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Team preview: Boston College

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.

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

COACH AND PROGRAM

Steve Donahue knew this was coming.

Former coach Al Skinner had built a strong program at Boston College, but in his final years, he let recruiting slide. When Donahue replaced Skinner in the spring of 2010, he understood he was inheriting a strong senior class, one outstanding junior and almost a vacuum in the underclass.

That's why, as Donahue completed a solid first season at Chestnut Hill (turning a 15-16 team in '10 into a 21-win team in '11), he was already talking about the 2011-12 season being the real beginning of his tenure at Boston College. Any chance of connecting this team to last year's solid squad disappeared when junior guard Reggie Jackson (18.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.1 spg) jumped to the NBA (becoming the No. 24 pick of the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder).

Jackson's departure, along with the exit of seniors Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and Josh Southern, left BC without a single returning starter.

This is a new start," Donahue said. Our kids are all new. I consider it the first year of our program."

PLAYERS

It's possible that no team in ACC history has ever started a season with as little experience on hand. Donahue will open the year with two sophomores who each played just under 15 minutes a game last season, a junior transfer who averaged 16 minutes in 19 games at Oregon two years ago, and a senior transfer who played in eight games at Lafayette two years ago but is still struggling to come back from a foot injury that has sidelined him for the last two years.

Boston College Eagles

Everybody else who will play this year is a freshman -- and it's not an especially well-regarded class by the recruiting gurus.

We're convinced we got great kids," Donahue said, disputing the rankings. There's a common theme -- they can all shoot the ball, pass the ball and dribble the ball. The guys who rank recruits usually look for length and athleticism. We're not always able to compete for that type of prospect. We think this the best way to go."

That strategy worked for Donahue at Cornell, where he built an Ivy League powerhouse, breaking the Penn/Princeton stranglehold on that conference. He did it with a similar recruiting strategy … and a similar foundation class.

That was in 2006-07, when Donahue's Big Red opened the season by winning at Northwestern with four freshmen and sophomore Adam Gore in the starting lineup. Late in that game, Gore blew out his knee and was lost for the season -- leaving Donahue's 2006 recruiting class to carry the load.

It was midway through that year that we sensed they were something special," Donahue said. They were holding their own. They finished 9-5 in the league."

That class would anchor three straight Ivy League championship teams. As seniors, they led the Big Red to 29 wins and the NCAA Sweet 16.

Donahue would love to see a similar progress from this crop of newcomers, which includes the two transfers, seven freshmen and two recruited walk-ons.

I was able to see them play once this summer, and I think they're as good as I thought they would be," he said. They realize that they have a very unique opportunity as a group."

The Boston College coach is hoping that his "veterans" will help the newcomers fit in quickly. Last year's only scholarship freshman was 6-1, 170-pound Gabe Moton (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 14.8 mpg, .265 3PT) from St. Petersburg, Fla. Donahue is hoping Moton can play a larger role this season.

What he proved that he could do is play in the league physically," Donahue said. He was one of our better defenders. What he's got to do now is improve on the offensive side."

Donahue's other semi-experienced returnee is a recruited walk-on. Danny Rubin (4.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, .434 3PT) arrived on campus as a 6-5, 165-pounder from the Landon School in Chevy Chase, Md. He emerged as last year's most effective three-point shooter (33-of-76).

He's worked as hard as anybody I've had at getting better," Donahue said. He's up to 190 pounds now. He can shoot the ball and he has the size to shoot over people. His only problem is that his confidence waned at times. He's got to play with swagger."

Matt Humphrey didn't get to play last year after transferring from Oregon. But the 6-5, 187-pound guard did work out with the Eagles all last season, so he's got a head start on all the other newcomers when it comes to learning Donahue's system.

Donahue thinks the Chicago native is much better than his modest numbers at Oregon (5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, .339 3PT).

He's a very talented, skilled big guard," Donahue said. He got isolated at Oregon as a standstill shooter. I think the year off really helped him work on his skills. If anybody on this team is going to be a 15-point or better scorer, Matt has a chance to do that. He's a good defender and a good playmaker. He just has to learn to be more consistent."

Donahue's other transfer brings less talent but does have leadership qualities that the coach believes will help a young team. Deirunas Visockas is a 6-4 guard from Lithuania who played two seasons at Lafayette (averaging 3.1 ppg both years), but missed the last two years with injuries. He graduated with a double degree in business and economics and is taking advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer year to play a season at BC while enrolled in BC's Carroll Graduate School of Management.

Visockas is obviously not an impact player from a talent standpoint, especially because he's still battling foot problems.

He's a terrific leader and a great example of a student/athlete," Donahue said, adding that his one-year Lithuanian recruit is a good shooter and knows how to play."

