By: Ethan Fuller
With a 2020 Patriot League title still fresh, Boston University men’s basketball has plenty of time to get ready for next season. But 2020-21 already holds one major question mark: how does the team move forward without Max Mahoney?
The start senior’s graduation leaves a gaping hole in the rotation. Suk Mathon and Jack Hemphill are the prime candidates to share the load, and Tim Uzoegbu often practiced with the bigs last year. But replacing the production and leadership of Mahoney is a daunting task.
One new option head coach Joe Jones and company will have at their disposal is Andrew Patnode, a 6-8 forward and a physical interior presence who committed in late February. A native of Saratoga Springs, NY, Patnode spent his last two years on the prep circuit at the Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA.
Patnode talked to Ethan Fuller on Thursday about his journey to BU and his development into a Division I athlete.
Ethan Fuller: You played with a lot of toughness and physicality [in high school]. What do you need to do to get ready for that next level of physicality in college?
Andrew Patnode: I think I’m in a good spot being a bigger guy. That’s one of the biggest things between being in high school and college. You can be super skilled, but if your body isn’t ready for the next level, you’re not gonna be able to perform even if you’re a really talented player. So I kinda got ahead of the game; I realized my sophomore year that if I wanted to play, I needed to be bigger and stronger just to keep up with the competition.
So I was really focused on getting in good shape, getting stronger, putting on more muscle so I could post up down low and still be a presence inside. And I think over this last year … me and my coach worked a lot on getting ready for the next level and staying tough inside, being able to finish through contact and stuff like that.
EF: Is it helpful to be left-handed and have that advantage in the post?
AP: When I was little it was a lot easier. When you’re little, everyone naturally forces people to their left because people assume you’re right-handed. But as I got older and got to more competitive AAU ball and my senior year of prep school, they noticed pretty quick, but I usually could get one or two buckets. Then they start realizing I’m a lefty and making me go both ways.
EF: What kind of players do you like to watch and take parts from their games?
AP: My favorite player to watch right now is Jayson Tatum — not that he plays my position at all, I just think he’s so smooth and the way he acts on the court is so confident. I just love his swag to the game. Same thing with Luka Doncic — I think he plays the same way. He’s super confident, he knows he’s super talented and he shows it.
But for me personally, whenever I watch an NBA game, if there’s a forward in the game I watch them. No matter who they are, if they’re in the NBA and in the game, they’re a very talented forward. I can always pick up little things. Me and my dad, we sit and watch games and he pauses it when someone makes a good play, he rewinds it and walks me through it and tells me I should do that in my game. Any forward in any situation — college, NBA, whatever’s on the TV — I try to pick up some things from them.
EF: What do you expect the adjustment will be like for you moving to a big city like Boston?
AP: I’ve never lived in a big city; Saratoga has a city feel, but it’s nowhere near the size of Boston — it’s like a miniature Boston. But I’ve always liked cities. I’m not a huge fan of New York City because it’s kinda crazy, but I love the Boston area. My dad works there sometimes, so whenever he goes on business trips and the family has a free weekend to go down I go with him. The area’s amazing — I fell in love with it when I was little, and having a chance to get an education and play basketball there is a dream come true.
EF: What was the journey like for you as far as choosing a college and a program?
AP: Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to play basketball, but I also wanted to be an engineer. I loved watching engineers and my dad has done a lot with engineering too, so he talked a lot to me about it and interested me. So my biggest thing was getting a great engineering degree, which BU fulfilled, so I’m happy about that. So that narrowed down my college search right away; there weren’t too many engineering schools where I knew I could play basketball at. So narrowing that down was the first step.
My final four colleges were BU, Lehigh, Carnegie Mellon, an engineering school in Pittsburgh, and Middlebury, which isn’t engineering but the campus was great and the coaches were great. It just came down to feel. I knew [Boston] was the place for me once I visited and the coaches contacted me. Coach Jones himself contacted me actually, which was really nice.
I sat in and watched a practice, and the team was super energetic during practice, and something that stuck out to me was that it wasn’t a “coach-ran practice;” it wasn’t where Coach would tell them to do something and they would do it. [Practice] was mainly led by Max and the senior captains and it was amazing to watch how the leaders took over and took control of the team. It was really nice to see.
EF: What was it like having your recruiting process be later than some other players who make their decisions early in the school year?
AP: My journey’s a little different. I was a DIII-level player my whole life pretty much, and it wasn’t until this year when colleges actually started noticing me because I used to not be the same person I am now. I’ve always been tall, but I was always bigger, and I liked basketball but it wasn’t the main focus in my life — I liked other stuff, too. It was really when I went to prep school when everything changed.
Last year I was in my senior year at Saratoga when I decided to reclassify to my junior year and go to prep school near Philly. My coach pulled me aside and said, “I can see a lot of good things in you, but you’re just not there yet. You’re not at the DI level.” So that really flipped a switch in my mind and since that day, I’ve never looked back. It’s just every day, waking up to get better, and now I’m where I want. So I’m happy about that.
EF: With Max [Mahoney] graduating, you have other bigs that are ready to take over, but there’s also room for you to potentially make an impact. What do you think you can do right away to help?
AP: There are some talented bigs on the team right now. Suk and Jack are the other two bigs and there aren’t many other forwards coming in. I talked to Coach about this and obviously I have to earn my spot on the team — I don’t just get free minutes as you know, in college that’s not how it works — but he said if [I] earn them, there are minutes available. I think I can play the role of Max, [but] not right away obviously. He’s a tremendous player, I’ve been studying his film a lot. His footwork is great, and he’s the toughest player I’ve seen in a while.
But I think I can make that impact on the team eventually once I get comfortable with the system they run and stuff like that. I think my post passing is a great attribute that I can carry over. I’ve worked a lot on backdoor cuts with guards cutting to the basket, cross-court passes, hitting open guys. That’s something we emphasized a lot this year at prep school, so that’s something I think I can carry over to the next level.
EF: What does working out and getting in shape for DI look like right now given that so many facilities are closed?
AP: It’s unfortunate the circumstances, but I’m actually pretty fortunate with the situation I’m in right now because I have a bunch of support from a bunch of outside people. I have the BU staff sending me workouts that I can do, I have my prep school sending me workouts, I have a personal trainer that works out with me and my sister and he sends us workouts. I have room in my basement — not much, but I have some weights and a bench in my basement that I use pretty much every day, trying to keep the muscle I have so when this quarantine’s over I can get into an actual gym and put on some muscle.
EF: If you had to pick one pregame hype song, what would you pick?
AP: For me, before every away game on the bus, I put on “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill. I don’t know why but that songs gets me really going [and] gets my energy up before games. I think it’s because being around Philly, a lot of people from the area love Meek Mill, but even before I went to prep school I was listening to that song all the time.
EF: If you could pick any team to upset in the NCAA Tournament, what team would you beat?
AP: The common answer’s probably Duke. I mean, it’s a great organization and to play them and upset them would be amazing. But for me, it’s Seton Hall because my sister actually swims there. If we managed to upset Seton Hall in the tournament I could brag to her for the rest of my life, and I’d be happy about that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.