Heights Highlights IV: Away from BC

Heights Highlights IV: Away from BC

By Anthony Iati

If you’re still following this series of posts, you’re either an absolute Boston College Eagles diehard or someone who has an interest in the student broadcasting of WZBC Sports. Either way, I thank you for reading these accounts of my recently completed four years broadcasting and watching BC Athletics up close. My reasons for publishing these are mostly selfish- (1) it ensures I’ll always have a record to look back on of the games and teams I covered in college and (2) my full-time job does not begin until August and this seemed like a somewhat productive use of free time. That being said, I hope these posts are enjoyable for people other than myself. 

To read the previous three articles:

The first three installments in this series focused on BC student-athletes and games I watched in my time at BC, including events I was a mere spectator for. Today, I wanted to do things a little differently and hone in on recognizing the best of my broadcasting experiences that are not BC related. After a quick count, I determined I broadcast BC games against 21 different programs across the four major sports. In those games, I got a chance to see a lot of spectacular things. Below are three lists drawn solely from the games I broadcasted: (1) the most outstanding opposing student-athletes I saw, (2) the best programs I covered, and (3) the coolest venues in which I had the privilege of broadcasting at least one BC game.

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The Ten Most Outstanding Opponents (please note that rankings are not based solely on performance against BC, but on their overall collegiate careers and that parentheses indicate the number of times I broadcasted a BC game against the given opponent).

10. Matt Thaiss- C, Virginia baseball

What I saw (3 games): 2-11, 4 BB, 2 RBI, 2 errors. Thaiss is an example of someone who I was excited to watch play for three straight days but underwhelmed in those games. Leading up to BC’s series against UVA in 2016, I read about how phenomenal Thaiss was both at and behind the plate. He managed just two hits in the series and made two crucial throwing errors that helped the Birds take two of three. 

Where he is now: Despite underperforming against BC, Thaiss was hailed as one of the best players in the 2016 MLB Draft and was selected 16th overall- three spots ahead of BC’s Justin Dunn- by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Thaiss has moved to first base and is batting .262 for the Inland Empire 66ers in Class A ball.

9. Mike Williams- WR, Clemson football

What I saw (1 game): I covered both the 2014 and 2015 Eagles losses to great Clemson teams, but Williams was only healthy for the first matchup. He torched the BC secondary in Alumni Stadium with 8 catches for 128 yards in a 17-13 Tigers victory. In the 2015 game at Clemson, the Tiger offense put up 34 points without him, despite throwing two interceptions. 

Where he is now: Williams was, in a way, the first draft pick in the history of the Los Angeles Chargers. The physical receiver was taken 7th overall a month ago and could form a great rapport with Philip Rivers, who loves throwing the ball into traffic. Here’s betting Williams continues a trend of Clemson WRs having NFL success (DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant). 

8. Pavin Smith- 1B, Virginia baseball

What I saw (3 games): 2-12, 4 RBI. Like Thaiss, Smith failed to have a monster series against BC when I was on the call. But of his two hits, one was certainly memorable. Smith rocked a three-run bomb out of Shea Field in extra innings of the series finale. The missile appeared to sink BC until Michael Strem’s game-tying double kept the game alive. When I think back to this broadcast, I remember Smith’s homer and Strem’s double far more than I remember BC’s eventual walk-off hit. 

Where he is now: Smith is gearing up to be selected early in June’s MLB Draft. However you feel about mock drafts, Smith has been connected multiple times to the Philadelphia Phillies at No. 8, as the Phils search for a polished college hitter. 

7. Joel Berry- G, North Carolina basketball

What I saw (2 games): The Eagles did a nice job neutralizing Berry, too. I covered the Eagles’ two most recent home dates against UNC. Berry combined for 19 points and 6 assists in the two games, but was an effective enough distributor that UNC snuck out of Conte Forum with two narrow wins. 

Where he is now: The national champion and Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 Final Four is coming back to North Carolina for his senior year.

6. Anders Bjork- F, Notre Dame hockey

What I saw (1 game): A goal, an assist, and blazing speed. I had never seek Bjork play in person before but I left Conte Forum on January 28 fully aware that the Bruins prospect was the fastest, most exciting player on the ice in BC’s 6-4 win over the Irish.

Where he is now: Hey, good timing. Just a few hours ago the Bruins inked Bjork to a three-year entry-level contract. He’ll either be a Providence or Boston Bruin come the fall. 

5. Clayton Keller- F, Boston University hockey

What I saw (2 games): In the Beanpot semifinal, a breakaway, short-handed goal by Keller to extend both BU’s lead and his personal point streak. In the Hockey East semifinal, a furious rally led by Keller with an assist and then a goal to nearly erase a 3-0 Terrier deficit in the game’s final minutes.

