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Men's college basketball notebook

Boston University men’s basketball team benefiting from the experience of its graduate students

Walter Whyte (5) and Jonas Harper (15) have experienced just about everything together on a basketball court.Cadey Spencer/BU Athletics

One day early this season, Boston University freshman Otto Landrum had an epiphany that two of his older teammates embody characters from the animated movie “Kung Fu Panda.”

Walter Whyte is “Master Oogway,” the elder tortoise, venerated for his wisdom, knowledge, and poise. Jonas Harper is “Shifu,” a highly skilled warrior who masterfully trains a promising younger panda.

At first, Whyte and Harper just played along to humor Landrum. Eventually, though, they realized they were fitting monikers and decided to embrace them. Now Whyte’s nickname has a nickname, as “Master Oogway” has turned into “Big Oogs.”

Whyte, Harper, and fellow graduate student Fletcher Tynen have played a combined 362 games for BU. Whyte has heard every “Breaking Bad” joke imaginable, but the reality is, chemistry is critical for this savvy and seasoned team.

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“If you’re a coach, that means everything to you,” BU coach Joe Jones said. “To have guys that stick around in your program, that want to come back and play.”

The roster also has five seniors and five juniors, with just one sophomore and three freshmen.

Only one member transferred to BU. Otherwise, the team is made up of players who have spent their entire careers with the Terriers. In the modern era of college basketball, where the paths of players can be a dizzying game of musical chairs, BU is an exception.

Twenty-four-year old Walter Whyte is an experienced player.Clarus Multimedia Group

The Terriers take pride in their continuity, and they believe it will pay dividends long term.

“We’re not afraid to talk to each other,” Harper said. “It’s good when you have people that know each other, because you don’t have to sugarcoat things. If somebody needs to get yelled at, or be directed, we can do that. We’re all comfortable with each other.”

As Whyte, a two-time Patriot League third-team selection, mulled his options this offseason, he realized returning to his “second home” for another season was the best choice.

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Off the court, he could finish his master’s degree. On it, he felt like the Terriers had unfinished business.

BU won the conference championship in 2020, with all three current graduate students playing key roles. The Terriers were set to head to their first NCAA Tournament since 2011 before it was canceled because of the pandemic.

“It made us hungrier,” Harper said. “We want more.”

The Terriers sputtered through a shortened season the next year, and last season, they finished 22-13 and lost in overtime in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Whyte, a 6-foot-6-inch wing, and Harper, a 6-2 guard — who also starred together at St. Luke’s School in Connecticut — have played together for almost 10 years. They didn’t want the 2022 heartbreak to be their last hurrah.

Harper said the triumph in 2020 gives them a vision and a jolt of confidence.

“It would mean the world to me if we could get it done together one last time,” Whyte said.

As the 24-year-old channels “Big Oogs,” he reminds the younger players that it often takes sacrifice and struggle to achieve greatness.

Harper said the older Terriers take pride in mentoring the newcomers. They watch movies, play video games, and crack jokes in their group chat to make everyone feel welcome.

“When you have older guys, and an older group, you know what needs to be said and what to do at the right time,” Harper said. “That’s what helps us throughout these whole games. It means a lot. These are dudes I’m going to be talking to for the rest of my life, people who are going to be invited to my wedding.”

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Harper called coming back one of the best decisions he’s made. Deciding was stressful, and he even made a pros-and-cons list on top of talking to his family and friends. In the end, he’s thankful he mapped it out, because it helped reaffirm the fact that he’s where he’s supposed to be.

Jonas Harper has played the role of savvy veteran for the Terriers.Clarus Multimedia Group

Jones is grateful for their loyalty and that they’ve trusted him and his staff all these years.

“I think it says a lot about them and their character, and who they are as people, that they stayed the course,” Jones said.

Winning ways

UMass Lowell (8-1) is off to its best start since 2002-03 … UMass improved to 6-1 with a 71-68 win over Harvard on Friday. The Minutemen are 5-0 in games decided by single digits … Boston College’s Prince Aligbe (lower body) saw his first action since Nov. 11 in a loss to Duke on Saturday. Fellow freshman Donald Hand is out for the season (torn ACL) … Fifth-year guard Josh Mack delivered his second buzzer-beater of the season, lifting Stonehill to a 69-66 win over Binghamton on Saturday.


Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com.