It's taken him a while, but Boston College senior center Josh Southern is starting to come around.
Southern, who has been recovering from minor surgery in the offseason, missed the Eagles' first game, a 79-49 win over St. Francis (NY), and has played limited minutes in the Eagles' following games against Yale and Holy Cross.
In Monday night's win against the Crusaders, Southern played seven minutes and finished with one point, two rebounds, one block and one assist.
"He's getting there," said Boston College head coach Steve Donahue. "Obviously, conditioning is a problem."
Southern has struggled to get back into game shape, and has looked lost at points when he has played. Yet Donahue believes that, when he's at his best, Southern can really help the Eagles.
"I think he's a difference maker offensively, in particular, for us," said Donahue. "He really moves the ball, you saw a couple passes he had [on Monday night], and he's a rebounder. Especially, if we start going a little smaller, we need another big in there when he's in there."
In three seasons at Boston College, the 6'10", 263-pound Southern averaged 5.3 points and four rebounds in 85 games. He scored 113 points and had 67 rebounds (3.4 per game) in 20 games during his freshman season. As a sophomore, Southern amassed a career-high 203 points and 172 rebounds (5.1 per game) while starting all 34 games.
Last season, Southern finished with 136 points and 99 boards (3.2 per game) and started in 25 of the Eagles' 31 games.
His career high in scoring is 13 points, a feat which he has accomplished four times. His personal best in rebounding is 11, which he achieved twice. In addition, Southern has also blocked three shots in a game on two occasions.
In Southern's only other game this season against Yale, he had two points and two assists in eight minutes and made his only attempted shot.
Cortney Dunn has started in place of Southern in all three of the Eagles games so far, and has averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 14.3 minutes a night.
While Southern has never been looked at as a scorer on the Eagles' roster, his presence as a rebounder has been a valuable asset. Not only is Southern a solid rebounder, but he is also a fundamentally sound player.
"If you look, he has a very good feel for the game," Donahue said. "I love his passing ability."
That being said, Southern is of little use to the team if he is not at full health.
"We really need him to get in great shape," said Donahue.
Southern's recovery has been very slow, but as the season moves on, Donahue expects him be back into the regular rotation. Until that point, Southern will continue to see a slight increase in playing time each game.
"I would hope," Donahue said when asked if Southern would receive more minutes in Boston College's next game against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving (12 p.m., ESPN2).
Boston College can get away without a big man like Southern against lower-level opponents, such as St. Francis (NY), Yale and Holy Cross, but will not be able to survive without him against the likes of Duke and North Carolina.
Yet if Southern continues to progress at the current rate, he will be back at the top of his game when the Eagles start their ACC schedule on Saturday, January 8th against Georgia Tech at Conte Forum (4 p.m. ET).