Where he is now: Keller is a Phoenix Coyote. After BU’s season ended in March, the 18-year-old jumped right to the pro game to finish out Phoenix’s season. BC is fortunate it will not have to face Keller anymore.

4. Justin Jackson- F, North Carolina basketball

What I saw (2 games): Jackson’s numbers in the two games I covered were nearly identical- in each he played 31-32 minutes, scored 20-22 points, and grabbed 3-4 boards. Each of those solid games seemed so quiet to me. Despite winning 2016-17 ACC Player of the Year, Jackson never stood out to me at Conte Forum as a star who was all over the court, and yet he led UNC to victories in these two games and ultimately a national title.

Where he is now: The 22-year-old Jackson is projected to be picked between No. 10 and No. 20 in the upcoming NBA Draft. I’m far from being an NBA talent evaluator, but I do not have much faith in Jackson compiling a standout NBA career unless he continues improving his shot and/or gets much stronger.

3. John Collins- C, Wake Forest basketball

What I saw (2 games): I covered Wake’s comeback win at Conte Forum in January 2017 and its ACC Tournament victory over BC at Barclays Center in March. Collins was an absolute monster in both games. Admittedly, BC lacked a strong defensive big man this season, but Collins annihilated everything the Eagles threw his way. How do 26 & 16 (January) and 19 & 12 (ACCs) sound for the 6’10” sophomore? I was hoping Collins would win the ACC PoY Award over Jackson; to me he was the more consistently dominant player.

Where he is now: Collins declared for the NBA draft (more good news for BC). He has a chance to be a lottery pick but is more likely to be picked shortly after the top 14. 

2. Lamar Jackson- QB, Louisville football

What I saw (1 game): A complete undressing. I was calling play-by-play for the November 2016 game at Alumni Stadium. Jackson effectively ended the game in the first quarter. He played three quarters of the game and accounted for seven touchdowns with ease. One of the most effortlessly great individual performances I’ve seen on a football field. It makes for a difficult broadcast when one player immediately puts a stranglehold on a football game.

Where he is now: Jackson has to come back for his third year at Louisville. The Eagles have to go face the Heisman Trophy winner on his own field this fall. Less than ideal.

1. DeShaun Watson- QB, Clemson football

What I saw (1 game): Watson sat out the 2014 matchup in Chestnut Hill a week after breaking a finger. I saw him at Memorial Stadium in 2015, though, when Clemson was ranked No. 5 and on its way to the national championship game. He did not impress me early, throwing a quick interception and later adding another. But in between, Watson torched the country’s best defense for 420 passing yards and 3 TDs. He also ran in another score as part of his 32 rushing yards. The Tigers cruised, 34-17.

Where he is now: Watson was the third quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Houston Texans traded up to select him at No. 12, seeing Watson as the most NFL-ready QB who will likely be tasked with immediately returning Houston to the playoffs. I’m biased because of what I’ve seen Watson do to BC, but count me among his supporters and believers at the next level.

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The Top Five Programs – there is little explanation needed here. You know what these programs are all about and it was fun to watch them go about their business from a student media perspective. 

5. Miami baseball (3 games)- I called BC’s series with the Canes in the year Miami saw its 44-year NCAA Tournament streak snapped. 

4. Syracuse basketball (1 game)- I caught the Orange in what was supposed to be a down year but turned into a Final Four year.

3. Boston University hockey (2 games)- a historic program that I saw give BC fits. Thankfully zero national championships in this decade for the Terriers. 

2. Clemson football (2 games)- I broadcast BC vs. Clemson in the year Clemson came up just short in the national title game and in its 10-3 season the year before. Not bad.

1. North Carolina basketball (2 games)- A step above Clemson. I was fortunate enough to call the Heels’ wins in Conte in their national runner-up and national championship seasons.

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The Broadcasting Venues

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to call BC games in four venues away from campus, including one on another continent. 

TD Garden, March 2017, with Scott Geyman and Quinn Kelly for the Battle of Comm Ave in the Hockey East Semifinals.

Getting rained on in the press “box” with Casey Hague was the only downside of broadcasting from open-air Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, in September 2016.

I had two opportunities to broadcast BC Basketball in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. A state-of-the-art facility that was quite hospitable and even played host to a BC win in December 2015. Pictured from left: Steve McAlee, Kevin Fritz, and myself.

At Clemson in October 2015, Casey Hague and I were given a broadcaster’s dream booth at Memorial Stadium- 50 yard line, not too high up, enclosed everywhere except in front. Perfect for gauging the pulse of Death Valley, injecting crowd noise to the broadcast, and of course viewing the field.