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Jim Christian hires recruiting wiz Scott Spinelli to help rebuild Boston College hoops

04.14.14 at 5:42 pm ET
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CHESTNUT HILL ‘€“ The first major move of the Jim Christian era is complete.

The new head coach of the men’s basketball program at Boston College announced Monday that he has hired recruiting specialist Scott Spinelli away from the University of Maryland. The news first broke minutes after Christian’s introductory news conference last Tuesday at Boston College. Christian said one of the keys of getting Boston College back on the map in the Atlantic Coast Conference would be “recruiting the right kids” and “recruiting the players who really want to be at Boston College.” Spinelli will lead that effort.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman was the first to report the hiring of the man who spent the last three seasons on Mark Turgeon‘€™s staff at Maryland. He has coached with Turgeon for the last eight years at Wichita State, Texas A&M and in College Park.

‘€œWe are excited to have Scott join our basketball staff here at Boston College,’€ Christian said in a school news release. ‘€œHe is an outstanding young coach, a proven recruiter and he has developed strong relationships in the New England area. Scott has had success everywhere he’€™s coached and he has a few important qualities I was looking for: the ability to recruit and coach at a high level, and to develop the student-athletes in our program.’€

It’s a coming home of sorts for Spinelli, who is a native of Leominster, Mass. and a graduate of Boston University. Spinelli was the key recruiter that helped lead Texas A&M and Maryland to four NCAA Tournaments and one NIT appearance. In his four seasons at Texas A&M, the Aggies had the best four-year win total in program history.

Spinelli has helped the Terrapins bring in consecutive top-25 recruiting classes. Five of his players are currently playing in the NBA in Gal Mekel (Dallas), Donald Sloan (Indiana), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers) and Alex Len (Phoenix.)

Spinelli first joined Turgeon’€™s staff as an associate head coach at Wichita State in 2006-07. He has served as an associate head coach since the 2005-06 season at Nebraska. He was an assistant coach for two years with the Cornhuskers prior to his promotion. Spinelli was also the associate head coach at Maryland (2011-14) and Texas A&M (2007-11).

Spinelli has also spent time with Loyola-Chicago (2001-03), Philadelphia 76ers (2000-01), Cincinnati Stuff of the IBL (1999-2000), American (1997-99) and Wyoming (1996-97). His first coaching jobs were as head coach at Milford (NY) Academy (1990-93) and the Winchendon School (1993-96).

Read More: Boston College, Jim Christian, Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Saugus’ Mike Vecchione wins national title after finding unexpected match in Union

04.13.14 at 1:04 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Mike Vecchione always dreamed of winning a national championship. He didn’€™t dream of winning it with Union College.

The 21-year-old Saugus native grew up watching all the big Hockey East schools — Boston College, Boston University, New Hampshire, Maine, and so on. He could envision himself playing at any of those schools. But Union? He had never even heard of it.

But through a series of twists and turns, that’€™s where Vecchione ended up. In Schenectady, N.Y., at a school with an enrollment of just over 2,000 and just two Division I teams — men’€™s and women’€™s hockey.

Seven months after arriving at Union for the start of his freshman year, the Malden Catholic graduate scored two goals in the Frozen Four and won that national championship he had always dreamed of winning.

“I don’€™t really know how to describe what it feels like right now,” Vecchione said after Saturday night’€™s national title game. “I’€™m just so overwhelmed with joy.”

Originally, Vecchione’€™s plan was to play at one of those big-name Hockey East schools. He had committed to UNH in March 2010, during his junior year at Malden Catholic. The next year, he helped lead the school to its first Super 8 title. Then he went out to Nebraska to play for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League, a plan he and the UNH coaching staff had agreed was best for his development. Read the rest of this entry »

Johnny Gaudreau wins Hobey Baker, signs with Calgary Flames, leaves BC after three seasons

04.11.14 at 7:37 pm ET
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After dominating his sport in his junior season at Boston College, Johnny Gaudreau won the hockey equivalent to the Heisman Trophy Friday as he was awarded the Hobey Baker award as the most outstanding player in college hockey. He joins Mike Motteau (2000) and David Emma (1991) as previous winners in school history.

