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Men’s B-Ball Home Opener Tomorrow

Young team “living in the here and now”

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When the Terriers host George Washington tomorrow in the men’s basketball season home opener, the team roster will be missing one key demographic: seniors. The last time that occurred, in 2007, the team started the season 3-10. This year, the team’s freshmen are likely to play a pivotal role, says Joe Jones, now in his second season as head coach.

“I think right now we’re just trying to get better,” Jones says. “I think we have so many young guys and guys new to the program that we’re going to be depending on to get better. Living in the here and now is the message that I want to send to our team.”

BU finished last season at 16-16 after an America East (AE) tournament quarterfinal loss to the University of Hartford, a team they had beaten twice during the regular season. Despite the unimpressive record, Jones says he was encouraged by the way his team played for much of the 2011–2012 campaign.

“We played some terrific teams last year,” he notes. “If we’d played the same schedule the better teams in our league played, we wouldn’t have finished 16-16. I felt like the biggest thing for us was we needed to get better throughout the year, and I think we hit a wall. Losing in the first round of the America East tournament was a major disappointment for us.”

The Terriers, ranked third behind the University of Vermont and Stony Brook University in an AE preseason poll, need to replace several key players from last year’s roster, including 2012 America East Player of the Year Darryl Partin (MET’12). The Seattle, Wash., native finished with 19.6 points per game last season, earning a ranking of 21st in the nation. Replacing Partin will not be easy, but Jones is looking to get scoring from up and down his roster this year.

“I think it’s going to have to be by committee,” Jones says. “We’re a very different team now because of that. Darryl’s ability to score in bunches was a huge asset to us, but I’m hoping we can be a little more consistent in scoring throughout the game.”

D.J. Irving, Co-Captain, 2012 Boston University BU Terriers men's basketball team

D. J. Irving (MET’14) has averaged 19 points over the last two games to lead BU in scoring. Photo by Steve McLaughlin

One of the players Jones is depending on is six-foot-seven-inch Dom Morris (MET’14), one of the team’s three cocaptains. The forward finished last year with just 6.8 points and 5.91 rebounds per game, but was named the hardest worker in the preseason by his teammates.

“I knew I had to fill a big role and big shoes,” Morris says. “I lost a lot of weight and got my body fat down. I’m a lot quicker and more agile. I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since I’ve been in college.”

Morris has started the first two games of the season for the Terriers, alongside fellow cocaptains Travis Robinson (SMG’14) and D. J. Irving (MET’14). The two remaining starting spots are being filled by freshmen Nathan Dieudonne (CGS’14) and Maurice Watson, Jr. (CGS’14).

“They’re actually very advanced from where I was as a freshman,” Morris says of Watson and Dieudonne. Watson finished 92nd in ESPN’s list of top-100 high school basketball players last season, and forward Dieudonne was named the best player in his home state of Kentucky, earning the title Mr. Kentucky. The freshman class also includes an “unbelievable shooter” in John Papale (CGS’14) and an “underrated big man” in Justin Alston (CGS’14), Morris says.

“All four freshmen are going to play,” promises Jones. “As a team I think all 10 guys are going to play, some more than others. I think guys that are returners, like D.J. and Dom, Malik Thomas [CAS’14], and Travis, we’re going to have to depend on their leadership and their experience because we’re very young.”

BU’s decision to move from the America East Conference to the Patriot League next season resulted in the AE banning all BU teams from competing in the AE postseason. This young squad recognizes they will have to have a strong regular season for any chance to advance to March Madness.

“Our goal is to get invited to a postseason tournament,” Morris says. “If not the NCAA, then the NIT or any other tournament. It’s a bit different because we can’t go to the America East playoffs, so we have a chip on our shoulder and we’re just treating every game like it’s our last.”

“It’s been a lot of fun so far with this group,” Jones says. “I really like them. It’s enjoyable to coach them. It’s a very coachable team. As we improve, I’m anxious to see how good we can be. We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The BU men’s basketball team takes on the George Washington Colonials on Saturday, November 17, at 1 p.m. at Case Gymnasium, 285 Babcock St. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for BU students, faculty, and staff, and free with a sports pass. There will be a pregame fan fest starting at noon, with a BU basketball cooler bag giveaway, free food, and more.

Paul Ryan can be reached at pryan15@bu.edu.

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