This time last year, the closest thing Boston University men's basketball coach Joe Jones had to a silver lining was the fact that he didn't have any hair to pull from his head. He was dealing with the stress of seeing Maurice Watson, the point guard who helped the Terriers get to the Patriot League championship game in 2014, jump ship for Creighton and having all the plans he'd envisioned fall apart in a blink.
He had to quickly shuffle things around and ask his best scorer, Cedric Hankerson, if he'd be comfortable with more on his plate. Hankerson had no trouble doing a little bit of everything for the Terriers, finishing in the top 20 in the Patriot League in scoring (15.9, fourth), steals (1.8, second), assists (2.6, 11th), and rebounding (4.5, 18th), and the Terriers made the best out of what was supposed to be a scramble season, going 13-17 overall and 9-9 in the league.
But this season, Jones's stress level is relatively low. He has everyone returning from a year ago, his team was picked to finish third in the conference, and he believes he found a hidden gem in Kyle Foreman, a freshman point guard from Clyde Hill, Wash., who could eventually help Jones forget all about losing Watson.
"You know he's good," Jones said. "But you don't know how good he's going to be this early."
There are still some snags — Hankerson, still recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in April, missed the start of the season, and the team's second-leading scorer, Eric Fanning, is sitting out after being indefinitely suspended for violating team rules — but with so many things going right, Jones was optimistic about the season.
BU beat Albany, 69-64, in Monday night's nonconference matchup at Case Gym to improve to 1-1.
Q. Considering where you were last year and how uncertain things were, not knowing who your point guard was going to be, how much more comfortable do you feel with the circumstances your team has now compared with last year?
JONES: "Yeah, the team fits together. I just think last year, we were moving parts around, we were trying to figure it out. We had to move our best scorer on the ball, and any time you do that, it's tough, man. It's really tough to take a guy like Cedric, who is a scorer, and try to ask him now to score, distribute, run the team.
"That guy, he's such a great kid, he's going to do whatever you ask him to do, but at times we just struggled because we had no flow. I think we were second in the league in scoring but we were last in assist-to-turnover ratio, and the way we play, we hope to look more like the Golden State Warriors because the ball's moving.
"Man, if your assist-to-turnover ratio's bad, you're going to have a hard time being a consistently good team. So we struggled a little bit with that."
Q. You had four guys who were out in the preseason with different things; how much does it feel like when you're getting right and things are coming together, there's still something?
A. "Yeah, that really hurt us, man. I think the thing we have to watch out for is last year we went down to Kentucky, played well down there, and then we came back and we stunk. Our attitude wasn't right, we weren't committed to playing and playing hard, so we came back and we didn't compete. Those teams were good and they beat us.
"That's the thing that I want to make sure that we don't do this year. If somebody's going to beat us, they beat us, but let's give them our best shot. We've got to be committed to that."
Q. How much, early in the season, do you tell yourself, "All right, we're going to go through things. Sometimes we're going to be up, sometimes we're going to be down until we get Cedric back, until we get Fanning back?"
A. "I think right now, we have a hell of a schedule. I think the schedule is probably as tough of a schedule as we've had since we first got here. So the thing that we have to do is we've got to be more committed to trying to get better. We want to win every game, we're here to win, but there's a difference. You're committed to getting better, which puts you in a position to win. I think that's the thing that we have to help our guys understand.
Q. Where'd you find Kyle Foreman, and what was your first impression of him?
A. "It's funny, I can't take credit for this one. So Larry Anderson from MIT calls me in Vegas. He knew we lost Maurice. He knew we were looking for a guard. He's like, 'Man, you've got to see this kid play.' So I go watch Kyle Foreman play. He might've had 8 points, but he had like 15 assists! I was like, 'Holy crap!'
"So I couldn't tell, 'Is this guy really good?' So I saw that game, I saw another game, and I really liked him and we were lucky. We had some other guys we were looking at, but I really liked him, I liked the way he handled himself, I liked his family.
"We went to see him in a high school practice, and that's always terrible. You're watching practice and you're like, 'I'm not getting anything out of this.' Then I go down to a high school game and it's the same thing. The competition's terrible. He gets in foul trouble early.
"When he came up here this summer and he was playing, then I was like, 'He's pretty good.' But then we started practicing and things started getting more organized and he started looking better. Then, I was like, 'This dude's good.'
"Now, can he be consistent? Now, I think Kyle has the right temperament to continue to get better. I think he's hungry and he wants to get better. The other thing about Kyle is he's fearless. He's a basketball player. He's got no ego and he's fearless. It's awesome to have."