BC's Donahue builds a foundation

Steve Donahue may still be relatively new to Boston College and the ACC, but he's been around a while. He's been coaching long enough for his hair to go gray, or even silver.

Yet there was the veteran basketball boss, in Boston University's Case Gymnasium for the State of Massachusetts basketball media day, describing himself as a wide-eyed youngster.

"This is my first year, after 26 years of coaching, of having scholarships," Donahue said. "So I was like a kid in a candy shop a little bit."

When he was picked to succeed Al Skinner as BC's head coach, Donahue inherited a veteran-laden roster. That meant he could -- or maybe had to -- ease into implementing his system and building his program.

It also meant that sooner rather than later he would have to replenish the roster in a big way. The Eagles lost 10 letter winners from the 2010-11 team that went 21-13 and landed in the NIT, which meant that Donahue had quite a bit of prospect shopping to do.

During the season the team announced a five-player 2011-12 freshman class. Then it added a few more here, another there and one more here.

Every time it seemed the Eagles were done adding players, another announcement would come.

Donahue said he and his staff debated how best to use the scholarships available to them, and decided that this spending spree was the best course of action.

"The theory is if we see someone we like, that does what we want -- which I think is kinda unique -- and maybe they're physically not there but they're going to be there [we offer them a scholarship]," Donahue said. "Down the road maybe we redshirt one or two of those guys, but we've got guys that are high-character, skilled and can play, and in a couple of years they're gonna be really good. I think that was the theory of trying to get this foundation built."

Ultimately the Eagles ended up with nine freshmen, and also added two grad students with a year of eligibility left to a roster that otherwise consisted of two sophomores, one junior and one senior.

Asked if bringing in nine raw recruits in one fell swoop could serve as a deterrent to future recruits, Donahue said he didn't think so.

"Obviously I've gotten that question a lot," he said, "and here is what I'd respond to you if you're a prospective student: You know what, you don't have two seniors, four juniors ahead of you. ,,, You've got kids that are one year ahead of you.

"Not only that, they're gonna play with you. There's only one or two at each position, max, if that. You've got a chance to play with this group. [There's] not a lot of upperclassmen to hog the time for a couple years, you've got a chance to come in and play."

That's certainly the case this season, as Donahue said he plans to use as many as seven freshmen in ACC play.

The Eagles' top-rated recruit is Ryan Anderson, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward from Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), who Donahue compared to a young Joe Trapani. The 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year in California, Anderson can play inside and out and is likely to be one of the Eagles' best athletes.

Donahue is also excited about point guard Jordan Daniels (Fontana, Calif./Etiwanda) -- "He's as quick as there is with the ball in college basketball. He's a jet. He can go. I think he makes good decisions" -- and big men Dennis Clifford (Bridgewater, Mass./Milton Academy) and Kyle Caudill (Brea, Calif./Brea Olinda).

"The point of emphasis for our recruiting was, in general I think we have to be big. I think we have to be a bigger team," Donahue said. "If we're not gonna be the most athletic and longest team out there, somehow we have to combat that. We're gonna have great skill, I think you'll see that from the start, a good passing, shooting, dribbling team.

"I still think you need size and I think we did that with Dennis Clifford and Kyle Caudill. Both of those kids are as good as it gets at that size at being skilled in passing. & They're gonna have to get used to the speed and athleticism around the rim, staying out of foul trouble. But I feel great about those guys coming in and making an impact and getting better each and every day."

The coach is also excited about his international import.

"I think Patrick Heckmann is another kid that's as ready as anybody to play because he played high-level international competition, he played in professional leagues for a couple of years," Donahue said. "He's been through a lot. If we had a game today, he's a kid who I think would understand what the level's like."

Heckmann, from Mainz, Germany, played the 2010-11 season with TV Langen, a German third-division pro team. He averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists a game. Heckmann has also played on the German U18 and U20 national teams in tournaments in Lithuania and Spain.

On Wednesday, the ACC will hold its "Operation Basketball" media day in Charlotte, N.C. Each team will be represented in interviews and TV spots by its head coach and two selected players, which for many programs means veteran, experienced leaders.

But because the Eagles are a team in transition -- Donahue building his program like a three-man weave, a new player filling each open space on the break -- their contingent will consist of the gray-haired coach and two (Heckmann and Clifford) of their many fresh faces.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.