BC has work to do to fill void left by S. Williams' departure

Shot-blocking looks to be greatest loss

ACC notebook

January 24, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

Heading into this season, Boston College coach Al Skinner warned his team not to rely on the deft defense of 6-foot-10 junior center Sean Williams, one of the top shot-blockers in the country and a potential NBA draft pick.

Now, after Williams and reserve forward Akida McClain were dismissed from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules, the Eagles have no choice.

Boston College, which beat Florida State, 85-82, last night to remain atop the Atlantic Coast Conference standings at 6-1, is working through some major adjustments to compensate for the 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and ACC-high 5.1 blocked shots that Williams averaged in 15 games.

He was the school's career leader in blocked shots with 193 in 69 games.

"The scoring I'm not concerned about," Skinner said. "The rebounding is a factor for us. If we can rebound the ball, I think we'll be OK."

Freshman forward Shamari Spears now has a permanent spot in the starting lineup. Among the players whose roles will change are Tyrelle Blair, who has averaged 10.5 minutes this season, and Marquez Haynes, who has started three games and averages 20 minutes.

Skinner also said Tyler Roche, who has averaged 6.2 minutes in 10 games, has to be ready if called upon.

"Those guys' roles will change and they will have to improve in order for us to remain competitive," Skinner said. "Those are the individuals left in our club. We have to take advantage of what their abilities are."

In the team's 74-54 loss at Clemson on Jan. 20 - the first game after Williams was dismissed - Boston College allowed the Tigers to make nine three-pointers and shoot 50.8 percent from the field.

"We'll get back to our fundamentals and the core of what our defense should be and anchor ourselves on that," Skinner said. "Yes, obviously [Williams' play] was a bonus, but it wasn't something we geared our defense toward. I think our guards understand that and hopefully we'll be able to execute it better."

Decimated 'Canes

The good news for Miami is that it doesn't play again until Jan. 31, because the Hurricanes are down to eight scholarship players after backup forward Fabio Nass tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice last week.

Nass is the fourth of six post players on the Hurricanes' roster to have suffered a long-term injury. There is no chance center Anthony King (wrist), forward Adrian Thomas (sports hernia) or Nass will play this season, but forward Jimmy Graham (hand) could return the week before the start of the ACC tournament.

That leaves Dwayne Collins as the Hurricanes' only true post player.

Miami coach Frank Haith said he's never experienced so many season-ending injuries in his coaching career.

"Most teams only have four post players," Haith said. "To lose four guys in your front line, I've never been a part of that."

Wolfpack shift?

Last season, it was Maryland's D.J. Strawberry who was thrust into the uncomfortable role of leading his team's offense. This season, it's N.C. State's Gavin Grant who has been shifted from his natural position of small forward to point guard.

With senior starter Engin Atsur (hamstring) uncertain for the Wolfpack's game against Virginia at 9 tonight, it's possible Grant will still be stuck there.

Since Atsur injured his hamstring in November, he has missed 12 games. Atsur returned against Boston College on Jan. 6, when he made a career-high 10 assists, but reinjured his hamstring at practice the next day.

In his place, Grant has made 83 assists and 87 turnovers. He is averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said the situation has frustrated the team.

"They're the ones who have to go out there and fight and battle every single day without [Atsur]," Lowe said. "It's very, very frustrating. I think Gavin in part certainly takes that on a lot. He's got to now handle the basketball and even the backcourt quite a bit. When he's playing small forward, he's running the floor, he's getting up into the frontcourt and being able to attack. It's been very frustrating for his teammates."

Lowe said Atsur worked out for about 2 1/2 hours Monday, including his physical therapy.

"Right now, it's day-to-day," Lowe said Monday. heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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