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Boston College’s Jared Dudley

February 25, 2004 Columns No Comments




Jared Dudley: An Unlikely Top Freshman In 2003-04

by Phil Kasiecki

Jared Dudley filled the stat sheet to lead Boston College to a 76-44 rout of visiting Rutgers on Sunday. He had 20 points on 8-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, and had a stretch where he took over the game by making one play after another at both ends of the floor. It was just another day at the office for the freshman forward, who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding and leads them in assists – from the small forward position.

“He basically just played his same consistent overall game,” head coach Al Skinner said after the game.

The charismatic freshman might be the leading candidate for Big East Rookie of the Year. But last summer, he figured to be a leader on a prep school team instead of a Big East team looking to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Late Arrival

Dudley seems like a classic late bloomer, but an even better story than many who come to college without much buzz and develop into stars while on campus.

After working his way up from the freshman and junior varsity teams, he helped lead Horizon High School in San Diego to two state championships, averaging 23.2 points and 14 rebounds per game as a senior. He wasn’t getting much attention from colleges by the end of his senior year; he had visited St. Mary’s and Creighton, the latter a rising mid-major that got a lot of national attention last year from being ranked most of the season. The young senior aimed higher than that and planned to attend prep school in Connecticut.

Dudley played some basketball on the AAU circuit, with the highlight of his spring coming at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions on Memorial Day weekend. He was not even listed on the official roster of the California-based Pump ‘N Run team, but made the all-tournament team in helping them to the championship, beating the powerful Atlanta Celtics (with a front line that could rival that of most Division I schools) in the final. He was consistently around the ball and made one play after another at both ends of the floor, showing a tremendous feel for the game.

So began Dudley’s coming-out party.

In July, he had a great showing at the prestigious Adidas ABCD Camp, finishing as one of the top ten scorers and making the Top 20 Seniors game. He later helped Pump ‘N Run to another victory over the Atlanta Celtics in a championship game, as they topped the Celtics in the Best of Summer Tournament in Las Vegas.

San Diego State then started recruiting Dudley. It was a sign that his extra year would pay off, but the Mountain West wasn’t quite as high as he hoped. Then more than a week into August, Boston College came calling. The Eagles had dismissed two players from the team, and there was talk that an incoming freshman would leave school to go back home to Minnesota. That opened the door for Dudley.

“I came out here to visit and a couple of the players were leaving,” Dudley said. “I had the chance to start right away in the Big East. I was looking to go big, that’s why I was thinking about going to prep school, plus I was a young senior. I thought an extra year of weights, running and conditioning would help me out, but the opportunity was too big.”

He committed to the Eagles, becoming the third member of the current squad from southern California.

A Veteran Freshman

Dudley has started every game for the Eagles, and has consistently shown the same great feel for the game he showed last spring and summer. Last week, he was named the Big East’s Rookie of the Week for the second time this season, and has been a consistent player who has made his share of big plays.

He made a clutch three-pointer in overtime against Kent State in December that gave the Eagles the lead for good. Against Georgetown, he opened his Big East career with 9 points and 11 rebounds, including a key three-pointer in the final minutes that gave the Eagles some breathing room. Then at Miami on February 11, he scored a career-high 24 points, including 9 of the team’s 10 points in overtime, as they won their fourth overtime game of the year.

He has been successful as a go-to guy or a complementary player, which he relates to his high school experience.

“My high school coach was real hard on me,” Dudley reflects. “We won 2 state championships and there was all the work ethic we had to put in – preseason, offseason. Just like here, my junior year I wasn’t the go-to guy. I had to work my way in the system – I had to play on the freshman team, JV team. My senior year, it was just me adapting, which I think will happen here eventually.”

It looks like he has already adapted very well. He is a close second among Big East freshmen in scoring and rebounding, fifth in assists (more than any forward) and tied for third in steals. Indeed, his numbers are good – though not quite those of last year’s top freshmen in the Big East, which include teammate Craig Smith – but with Dudley, numbers only tell part of the story. He won’t make a lot of highlight reels, but he’s an important part of this team and a great case can be made for him as the conference’s top freshman.

“He’s been consistent all year long,” said Skinner. “Obviously, one of the reasons we are where we are is because of his play. He’s just a real nice team player.”

Smith is never one to hold back, and he didn’t in talking about how good Dudley has quickly become.

“That’s my call for freshman of the year, but you know it’s not going to go that way,” said Smith, referring to the belief that Pittsburgh’s Chris Taft will get the award. “I think he’s the most underrated freshman, not just in the Big East, in the country. He’s just an excellent player.”

The Right Setting Yields Great Results

Dudley has enjoyed life at the school and considers himself blessed to be in such a setting. A fast talker, he is a nice young man, which is symbolic of the team as a whole. In some ways it still seems almost unreal.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about – playing in Madison Square Garden, I saw Syracuse with 27,000 – it’s been a dream come true. I’m really blessed.”

The great camaraderie among all of the Eagles is apparent in a short amount of time talking with players and coaches. They all like each other and play well together, they’re a terrific group of young men, and freshmen like Dudley respect the veterans while still making important contributions. Ted Sarandis, who has done play-by-play for BC’s radio broadcasts the last nine seasons and has 27 years of broadcast experience, says this may be the most fun group he has ever been around. It’s not a team of McDonald’s All-Americans by a long shot; players like Dudley, who flew under the national radar but can fit in Skinner’s system, are the norm.

“At Boston College they don’t get the top 50 players in the country; they take risks with people and they like those kind of players,” Dudley notes.

Skinner continues to do a masterful job not only getting the right players, like Dudley, but coaching them once they arrive on campus.

“This team has done a good job of respecting their leadership,” Skinner says of his young players. “One of the things that’s nice about this time is that our younger players have really embraced our leadership and been willing to follow and defer to the older guys. Because of that respect, they’re willing to do whatever it is they have to do to be successful. It’s really unique in young players to be willing to do that – sacrifice whatever they think should be happening and be willing to fall in line. All our guys have done that and have done a real nice job.”

The coaches are the first people Dudley cites for his immediate success, but he also has learned from the veterans. An eager student of the game, he looks to veterans like Smith and senior Uka Agbai and Smith to help him along, and not just on the court. In fact, when asked how the veterans have helped him, he cites things that a casual observer would probably never think of – conditioning, stretching before games, working after the game.

Time To Finish The Job

The Eagles are 18-8, with an RPI of 22 entering the final two weeks of the season. Barring a collapse, they should be in the NCAA Tournament in a year that figured to be a rebuilding year after the loss of the school’s all-time leading scorer and two other key offensive players from last year’s team. They have been focused on the NCAA Tournament all season, and are close to meeting their goal. Dudley won’t accept anything less, and he knew before the season that this was possible.

Once I saw our team, our goal was to make the NCAA Tournament,” he says. “We knew 20 was the magic number, so we wanted to get to 20 as soon as possible before the Big East Tournament.”

The Eagles should accomplish that goal. If Dudley takes home the conference Rookie of the Year award in two weeks, it would be a fitting end to a story that still may be just beginning.

     

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