With three winners, Boston College matches Harvard for the third-most in the history of the award, which began in 1981. Minnesota, which will play for the national title on Saturday night in Philadelphia, has four winners. Minnesota-Duluth has had five winners in the 34-year history of the honor.

Friday was a big day for Gaudreau, known simply as “Johnny Hockey” on the Chestnut Hill campus. After accepting the award, he agreed to sign on with the Calgary Flames, who had his draft rights dating back to 2011, when he was selected 104th overall in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft. Listed at 5’6′€, Gaudreau was one of the shortest players taken at the 2011 draft.

After attending the Flames training camp, Gaudreau started his career with Boston College. He originally signed a letter of intent to play with Hockey East rival Northeastern University but opted for Boston College when Northeastern Hockey coach Greg Cronin resigned in June 2011, to take a position with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As a freshman, Gaudreau scored 21 goals and 23 assists in 44 games, leading all freshmen in scoring. Gaudreau played a key part in Boston College’s win in team’s National Championship, scoring a highlight reel goal late in the third period in their 4′€“1 win in the final over Ferris State. Gaudreau was awarded the Bill Flynn Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Hockey East Championship tournament. Gaudreau also helped BC win the traditional Beanpot Tournament for the third year in a row and was named “Beanpot MVP” after the tournament.

Instead of leaving after his sophomore season last spring, Gaudreau stayed and Boston College. “Johnny Hockey” would post one of the most memorable hockey seasons in his school’s history.

He tied Paul Kariya‘s record for the Hockey East single season scoring streak at 31 games recording 29 goals and 61 points during this spree. He was named the Hockey East Player of the Year for the second straight season, as well as earning the league’s scoring title with 36 points in 20 games, and was named a unanimous First-Team All-Star. On March 20, he was also named a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist and a top 3 “Hobey Hat Trick” finalist for the second straight year on April 2.

His season came to a stunning end Thursday when BC lost to the Union Dutchmen in the Frozen Four, he finished the season with 36 goals and 44 assists for 80 points in 40 games played.

Gaudreau said after his sophomore season that one of the main reasons he stayed was to play with his younger brother Matt, who joined the team in the fall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston College, Calgary Flames, David Emma, Frozen Four

UMass-Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck wins Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goalie

04.11.14 at 2:44 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Every award needs a first winner. Earlier this season, Let’€™s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation introduced the Mike Richter Award. Named after the former University of Wisconsin great and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer, the award would honor the top goalie in college hockey every year.

On Friday, UMass-Lowell’€™s Connor Hellebuyck became the award’€™s first winner. The sophomore netminder led the country in both save percentage (.941) and goals against average (1.79) for the second year in a row. He posted an 18-9-2 record and helped lead the River Hawks to their second straight Hockey East tournament title, earning tournament MVP honors for a second straight year in the process.

Hellebuyck, who signed with the Winnipeg Jets after Lowell’€™s season ended with a regional final loss to Boston College on March 30, finished his college career with an NCAA-record .946 save percentage and a program-record 12 shutouts. Perhaps most incredible of all, he finished with as many shutouts as losses in his 53-game career.

“I think it’€™s a huge honor, and I think it’€™s a huge milestone in my life that I’€™ll never forget,” Hellebuyck said after receiving the award. “I hope we can set a good standard for the future because goaltenders should look up to this and be really proud and really striving for excellence to achieve this, because this is just huge.”

When Hellebuyck got to Lowell back in the fall of 2012, he was already an NHL draft pick, but he wasn’€™t guaranteed anything in terms of playing time. The River Hawks already had Doug Carr, who was coming off a strong sophomore season that earned him Hockey East Second Team honors. Read the rest of this entry »

Daniel Ciampini’s hat trick leads Union past BC, ending Eagles’ season in Frozen Four

04.10.14 at 7:36 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Trailing 3-2 with a little more than 13 minutes to go in Thursday’€™s national semifinal, Boston College got a golden chance to tie the game. Just 18 seconds after Union had taken the lead, Dutchmen forward Matt Hatch was ejected from the game for hitting Michael Sit from behind, giving BC a five-minute power play.

But the Eagles couldn’€™t take advantage. They were sloppy entering the zone and struggled to find lanes, as their passes and shots were consistently met by Union sticks and legs. At one point, they even wound up icing the puck. They finally got a golden opportunity with 20 seconds left on the power play, but Union goalie Colin Stevens (34 saves) robbed Teddy Doherty on a rebound chance.

