Joe Beaulieu's gone.
The most promising basketball player ever to come to Harvard transferred to Boston College two weeks ago. He left with none of the flattering accolade which brought him here, only the nagging memory of Harvard as a "bad experience."
"I would stay at Harvard in ten seconds if I weren't so committed to basketball," he said.
"A lot of the people here--Dr. Petersen, Richard Sacks [his freshman advisor], George Wald, were so good to me. I was screwed up enough not to realize that their help was all I needed. I just never did the work. That got me into a mess. I got into academic trouble, and with the complications from basketball, everything got blown out of proportion. Thus, here I am."
It has been a very chaotic, if not disparaging summer for the Harvard basketball department.
Frank McLaughlin, basketball coach at Notre Dame, replaced ex-Celtic Satch Sanders. McLaughlin talked to Beaulieu shortly after he accepted his position at Harvard.
"I was very surprised about his move," McLaughlin, an incarnate image of the fighting Irish, mused. "I really like Joe. I know he was one of the most recruited basketball players in the country, and I also knew he was frustrated with some things at Harvard. The last time I talked to him, I got the impression he would stay."
Joe was quite impressed with McLaughlin himself, almost inspired. McLaughlin was the opposite of Sanders; he was a high-pressure basketball coach from the big time--someone who would push Joe.
But in the end, it was basketball that convinced Joe to leave Harvard.
"I knew I could do the work here," Joe explained. "But my life revolves around basketball, it is structured around basketball. When that doesn't go right, nothing else does."
For Joe, freshman year was "destructive" to his basketball. The competition was medioicre. The facilities were, generously speaking, poor. But it was the attitude towards ball that alienated Joe.
"In high school, I had always been used to playing with great basketball players, and now I was playing with kids who play basketball as a hobby. One kid on the freshman team really took it seriously. The rest of them had no serious aspirations. I did. I was hoping to base the next five or ten years of my life on basketball. Here, no one took it seriously. That's defeating. I haven't played competitive basketball in over a year. If you want to be good, you have to play every day."
Joe graduated from Don Bosco Technical High School, a Catholic school situated near Boston's Combat Zone. Joe grew up in a low-income housing project in Allston right down the street from Harvard Stadium. He is a city boy, and the transition to Harvard was immense.
"At Don Bosco, I didn't have to do any work I never studied seriously in my life, and I ended up ranking third in my senior class. It's a good Catholic school, but compared to Groton, Choate or a good public high school, it's run of the mill. I was ill-prepared, I didn't know how to study when I came here. Besides, I was the first All-American at the school, and they took care of me, you know, they let things slide they shouldn't have let slide."
Joe's senior year was an All-American success story. He was elected to several high school basketball All-America teams. He led his stellar basketball team over rival Ron Perry's Catholic Memorial to the State Championship. He was lauded in all the local media for his heroics. Scholar-athlete, school hero, interviews, all-expenses-paid-come-see-our-campus-strips, glitter and gold, from rages to riches.
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