By: Greg Levinsky
BOSTON — Despite an offseason that included losses of three starters and a plethora of short-term injuries, Boston University Men’s Basketball is ready for game one of the 2017-2018 slate. The Terriers face Northeastern University on Friday night at Case Gym in a rematch of last season’s opener.
“It’s an important game for the program,” said Boston University Head Coach Joe Jones. “I did the math, in 76 years the point differential between us is three points, so it’s a nip and tuck battle.”
Both teams took games on their home court last year, splitting the season series. The Terriers fell 87-77 in a contest where 2017 Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year T.J. Williams dropped 30 points. Eric Fanning paced the Terriers with 29 points; but, now both have graduated.
BU topped Northeastern one week later at Case, but not without drama. Then-junior Cheddi Mosely converted an unheralded four-point play on a dagger from the corner as the Terriers squeaked out a 65-63 victory.
“It was a great win on alumni weekend,” Jones said. “It was the first game of the Steve Wright Classic and it was a special night all together.”
Starting center Justin Alston graduated along with Fanning. Junior point guard Kyle Foreman officially quit the team early in the fall and classmate Brandon Johnson transferred to nearby Division 3 powerhouse Babson. Dylan Haines, Cam Curry and Blaise Mbargorba left with Alston and Fanning after their senior seasons.
Swingman Walter Whyte figures to be the Terriers top freshman. The six-foot-six forward is BU’s highest-ranked recruit since Mo Watson’s arrival in 2012. Whyte was a McDonalds All-American Game nominee and the second-ranked player in the state of Connecticut.
New England prep products Javante McCoy and Sukhmail Mathon are the other two freshman on the roster. Mathon is six-foot-ten and serves as the tallest Terrier. McCoy is a wiry six-foot-five guard.
Vasa Pusica, a transfer from San Diego, is another intriguing newcomer to the Huskies. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations, Pusica figures to be Northeastern’s starting point guard. He averaged 8.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Devon Begley and Jeremy Miller are two more Huskies to watch out for as both were named to the CAA’s preseason honorable mention list. Begley is the team’s returning leading scorer after averaging 9.7 points per game in his junior campaign.
Miller looks to rebound from an injury derailed sophomore season where he played just 16 games. A Milton native, Miller likely has the most potential on the team thanks to his six-foot-ten frame and tremendous athleticism.
Jones says the team will be harder to guard as shots will come from many different players.
“I think they’re going to be much better this year because they have more balance,” Jones said. “They’ve got a lot of pieces and can go eight or nine deep.”
Northeastern graduated Williams along with Alex Murphy, their two best players from a season ago. Murphy’s younger brother Thomas is a freshman and chose Northeastern over NCAA hoops powers Maryland and Florida.
The Terriers’ leading returning scorer is senior guard Cedric Hankerson, who poured in 9.6 points per game last year. BU has incredible depth at the wing positions with the aforementioned White along with senior Mosely and sophomores Tyler Scanlon and Destin Barnes.
Their most concerning issue is down low. Mathon, senior Nick Havener and sophomore Max Mahoney are the only post players on the roster. If more than one gets into foul trouble, Scanlon or Barnes may step in as a stretch-four.
Jones said he is just happy to get the season going with his Patriot League preseason second-ranked squad.
“It almost feels like Christmas for us players and coaches,” Jones said. “It’s just an exciting time of year.”
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Case Gym. The women’s team tips-off right before, at 5:30 p.m.