In recent years Boston College has made a habit of ambushing the
nation's giants in the NCAA tournament. In 1994 the Eagles
pulled off a mammoth upset of top-ranked North Carolina in the
second round and then beat heavily favored Indiana; last season,
in the first round, they knocked off the Hoosiers again. But
this season there will be no giant-killer stories about the
Eagles. No longer a David, BC is, if not a Goliath, at least a
contender for the Big East crown.
The Eagles have all but one player back from 1995-96, when they
improved their Big East record from the season before by eight
games--the second-best leap in conference history. "On paper we
seem to have a chance for a great year," says coach Jim O'Brien.
"We have a combination of pretty good experience, good
leadership and good depth. We're not going to sneak up on
anybody this year."
No, stealth is not exactly the specialty of 6'7", 268-pound
Danya Abrams, the early favorite for the Big East player of the
year award. After carrying the Eagles on his Barkleyesque back
for the past two seasons, Abrams could have skipped his senior
year and been a first-round choice in the NBA draft. "I like
college a lot, it's fun, and I want to get my degree," says
Abrams, a sociology major. "And I want to pay back some of the
teams that beat us up the last two years."
That means BC's opponents may have to contend with a nightly
double double from Abrams, who averaged 19.6 points and 9.6
rebounds per game last season. They'll also have to abandon all
hope of establishing position around the basket, where Abrams's
wide frame and low center of gravity make him almost immovable.
Feeding Abrams the ball will be 5'10" point guard James
(Scoonie) Penn, the Big East rookie of the year in '95-96. "We
were a dramatically different team because of Scoonie," says
O'Brien. "In the space of one year we improved our perimeter
Penn ran the offense with the composure of a veteran, averaging
3.5 assists and only 2.3 turnovers per game. He also gave BC
another consistent scoring option (13.2 points per game) and
delivered in the clutch. On the regular season's final day, Penn
boosted the Eagles' NCAA hopes with a game-winning buzzer-beater
against Rutgers. Then he scored 19 points in the 64-51
throttling of Indiana.
Penn will miss this season's first five games because of
academic problems, which means more work for a pair of juniors:
Duane Woodward, who averaged 8.8 points per game last season,
and Antonio Granger, a 37.6% three-point shooter. Up front,
seniors Bevan Thomas (52.8% from the field) and Keenan Jourdon
(a team-high 42 steals) will help Abrams out. Center Mickey
Curley, a 6'9" junior, whose brother Bill keyed the upset of
North Carolina in '94, provides toughness off the bench.
"As long as we play hard, no one will beat us but ourselves,"
says Abrams. It sounds as if BC will be the giants come March.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Abrams's girth earns him a wide berth. [Danya Abrams]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Jim O'Brien
Career record: 213-208 (14 seasons)
Record at BC: 146-157 (10 seasons)
1995-96 record: 19-11 (final ranking: none)
Big East record: 10-8 (fifth)
PG *Scoonie Penn, 5'10", Soph.
Little man had big freshman year
SG *Antonio Granger, 6'6", Jr.
Needs to improve on last year's 10.6 ppg
SF Bevan Thomas, 6'8", Sr.
Twice nabbed 12 rebounds in 1995-96
PF *Danya Abrams, 6'7", Sr.
First-team All-Big East last season
C *Keenan Jourdon, 6'7", Sr.
Has played every position at BC
Dec. 7 at Connecticut
Eagles have lost 16 straight to Huskies
Jan. 7 at Syracuse
BC nearly upset Orangemen in Big East tourney
Jan. 13 vs. Georgetown
Abrams vs. Jahidi White in battle of big men
Jan. 18 vs. Massachusetts
A fierce intrastate rivalry is born
Jan. 25 vs. Villanova
Chance to knock off conference favorite