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Hagopian Gives a Glimpse into Men’s Basketball Future

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Suffolk head coach Jeff Juron had no prior knowledge of who freshman Michael Hagopian was but right when he saw what the Watertown product could do during last year’s tryouts, he knew what he had.    

Hagopian, now in his sophomore season for the men’s basketball program, is averaging 10 points and three rebounds while playing a team high 33.6 minutes per game in 2016.  He is one of only six returning players as Suffolk welcomes nine freshmen after graduating five seniors, including 1,000-point scorer Caleb Unni.  Hagopian now knows he is the Ram’s leader but there was a certain path that he took to get to this point in his collegiate career.

The 6’1” guard was the star of Watertown High School basketball.  He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, he finished second in the Middlesex League MVP race, and was also named a league all-star, all in his senior season.  With the help of Hagopian’s play, Watertown won the Division 3 North championship and went on to play at the TD Garden, losing in the state semi-finals in overtime.  Knowing he wanted to continue playing basketball at the collegiate level he learned that local Boston colleges, including Suffolk University, were interested in him.  Hagopian’s AAU coach Eric Polli was contacted by the then Suffolk head coach Adam Nelson on potentially coming to Suffolk.  

 Hagopian talked about the recruitment process and why he chose to play for the Rams,

“I visited campus two times and was able to watch one of their practices. I got a tour of campus, and it just felt right. Coach [Nelson] also came to a couple games and watched my film. With a great business program here at Suffolk and a great school overall, with the opportunity to play basketball here, it was the right decision.”      

Hagopian is leading the team in minutes per game (33.8) and in free throw percentage (84.6%).

Hagopian is leading the team in minutes per game (33.8) and in free throw percentage (84.6%).

 

Although he was considered a recruit, Hagopian still was required to tryout.  When he got to Suffolk’s campus in 2015 he wasn’t playing in front of Nelson, but playing in front of new head coach, Jeff Juron, who was called on to replace Nelson after his resignation.  Going into tryouts Hagopian didn’t know what to expect,

“I was very nervous for tryouts last year.  I knew what I was capable of though, so I just needed to show it. After I made the team, I was very happy and proud of myself and excited for my college basketball career to begin.”

Hagopian was clearly ready for college basketball and Juron knew it too.  He named Hagopian a starter for the 2016 season.  Juron talked about the shooting guard as a freshman,

“He was a little thin but he was tough, played within himself, and he brought consistent effort and focus to practice.”

Hagopian ran away with the starting job.  Labelled as a “3 and D” player, he helped guard the opposing team’s best player at times and was also a sharp shooter from downtown hitting 47% of this three-point attempts.  He also averaged six points while playing 30.8 minutes per game.  He knew his role going into his first season and that was not to be the volume scorer he was for Watertown High,

“My role last year was not to be a dominant scorer, and I was okay with that. I was happy I was going to be playing a lot, and wanted to do my job well.”

Hagopian went on to start 25 out of 26 games which allowed him to show Juron his skillset.  Now in his second season he has upped his scoring average per game by six points and has also improved his free throw shooting by 15% (now an 83% free throw shooter).  Hagopian pinpointed certain aspects of his game that he wanted to work on last summer,

“I tried to get bigger and stronger, and ended up putting on 15 pounds of muscle since last year. I worked on my pull up jump shot a lot. I also worked on my jumping ability a lot. I worked on ball handling and getting to the hoop. I also had my brother play defense on me so I can learn how to be comfortable taking uncomfortable shots. I had him get in my face to try and bother me, and I tried to perfect hitting shots that way.”

Juron agreed that he has seen a vast improvement in how strong Hagopian has gotten,

“His strength and athleticism. He worked hard in the weight room. He’s able to do more things on both ends of the court.”

Juron also talked about what type of ceiling Hagopian has as a player,

“He’s off to a strong start but time will tell. Individually, I don’t think any award is beyond his reach if he continues to work at it.”

Suffolk finished 8-18 (6-12 GNAC) last season and lost those five seniors, but Hagopian sees potential in the young Rams team this season,

“We are so close every game. We have lost all of our games by very few points. I know we are so close to being great. I am proud of our fight. We just need to turn it up a bit so that we come out on top during those close games. I believe we are extremely close to becoming one of the better teams.”

Hagopian continued, “Our goals are to be the best team we can be. To win the GNAC is always a goal. We may be young, and that could be something that will be done in a year or two. But for us, we say why not now? So what if we’re young, we can still win it now. We don’t need to wait a couple years, we can do it now. We want to play the best basketball we can play. We want to control everything that we can.”

Hagopian has been accustomed to winning all his life: from rec basketball, to high school and then to AAU.  Winning at Suffolk has been difficult so far this season as the Rams sit at 2-8 (1-2 GNAC).  As the team continues to grow so does Hagopian.  He’s a winning player with a winning attitude and time will tell if that attitude and passion can carry over to Suffolk’s young talent as they push for yet another GNAC playoff appearance, with hopes of ringing in the new year with many more wins.           

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