returns four starters.

"Obviously we're going to have to do some things differently because that's a big loss in terms of a guy who can create his own shot and score some points," Jones said. "But yes, I think there's enough talent here that puts us in a position to do what they did last year. ... [The offense] will be predicated on all five guys understanding what we're doing. It definitely won't rest on one guy."

After sitting out a year after his transfer from La Salle, Darryl Partin (14.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg) got off to a slow start last season. But as his all-around game developed and he grew more comfortable, the 6-6 guard became one of the top players in America East.

Partin scored in double figures 26 times, including a career-high 32 points against Cornell, to earn first-team All-America East honors.

"He's very long and athletic," Jones said. "He has a great knack for scoring."

Unfortunately for the Terriers, Partin also has a knack for turning the ball over -- 100 times last season.

Jake O'Brien (11.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) started the first 14 games before missing the remainder of the season with a broken foot. Jones is hopeful the 6-8 senior forward, who tied with Holland as the team's leading rebounder and a consistent double-figure scorer before the injury, can return to form this season. His ability to play inside and outside creates a mismatch for opponents.

"He's able to really space people out because a kid with that size can really shoot it," Jones said. "He helps the spacing of our offense with his ability to make jump shots."

Coaches are often reluctant to play freshmen at the point guard spot, but D.J. Irving (8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.6 apg) showed sophistication at the position that belied his experience. The 6-0 sophomore, who started all but three games last season, produced nine games of at least five assists, including a 10-assist performance at UMBC, and was selected to the All-America East rookie team.

"He's super quick and extremely unselfish," Jones said.

Joining Irving on the all-rookie team was Dom Morris (5.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg), a 6-7 forward who started the final 16 games of the season. Morris rebounds the ball well, averaging 6.3 boards in his final six games. Twice in those games, he grabbed 10 or more.

"We tried to recruit him when I was at Columbia," Jones said. "He's got great size. But the thing about him, he's very agile for a kid his size, and he's very skilled. I think he's going to continue to improve."

Playing his first season at BU after transferring from Rider, Matt Griffin (6.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg) was the Terriers' most dependable scoring threat off the bench. The 5-10 senior sank 54 of his 70 field goals from behind the arc where he was a 45.8 percent shooter.

Patrick Hazel (4.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg), a 6-6 senior forward, made an impact in his first season after transferring from Marquette. Hazel was a force around the basket, blocking and altering shots and rebounding. But on a team with the best free throw percentage in the league (.729), Hazel brought down the Terriers' average, making less than 50 percent of his free throws (.468).

Jeff Pelage (2.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg), a 6-8 senior center, sat out the first 11 games because of a high ankle sprain last season. With him out of the lineup, the Terriers missed his rugged play around the basket. Jones hopes a hernia injury that plagued Pelage this summer doesn't carry over into the season.

Mike Terry, Jr. (0.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg), a 6-0 sophomore guard, was a solid defensive contributor off the bench.

After breaking his nose early in conference play, Travis Robinson (1.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg), a 6-5 sophomore forward, wasn't much of a factor.

Two players join the team after redshirting last season. Mat Piotrowski, a 7-1 freshman center, is a skilled big who shoots the ball well. Malik Thomas, a 6-7 freshman, is a long, athletic, skilled perimeter player.

BU also adds a pair of true freshmen: 6-5 guard Zach Chionuma (Marianapolis Prep/Jamesville, N.Y.) who is an aggressive scorer, and 6-6 forward James Kennedy (Cushing Academy/Boston, Mass.) who is strong and athletic.






Jones's belated start -- he was hired in late June just before the July recruiting period started -- shouldn't adversely affect BU. Fortunately for him, he didn't have to waste time moving to another city.

"That was a very good thing. It made my wife happy," Jones said.

Because Jones and Chambers are both committed to the Villanova way, it shouldn't be difficult for the players to adjust to the coaching change. They already have shown remarkable adaptability in the way they meshed last season despite the bevy of transfers. Another coaching change shouldn't daunt them.

"The thing I feel great about is that Pat did a wonderful job here," Jones said. "There's an unbelievable culture around the program. The kids work hard. They're obviously a very talented group. Probably the thing I'm most impressed about is that they really like each other. When you have that, you can do some great things."

Whether BU can do great things again this season only time will tell. The Terriers could be among the favorites to win the America East despite the coaching change because of the talent they have returning.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.