Anyone who’s ever played NBA Jam knows the iconic “he’s heating up” line, or the “he’s on fire!” that would follow shortly after. The basketball would turn into a fiery ball complete with smoke trails, and good luck defending whatever player is on fire over the next few minutes. The human equivalent of that, in the NBA at least, seems to be Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, so-called Splash Brothers that turn in 20-plus point quarters despite seeming to barely break a sweat. Lately, though, Boston College men’s basketball has had a guy who has been catching fire at an incredible rate—and that’s the 25-year-old shooting guard from Vancouver, Wash.: Jordan Chatman.
Two weeks ago, that sentence would’ve likely to have been scoffed at. Chatman, in his return from a nagging injury, was struggling mightily. After finishing 21st in 3-point shooting during conference play last season, Chatman had started the 2018-19 conference slate just 2-of-18 from distance—a 11.1 percent clip. While he had a team-high 18 points in an ACC-opening loss to Virginia Tech, Chatman didn’t connect on a single shot from distance, a far cry from his nine 3-pointers he hit against the Hokies back in 2017.
This bad start in conference play was paired with a loss to Hartford on New Year’s Eve in which the graduate guard took just one 3-pointer the entire game—despite playing 36 minutes—and missed the mark. All in all, over those four games, Chatman averaged 8.5 points over 33.5 minutes, shooting just 10.5 percent from distance on 19 attempts. It was particularly concerning for head coach Jim Christian, especially when you consider the Eagles’ reliance on a secondary option stepping up to relieve the burden from point guard Ky Bowman. While Bowman is tied with Chatman over the last few seasons in the number of games with five or more 3-pointers (nine), he is streaky.
Bowman is averaging 20.5 points per game this season, but over the aforementioned four-game stretch, he scored 44, 14, 15, and 24 points. His fluctuating scoring averages are to be expected with a volume scorer, but with Chatman disappearing against Virginia—he shot 1-of-6 from distance and had seven points—the Eagles were ill-equipped to handle one of the nation’s best defenses. Even with Nik Popovic enjoying a strong junior year after plenty of criticism from fans the past two years, BC hadn’t yet found the recipe to fill the scoring void of Jerome Robinson’s departure to the NBA.
Back to Chatman—just how bad was the three-game start to conference play for the sharpshooter? Since making his debut in the 2016-17 season, he’s had just two such three-game stretches with less than three 3-pointers hit. Both came in his first year on campus, with the first coming from Jan. 3 to Jan. 11 in 2017, where he was 2-of-11. Later that season, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 14, he went just 1-of-10. Neither of these featured the same volume as his rough patch this year, though, as he was averaging nearly 11 minutes fewer per game.
His response to this stretch, though, has been nothing short of Thompson-esque. Chatman knows he’s the third, sometimes fourth option on nights—Bowman has 116 more field goal attempts than his nearest teammate in Wynston Tabbs, who’s followed by Popovic. But, without Tabbs playing at 100 percent or even playing at all—he’s been battling a recurring injury—Chatman has stepped up and made the most of his shots. It started in a 10-point loss to Louisville, where he posted a 146 offensive rating—his best mark since a defeat to Providence earlier this year—as he connected on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and registered a team-high 21 points.
The wild swing back from his 10.5 percent mark continued the next game, when he guided his team back in the second half of an upset against Florida State. While Bowman stole the headlines, rightfully so, with a 37-point performance, Chatman had 15 of his 17 points for the game in the second half, sinking 5-of-6 from 3-point range in an impressive showing. At one point, the guard single handedly orchestrated a 9-0 run, hitting three straight 3-pointers to turn a two-point deficit into a 57-50 lead.
Against Wake Forest this past weekend, Popovic had a highly efficient 21 points on 10-of-15 from the field, but again it was Chatman who helped guide his team back into the game. Chatman eclipsed the 1,000 career point mark with 18 in the win, knocking down five 3-pointers—including two in two minutes during the second half to tie the game at 48, then another in transition to knot it back up at 61 apiece. While Bowman once again stole the headlines, this time with an improbable 3-pointer, it’s worth noting that the BC point guard wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Chatman’s consistency.
So, Chatman enters Wednesday night’s game against Syracuse and its fabled 2-3 zone having hit five or more 3-pointers in each of his last three games. It’s no surprise that he hasn’t done this before—he entered the game against Louisville having reached that mark just six times prior, with the last time coming in Feb. 2017 against none other than the Orange. This unprecedented hot streak, though, could very well continue against Syracuse—especially considering the recent history, as well as what he’s done at home in recent years.
In four career games against the Orange, Chatman has averaged 16.4 points per 40 minutes and connected on 13-of-27 attempts from beyond the arc. On Wednesday, he brings in a 64 percent mark from beyond the range over his last three games (16-of-25) to the table—an “on fire” stretch that has brought his rank in conference play up to ninth, trailing the likes of UVA’s Kyle Guy and VTech’s Justin Robinson. Converting at this rate is obviously unsustainable for any player, but for the time being, it’s worth it to just enjoy what the former BYU transfer is doing: He’s bringing a little bit of NBA Jam’s ‘heating up’ to Chestnut Hill.
Featured Image by Steven Senne / AP Photo