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THE PRAISE STARTS SLOWLY, THEN TUMBLES OUT OF STEVE DONAHUE AT A RAPID CLIP. Poise, explosiveness, vision. Intelligence, control, ability to finish. To say that Donahue is excited about import Patrick Heckmann—he's from Mainz, Germany—is like saying that people kind of like football in Texas. "He's just a very impressive kid," says Donahue. "No question, it was difficult to get him here, but we believe he is going to be a great fit."
Heckmann, Donahue continues, has all the tools. A stringy 6' 5" swingman, Heckmann has athleticism in his DNA—his mother, Ulrike, was a gymnast, while his father, Ralf, played basketball for several years in Germany's Third League. Patrick popped up on the national radar as a fifth-grader when club coaches noticed him, then a surprisingly polished point guard, lighting up local gyms. He developed quickly in Germany's pro leagues, as well as during a pit stop at Cheyenne Mountain High in Colorado Springs in 2008--09. He used a diverse skill set (see Donahue's paean above) to make the All-Star team of German pro league NBBL the last two seasons. Then, playing with TV Langen in Germany's ProB league last season, Heckmann averaged 11.8 points (on 52.4% shooting) and 3.1 assists in 28 games.
"There's a real maturity to his game," says Donahue. "He's comfortable in almost any situation."
Donahue started to recruit Heckmann last winter when Patrick King, a former Patriot League Player of the Year with Bucknell and a longtime associate of Donahue's during the coach's years at Cornell, sent him a DVD of Heckmann in action. After watching hundreds of hours of additional video and YouTube footage ("We never saw him live," he says), Donahue was sold. By February, Donahue and his staff were calling the Heckmanns once a day, and in March the coach made the transatlantic flight for a home visit. "When I met him, it was very comfortable," says Heckmann. "I liked him and his system right away." The prospect—who also had strong interest from Michigan and San Diego—committed to BC in May.
Heckmann believes his overseas experience will help him quickly make the transition to the college game. Over the past couple of years in Germany, the 19-year-old routinely played against players in their mid- to late-20s. "When I compare myself to high school kids, they play against teenagers," says Heckmann. "I have been playing against guys much older."
Heckmann says he patterns his game after Kobe Bryant ("He can do so many things with the ball"), and BC could use someone who can make a superstar-level impact. Donahue likes Heckmann as a shooting guard, although transfer Matt Humphrey, as the Eagle with the most college experience, will likely start. Heckmann says that he is comfortable playing point guard or small forward, too. Wherever Heckmann ends up Donahue intends to find a way to get him out on the floor.
There are weaknesses to Heckmann's game—strength, a typical freshman issue, and three-point shooting stand out—but on an inexperienced roster, he has a chance to make an immediate impact. "Coach's system is kind of like the one I had in Europe," says Heckmann. "I can already read a lot of things that go on in the offense. I know what he wants, and I can do [them] pretty well already."