By: Chris Lynch
This season for the Boston University men’s basketball team has been a series of up and down games and moments. At the start of the playoffs, the BU Terriers stand at the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
One of the major reasons for their performance was Junior forward Eric Fanning.
In his second season in Boston, Fanning flourished, leading the team in points per game and picking up the rebounding slack when Nathan Dieudonne went down with an injury. Fanning was selected as a First Team All Patriot League player this season.
I sat down with him to talk about his season, his awards, and his thoughts on the postseason.
Q: First off, congratulations on making First Team All-Conference this year. On a personal level, what does that mean for you?
A: It’s great to know that the work I’ve put in payed off. I’m happy with where our team is now. I think we’re in a good spot. And this is one thing that I certainly wanted to get before I leave BU. And I just want to thank my teammates and coaches who put me in a good position to get this.
Q: Take a moment to just look back on the season so far. You went from not playing the first couple of games to coming off the bench to being a giant part of the unit to having injury after injury after injury. How would you describe the journey you’ve taken this year?
A: It’s been really up and down, especially for me personally. As you said, I didn’t play the first six games. That was tough. At times I just wanted to give up and say “Is this really worth it?”. But all my teammate and everyone in our program kept me thinking positively. Then I get back and Cedric (Hankerson) goes down, and that’s not what I was expecting. I was really looking forward to playing with him. And the the first game I’m back fully, Justin (Alston) goes down for the year. I was excited to come back, but when we lost those guys, I knew it was gonna be a lot harder to accomplish what we needed. I think we’ve found the right groove and we’ve clicked at the right time. Hopefully we’ll get Nate (Dieudonne) back. Kyle (Foreman) is ready to go. It’s been up and down for us, but I like the way it’s turned out.
Q: Any one of the wins this year, and there have been a couple of great ones this year, including John’s buzzer beater against Lehigh, your 37 points against Loyola; does anyone of those mean anymore to you than the rest?
A: The Holy Cross win was the one that stood out. Because it was John and Nate’s senior day. We just wanted to get those guys a win, especially after the way I performed last year against Holy Cross with a chance to clinch the fourth seed. This year I showed up, Blaise (Mbargorba) showed up, Dylan (Haines) showed up, we all showed up on a real emotional day. We wanted to try and send those guys off the right way, so to me, that was the game that stood out to me the most. All the games counted, but that one meant the most to me so far.
Q: In the press conference on Saturday, Coach (Jones) talked about how Nate was the guy who got the team started on the run you’re on now. He’s obviously a big time defender and rebounder, being voted to the All-Conference Defensive team. What does he mean to you personally for your development and for the unit at large.
A: Nate’s the backbone of our team. He’s the guy who’s gonna get on people when they mess up and he’s gonna be the guy to be there when people get down. He’s our leader on the defensive end and our anchor. He’s our vocal leader too. John (Papale) is a leader in a different way. John mostly leads by example, but when he needs to, he’ll put his input in. Nate will always put his input in and make sure everyone is doing the right thing. With me, there’ve been times where I’ve gotten down on myself and Nate has picked me up, and there’ve been times where I’ve acted like a jerk and Nate has been there to put me in my place. You need guys like that on the team that will check you and pick you up. And when everyone started going down, he’s the guy who got us thinking positive and made everyone believe in our unit. His play started us on the winning streak. And then to get three more wins after he went down shows how selfless we are, how we play for each other, and Nate gave us that mentality.
Q: Coach added that you guys haven’t scrimmaged in over a month in a half because of all the injuries. How do you use practice effectively while so limited?
A: I think that’s a testament to the talent and the drive that we have on this unit. So in practice, we pretty much just shoot, run over the offense and defense. Sometimes we’ll stay at half court, he’ll get Coach Morris or Dave Feinstien to come in if we need numbers. I don’t think its critical for us to scrimmage as long as we know the game plan, because at the end of the day, we’re basketball players. We all know how to play the game. We keep our skills sharp on the offensive end, know the defensive strategy, and how we’re supposed to win games. We’ve done a good job of not letting it affect us. And we’ve gone in with a great mentality of trying to win these games on the defensive end. We have so many weapons on offense, so if we play great defense with whoever’s out there, we can win games.
Q: You’ve got American on Thursday. You weren’t able to play two years ago, but you were still on the team that hosted American 2 years ago for the conference championship loss. Do you ever think about that game or do any of the guys who were there think about it?
A: I think about it all the time. I witnessed it firsthand, them winning the championship on our home floor. And they always manage to get there. They went there last year too! And they were a bit shorthanded last year but still got there. That shows what kind of team they are come playoff time. But for me, after that game, I got a mentality of “they will never come in on our floor again and win a championship or a big game on our homecourt.” That’s the mentality we’re gonna take into Thursday. We’ve beaten them twice this season, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s hard to beat a team three times. So we’re gonna come in and play hard on defense to shut them down, and play our game on offense. If we have to grind out a win, then that’s what we’ll do. We want to send Nate and John out the right way, and winning a championship would be the perfect send off for them.
Q: They play a slow and methodical style of game. How do you think you’ll approach the game from a style perspective?
A: They don’t want to play fast. They want to catch people sleeping on back door cuts. They want to back cut you, lull you to sleep, and wait for you to mess up. So we’re gonna try and speed the game up on them to mess with their rhythm and strategy. It’ll be difficult, especially with the guys we have out, but if we come in with the mentality we’ve had the last few weeks, we’ll be fine.
BU plays American University on Thursday in the Patriot League Quarterfinals starting at 7:00 p.m. at Case Gym.