If the five-minute kill took the wind out of BC’€™s sails, what happened next capsized the ship. Just four seconds after the man advantage expired, Kevin Sullivan picked Steve Santini‘€™s pocked and walked in on a breakaway. Freshman goalie Thatcher Demko (36 saves) made the first save, but Sullivan collected the rebound and sent a pass back to the slot that freshman center and Saugus native Mike Vecchione buried to give Union a 4-2 lead and essentially end BC’s season.

“They’re a great shot-blocking team. I was net-front [on the power play], and I couldn’t even see the puck because they had two or three guys in the lane every time,” said BC senior captain Patrick Brown. “But we didn’t create enough movement, didn’t get enough pucks to the net. Credit to them. They played unbelievable.” Read the rest of this entry »

UMass’ Derrick Gordon first openly gay Div. 1 men’s college basketball player

04.09.14 at 10:11 am ET
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UMass guard Derrick Gordon announced in interviews with the media that were published Wednesday that he is gay, making him the first men’s college basketball player to come out.

Gordon, a sophomore from Plainfield, N.J., said he told his family, coaches and teammates at the end of March and first days of April. He noted that he was inspired by the Nets‘ signing of Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player.

“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” the 22-year-old told ESPN. “I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak. I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division 1 player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?’ ”

Gordon started all 33 games this past season — his first at UMass after transferring from Western Kentucky, and averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. However, he told Outsports.com that he considered walking away from the game because his teammates were treating him differently after rumors started to circulate about his homosexuality — which Gordon denied.

“That was probably the lowest point I was ever at,” he told Outsports. “I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. I just wanted to run and hide somewhere. I used to go back to my room and I’d just cry. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep.

“Nobody should ever feel that way.”

After the Minutemen lost to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament on March 21, he decided to make his sexuality public.

“I just had a lot of time to myself, thinking, and I didn’t know what I was waiting for,” he said.

Gordon told coach Derek Kellogg in a phone conversation on March 30 and then talked to the team — with Kellogg by his side — on April 2. Gordon said the team was supportive, with one player telling him, “We got you; you’re one of us.”

“Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake,” Gordon said. “But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Read More: Derrick Gordon,

Jim Christian makes his passionate case – and plan – to make Boston College hoops relevant again

04.08.14 at 9:18 pm ET
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CHESTNUT HILL — Jim Christian was officially introduced by athletic director Brad Bates Tuesday as the new head coach of the men’s basketball program at Boston College. Christian, who replaces the fired Steve Donahue, says he plans on boosting the image of Boston College through selective recruiting and has already reportedly attracted a prominent scouting coach from the University of Maryland. Meanwhile, Christian said he had reached out to star player Ryan Anderson, who has informed the school he will be transferring to another school after getting his injured shoulder treated.

In introducing Christian, Bates explained his reasoning for selecting the 49-year-old who has previously coached at Kent State, TCU and, most recently, Ohio University. Bates, the former athletic director at Miami of Ohio, indicated he was familiar with Bates from his time at Kent State, where he led the Golden Flashes to six consecutive seasons of twenty or more wins, four MAC East division titles, two overall MAC titles, and two conference tournament championships. His teams also had five post-season appearances, three in the NIT and two in the NCAA Tournament. His record at Kent State was 137′€“59. He moved onto Texas Christian in 2008 before a two-year stint at Ohio University.

“Exciting day in Boston College basketball,” Bates said. “There are a lot of characteristics you look at when you are selecting the next leader of your basketball program.

“There are some core elements at Boston College that go without question, they’re fundamental. Integrity, competitiveness, ability to coach and recruit. But beyond that, Jim Christian brings really four elements that makes me really excited to have him leading our program. 

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Read More: Boston College, Brad Bates, Jim Christian, Kent State

Thatcher Demko has ‘unspeakable amount of excitement’ for Frozen Four in Philadelphia

04.08.14 at 7:09 pm ET
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CHESTNUT HILL — Boston College standout freshman goalie Thatcher Demko is looking forward to heading to Philadelphia and taking on Union College in the NCAA Frozen Four national semifinal on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.