But he's mostly hoping Vicockas can provide leadership for a team that will rely on nine relatively unheralded freshmen. It's those kids who will determine how Boston College fares this season … and, more importantly, how Donahue's program fares in the next few years.

The BC coach thinks he got a steal with 7-0, 238-pound Dennis Clifford, a late-blooming big man from Milton Academy in Bridgeport, Maine.

When we scouted him as a junior when we were at Cornell, I never thought he'd play in the ACC," Donahue said. But he improved so much. I now think he can be an impact player in the ACC."

Clifford averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks as a senior.

He's got a terrific work ethic and a great motor," Donahue said. He's athletic for a seven-footer and he's going to be strong."

K.C. Caudill brings even more size to the Eagles -- too much, in fact. At 6-10 and 295-pounds, the Brea, Calif., product needs to trim some weight.

If he can get himself into good shape, he can be a really effective player -- a Jeff Ruland type of skilled big man," Donahue said. He's not a great athlete, but he has good skills. He uses his body well. It's just that when the game goes up and down, he can't handle it."

Donahue has another kind of weight problem with two of his backcourt recruits. Jordan Daniels will be the smallest player in the ACC at 5-8 and 153 pounds. It was size that prevented the ultra-quick playmaker from Fontana, Calif., from getting any other major college offers.

It really took a while to pull the trigger on [our scholarship offer]," Donahue said. We kept going back to see him. He had everything we wanted … he was just so small. But he really changes the game. He does it on defense and he pushes it up. He's the fastest guy you'll see who always makes good decision. The only question is whether he can handle the size he'll be up against."

Lonnie Jackson also needs to add weight to become the player Donahue hopes he can be. The 6-3, 167-pound recruit from Valencia, Calif., has the game, if he will just get stronger.

He's the best pure shooter in the group," Donahue said. He has great range."

Donahue is counting on another California recruit to make a more immediate impact. Ryan Anderson, a 6-8, 229-pound forward from Lakewood, Calif., is the top-rated prospect in the class.

He had a great summer," Donahue said. He lost 10 pounds and he added three inches to his vertical jump. He's a 6-8 kid who can shoot the three, has a great basketball IQ and can use his girth inside."

Donahue is also hoping for an immediate contribution from his last recruit, German shooting guard Patrick Heckmann. The 6-5 veteran of the German U18 and U20 national teams has played professional basketball in Germany the last two seasons.

He's played against the best competition of anybody we are bringing in," Donahue said. He's got a great opportunity to play early. He can finish and run. He's got a swagger about him. He's got a good basketball body now, but with a little work, he'll have a great basketball body."

Donahue will have to wait and see what he'll get this season from his three 6-7 recruits.

Eddie Odio has the most long-term potential. The 180-pound forward averaged 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds as a senior at Miami's Christopher Columbus High,

He's the best athlete of the bunch," Donahue said. He can shoot the ball, he can finish and he can run. His father is a coach [Cesar Odio is the 17-year head coach of Barry University], so he has a great fundamental understanding of the game. He needs to gain weight and strength. By the time he gets there in a year or two, he'll be a very good player."

Ryan Kilcullen and John Cain Carney are, like Rubin last season, recruited walk-ons.

Both had lower major scholarship offers," Donahue said of the two 6-7 forwards. They both have good size and can play."

Kilcullen's father Dan played for the Eagles in the early 1970s and is in the Boston College Hall of Fame. The younger Kilcullen averaged 16 points and seven rebounds at Phillip Exeter (N.H.) Academy. Carney averaged 6.7 points and 9.9 rebounds at The Shipley School in Philadelphia.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: C-

BENCH/DEPTH: B+

FRONTCOURT: C-

INTANGIBLES: B

This is the start of a long rebuilding process in Chestnut Hill.

Donahue has added a number of promising players who very well could be the foundation for a competitive team at Boston College. But that's not likely to happen this season. In fact, it would be a major accomplishment if the Eagles could match what Wake Forest did a year ago -- 8-24 overall and 1-15 in the ACC.

And keep in mind that the 2011 Deacs returned more experience and had a higher rated recruiting class than the 2012 Eagles.

Donahue has some promising shooters -- Rubin, Humphrey, Heckmann and Jackson provide some perimeter firepower. Playmaking will be a bigger challenge -- the tiny Daniels is the only true point guard on the roster, although Donohue insists that Heckmann, Daniels and even Humphrey can handle the position in a crunch.

And how much consistent inside play will the Eagles get from their two freshmen big men and their one big forward, Anderson?

This team has a lot of question marks and not too many answers. If Donahue manages to escape the ACC cellar, he'll have done a magnificent coaching job. And even if the Eagles do take a beating this season, withhold judgment for another year or two until we see whether this bunch of recruits can grow up like his Cornell class of 2006-07 did.

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.