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Boston’s Best

November 3, 2002 Columns No Comments


Beantown’s Best

by Phil Kasiecki

When it comes to sports in Boston, the professional ranks rule without question. This is a town known for its love affairs with the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and especially the Patriots in recent times until they started to spiral out of control in the last five weeks.

College sports don’t get much attention in Beantown, a fact that might surprise those who know that it isn’t hurting for quality institutions of higher learning. When one looks at the college ranks of the major sports, it becomes apparent why: college baseball has a small following in much of the country and Boston is no different; in football, Boston College is one of just two teams in all of New England (Connecticut is the other) that is Division I-A; and Boston College is the only basketball program in the metro area that plays in a high-major conference. In basketball, the area is full of mid-majors such as bitter crosstown rivals Boston University and Northeastern, as well as Harvard, and Patriot League school Holy Cross represents the low end of Division I. If we stretch the area to include Providence (an hour drive south of Boston), we get one more high-major school in Providence College and another mid-major in Brown. If we stretch further once more, we get two more high-majors in Massachusetts (Amherst, about 90 miles west of Boston) and University of Rhode Island if we stretch that far south.

All of this is in stark contrast to college hockey, a sport where metropolitan Boston has a seeming embarrassment of riches. From Hockey East, we have BC, BU, Northeastern, UMass-Lowell, UMass-Amherst, Merrimack, and Providence. ECAC representative Harvard is right there as well. The Beanpot is still a Boston classic, as Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern battle it out at the FleetCenter every February. (Most won’t tell you that it’s really the BU and BC Invitational. Yes, I am a Northeastern alum, but I digress.)

For the purposes of this article, I will stretch out as far as the University of Massachusetts and University of Rhode Island, in presenting the All-Boston team. Not surprisingly, this list is long on perimeter talent and short on big bodies, but such is the game of basketball these days, it seems.

Guards

Troy Bell, Boston College
Potentially one of the nation’s best players, Bell didn’t have the consistency of his sophomore season last year. He took over games at times, with 42 points against Iowa State and 36 against Villanova, but had many games where he shot the ball poorly. Look for a stronger Bell to finish his career at The Heights in fine fashion this season.

Ryan Sidney, Boston College
Bell’s running mate in the backcourt is the toughest player in college basketball, bar none. Sidney played several games with a broken jaw last season, and while his play slipped, he was still one of the team’s best players en route to leading the team in rebounding despite standing just 6’2″. If he starts making free throws and three-pointers, he’s a bona fide star.

Abdul Mills, Providence
Mills went away from his game last season, as he tried to be a shooter instead of a slasher. It didn’t help that he was hobbled by a groin injury for most of the season. A good defender who can play the point in a pinch, the Friars will need Mills to play to his potential this season.

Chaz Carr, Boston University
The Terriers got an instant boost from Carr last season, as the unanimous America East All-Rookie selection was an immediate factor. He is very quick, shoots the ball well including on the move, and will make clutch shots. He will be part of a very deep team and a deadly backcourt for the Terriers this season.

Matt Turner, Boston University
Turner’s career has been full of potential – unrealized potential. He’s a great athlete capable of scoring on quick drives to the basket and raining three-pointers, and of games like his 35-point effort in the America East Tournament in 2001. Injuries cost him all but six games last season, and academic problems cost him half of his freshman season, so Terrier fans are waiting to finally get a full taste of the junior’s potential, especially alongside Carr.

Patrick Harvey, Harvard
The nation’s oldest academic institution currently houses one of its best defenders in Harvey. One of the Ivy League’s top scorers last season en route to being a first-team All-Ivy selection, Harvey is a fun player to watch. He can score in traffic over big guys, knock down big three-pointers, and he is excellent on the defensive end. He is one of the reasons the Ivy League has not peaked after last season’s excellent showing.

Earl Hunt, Brown
Hunt led the Ivy League in scoring last season for the second time in his three seasons in Providence. His jump shot has continued to improve, and he does other things such as handle, pass, and rebound. Bear fans want to see results, especially after the Bears started strong last season in non-conference play. With Hunt in his senior season and a veteran lineup returning, this could be the year it all finally comes together.

In the Frontcourt

Uka Agbai, Boston College
Ever since he first set foot on Chestnut Hill, he has developed nicely, especially last season. He cut down on foul trouble, improved overall as a defender and on the glass, and he continues to be good at facing the basket as well as on the post at the offensive end. The Eagles should get another solid season from him this season.

Billy Collins, Boston University
The only first-team All-America East selection from the conference champs last season, Collins has found a home after limited playing time at Rutgers his freshman season. He’s an athletic forward who can shoot the ball and play at both ends of the floor, and look for him to be another key as the Terriers are the clear favorite to repeat in America East this season.

Alai Nuualiitia, Brown
Don’t get too caught up in the vowels, as you might miss his excellent post game. Nuualiitia is very good at getting post position and uses his good post scoring moves to be a consistent scorer, and he’s a good rebounder as well. He is a solid complement to top scorer Earl Hunt.

Tim Szatko, Holy Cross
The Patriot League Player of the Year as a sophomore two seasons ago, he is the leader of a well-coached and balanced Holy Cross team. He doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he knows how to play the game and is a winner.

Newcomers to Watch

Craig Smith, 6-7 PF, Boston College
The Eagles are very high on this Los Angeles native. He played a good year of prep ball west of town at Worcester Academy last season, and the Eagles feel he can be a difference-maker on the post.

Donnie McGrath, 6-3 PG, Providence
With John Linehan gone, the Friars will need McGrath to help right away at the point. He has good size and comes with good credentials as a floor leader, and he will get his chance right away.

Dawan Robinson, 6-3 PG-SG, and Terrance Mack, 6’6″ SF-PF, Rhode Island Jim Baron knows how to recruit, and he is slowly raising this program back up. He has two good players to help in the reconstruction right here. Robinson will see time at both guard spots, and Mack plays as hard as anyone and is a battler on the post.

Zach Martin, 6-6 SF-PF, Harvard
He could be the Ivy League’s top newcomer this season. He can play either forward spot and is a good high-post operator, and should be a good fit with the Crimson lineup.

Neil Fingleton, 7-6 C, Holy Cross
This towering center is back “home” in Worcester, as he played high school basketball at Holy Name Academy there. He signed with North Carolina out of high school, but was not active and mobile enough to succeed in the ACC. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a star in the Patriot League with his shot-blocking ability.

     

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