Darryl Partin came to Boston University billed as a player who could score thirty one night and zero the next. During a two game span earlier this season, he registered both of those point totals, but Partin’s impact has exceeded all expectations.
When Partin transferred from La Salle after the end of the 2008-2009 school year, he left behind his home, his family and two years of his college life. What he brought with him was baggage.
Partin came to BU with a reputation as a player who rarely ignited on the court, but who was highly combustible in the locker room.
“He can score thirty against UMass, but then not score a point the next night. The book on him is he’ll give you something on offense if he’s getting the ball and shots are falling, but won’t play hard and it has to be all about him,” said one rival America East coach after Partin transferred to the Terriers.
“He’ll be a bust,” said another coach before the start of the season.
“People called him a pig: selfish, unmotivated, only looking to ‘get his,’ they said he put himself above the team,” says Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers.
But in his first season in a Terriers uniform, Partin has been the polar opposite of what he was labeled to be. The “bust” that many around the league predicted has blossomed into one of the best scorers in the America East and a crucial part of a Terriers squad hitting its stride as the conference tournament approaches.
A big guard with a soft touch from outside and the ability to score in transition, Partin ranks sixth in the conference in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game. His 16.4 points per game in conference play is also good for sixth among all AE players.
It’s been a long road to redemption for Partin.
Transferring from La Salle for meant leaving the only city and only home the “Philly kid” had ever known, and separation from a family which Partin is incredibly close to.
From the moment he set foot on campus, Partin was confronted by Chambers. From practices to pick-up games, Chambers was all over Partin, loudly critiquing his effort – particularly on the defensive end – his work ethic, and his leadership.
“We’re just working on his habits to make him the best player he can be to help this team for the long haul,” says Chambers of his discussions with Partin, which at times seemed more like confrontations. “I challenged him to challenge himself to be great.”
Partin’s season got off to an inauspicious start. During his first six games in a Terriers uniform, the lanky 6’5” guard hit double figures only once, and lost his spot in the starting lineup.
Chambers often likes to invoke the image of “tapping away at the stone until it breaks,” and the stone broke for Partin on November 27th against Cornell. Against the Big Red, when the Terriers desperately needed someone to step up, Partin answered the call, erupting for a career high 32 points while putting the Terriers on his back and carrying them to a gritty 66-61 victory. Partin scored 30 of his 32 in the second half, including one stretch where he scored 17 straight and another where he hit six huge free throws in a row during the final 38 seconds of the game.
It was the end result of over a year spent tapping away – in the weight room, during summer runs, in film sessions and in practice – time in which Partin grew in immeasurable ways, thanks to the tough-love approach of his coach.
“Coach gets on you, but its all love. He’ll yell at you, but right afterwards he’ll slap you on the butt, and tell you ‘I love you,’ and you’ll do anything for a person like that,” says Partin.
“I think he’s really grown a lot,” says Terrier guard and captain Matt Griffin, who has known Partin for a long time through their shared Philly roots. “He’s really stepping up as a leader.”
While his game against Cornell represented a career high, the true turning point of Partin’s career may have come against his former school. Partin scored 20 points to go with five assists and six rebounds in a near-upset of La Salle.
“[The game] could have been a horrific night for all of us, if he went out and tried to get his, or went out to try to prove a point to the coach. But he didn’t do that. He played BU basketball within the confines of what we do, and I thought he played beautifully,” said Chambers following the game.
For a player with a reputation for being unreliable, Partin has been the model of consistency for the Terriers. Starting with the Cornell game, Partin has now scored in double figures in 21 of BU’s last 24 contests. And while conference Player of the Year front-runner – and face of BU basketball – John Holland has garnered all of the headlines, Partin has been critical to the Terriers success down the stretch.
Partin has given the second-place Terriers a consistent second scoring option to compliment Holland. The duo have formed the highest scoring pair in the league, averaging 36.9 points per game in conference play. And it is no coincidence that after starting the season 6-10, the Terriers have gone 10-3 since, with Partin becoming an increasingly important contributor.
But Partin has proven to be far more than just a scorer. Long before he got into a groove scoring the ball, he was already improving in the area once considered his biggest weakness: defense. Partin has emerged as one of the Terriers’ best perimeter defenders.
“I think his priorities have changed. He’s really focused on defending and rebounding now, and I think that’s going to help his offense,” says Chambers.
And for a guy who entered the league with a reputation for having an ego the size of Case Gymnasium, Partin’s time in the scarlet and white has been defined by his complete lack of one.
“He’ll throw a ball out of bounds and turn to me and apologize to me in the middle of the game, ‘I’m sorry coach, that’s my bad coach.’ I mean, who else does that?” says Chambers.
“It doesn’t really matter, 20 points or 10 points, what matters is being focused on your teammates and giving your best effort,” says Partin.
Partin is quick to deflect praise for the season he is having, saying “It’s just my teammates getting me the ball in a good position to score.”
Truth be told, Partin’s press conferences are bland, bordering on downright boring. He seems to have attended the Crash Davis, “We got to play them one game at a time/hope I can help the ball club,” school of media relations. But get to know him away from post-game quotes, and you quickly learn that he’s a terrific conversation and a great kid who wants to get the absolute most he can out of his time in college, and doesn’t want to take a second for granted.
And he’s having a blast doing it.
“This is definitely [the most fun I’ve had playing basketball], no question. From the coaching staff to every player, manager, this is one big family – Boston is great,” says Partin emphatically.
The Terriers currently stand in second place in the conference at 11-4, and have a real chance to run the table in the America East tournament and reach college basketball’s Big Dance for the first time since 2002. Partin has been a huge part of the Terriers’ second-half run, and to make the NCAA’s they will need everything that he has.