“Unspeakable amount of excitement I think,” Demko said before hopping on a bus that would take the team to the airport and a flight for Philadelphia. “Everyone is just really excited to get out there. Looking forward to it.”

The Eagles, the No. 2 seed in the 16-team field, will play No. 3 seed Union College on Thursday night. The winner of that game will take on the winner of the No. 1 seed Minnesota and North Dakota in the national championship Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Boston College players and coaches, led by NCAA wins leader Jerry York, left campus Tuesday afternoon for the trip to Philadelphia and to begin preparations at Wells Fargo Center. One player who will be especially looking forward to the trip is Hobey Baker favorite Johnny Gaudreau, a junior and native of nearby Carneys Point, New Jersey.

“I know it’s his hometown so he’s going to owe some guys [dinner],” Demko said.

Even new men’s basketball coach got in on the act Tuesday during his introductory news conference, “Give my all of my best to Coach York and the BC hockey team as they set out to hang another banner in Conte Forum and win the national championship. You don’t have to be here long to know who ‘Johnny Hockey’ is and his quest to win the Hobey Baker Award.”

Demko is 16-4-3 in 23 games with BC this season with a 2.16 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .920 save percentage. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau has him ranked as the top draft-eligible goalie in this year’s NHL draft.

He is the likely starter Thursday against Union after making 18 saves in a 6-2 victory against Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 29 and 29 saves in a 4-3 victory against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in the quarterfinal round on March 30. Demko is a freshman who is trying to lead the Eagles to their sixth national title and fourth in seven years. The Eagles have won the NCAA championship in each of the even-numbered years since 2008.

Demko said Tuesday he’ll be relying on juniors like Gaudreau and senior Kevin Hayes and Patrick Brown to show the underclassmen how it’s done on the big stage.

“Absolutely. We have a lot of guys that have been through it,” Demko said. “Juniors and seniors have both won a national championship so that experience is huge for us. Their experience is coming down to the lower class guys and helping us out and getting us ready for it.”

Read More: Boston College, Frozen Four, Johnny Gaudreau, Johnny Hockey

Kentucky coach John Calipari dismisses rumor that he will join Lakers

04.08.14 at 8:12 am ET
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Just before tipoff for Monday’€™s national championship game between UConn and Kentucky, a former Wildcats standout announced that a coaching change was in the works.

Rex Chapman, who accumulated 1,073 points during just two seasons in a Kentucky uniform in the mid-1980s, said on Twitter Monday evening that Wildcats bench boss John Calipari will serve as the head coach of the Lakers next season.

 

Calipari addressed the rumor after his young Kentucky squad fell to UConn, 60-54, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“The Lakers have a coach,’€ Calipari said, referring to Mike D’€™Antoni, who is in his second year in Los Angeles. ‘€œKentucky has a basketball coach. I’ve got the best job in the country. I’€™m not going to even dignify that stuff.”

The Lakers denied having contact with Calipari, and Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said after Monday’€™s game that he was not concerned about the situation.

‘€œCal’€™s been great, he’€™s been a great ambassador for this program and he cares a lot about Kentucky,’€ Barnhart said. ‘€œSo clearly we love how he represents what we do. He looks great in blue. You live day to day with people and you trust what they do. For five years now, I think I know him fairly well. If there was anything I need to be concerned with, he and I have had conversations, and in those conversations he’€™s been very, very focused on this tournament. His total focus this season, especially this last month and a half, has been to get the team to a spot where we could compete for something like this. I think he’€™s done a marvelous job doing that.’€

Read More: John Calipari, Rex Chapman,

Ryan Anderson to transfer from Boston College

04.08.14 at 7:44 am ET
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Junior forward Ryan Anderson announced on Twitter Monday evening that he will transfer from Boston College after three years with the basketball program.

 

Anderson’€™s announcement came one day before newly tabbed head coach Jim Christian will have his introductory press conference.

During his junior season, Anderson, a Lakewood, Calif., native, was the second most productive player for the Eagles. In 32 starts this season, Anderson averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Anderson was second only to sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who averaged 18.5 points per game. Hanlan told the Boston Herald on Monday that he is roughly a week and a half away from making his decision about whether or not he will leave BC to enter the NBA draft.

Read More: Olivier Hanlan, Ryan Anderson,
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