By Rob LeDonne
The village of Chestnut Hill, Mass., is a long way from Torrey Pines High School. This time of year it can get quite cold and blustery, the closest beach isn’t exactly known for its surf, and judging by its size and scope, the campus of its claim to fame, Boston College, is a far cry from the TPHS campus. None of that matters to Joe Rahon, however, a basketball star at Torrey Pines who graduated in June and is in the midst of his freshman year playing for BC’s famed Eagles basketball team.
The Eagles have churned out NBA stars such as the Phoenix Sun’s Jared Dudley and the Boston Celtic’s Sean Williams, something that’s not lost on Rahon.
“The difference between playing basketball for high school and college is intensity of practice,” he explains from the BC campus while waiting for the team’s daily weight training session to begin. “In high school, you can coast through practice because you’re the best player on your team. In college, everyone on your team is on your level, so the coaches expect you to play really hard. Practically everyone is trying to take your spot and fighting for time on the court.”
The road to playing college level basketball, especially for a team as esteemed as BC, can be long and hard. Rahon, who grew up minutes away from the Torrey Pines campus, caught the basketball bug from his brother, James.
“I’ve been playing since I can remember, whether it was just shooting outside with my brother or dad, or at recess at school,” he remembers. “It wasn’t until my brother was going to play basketball at San Diego State that it hit me it was something I could do too.”
Throughout his time playing for Torrey Pines, his brother was there to give him the pointers, tips and insight that he picked up at SDSU, and it’s that guidance which probably made Rahon a standout during his successful high school career.
Says Rahon: “My four years there, we never lost a home playoff game and were always in the CIF finals.” While he notes that “it was as good of an experience as I could have hoped for,” the exception is that during his sophomore year he tore his ACL and was out for a full season, watching from the sidelines and waiting to heal.
When he finally got back on the court, Rahon was a force to be reckoned with and sooner rather than later colleges started to take notice.
“They were on a recruiting trip for another player, and gave me a call to say they were interested,” he explains. “The process started from there.”
What followed was a two-year stretch of wooing by BC.
Said Rahon: “They would call once a week or so and just talk about the college and how their team is doing. They were coming to watch me play whenever they could and I’d send them tapes, but really the whole process is about building a relationship with each other and getting comfortable.”
At the same time that Rahon was racking up more attention and accolades (including being voted one of the top 30 high school basketball prospects in all of California by CaliHighSports.com), other schools were vying for him as well.
“I went on recruiting trips to my final five schools and chose BC simply because I liked it here the best,” he explains of his decision, something his parents agreed with. “They were there every step of the way. At one point, coaches from each school came to visit us at our house, so they were very involved and liked BC too, which is surprising because it’s the farthest away from home.”
On Graduation Day, June 17, Rahon said goodbye to Torrey Pines for good, and only had a week off before he had to report to Boston for summer school.
“All the guys had to take two classes, and we’d lift with the strength coach to get acclimated with the system and the campus.”
Rahon came back home to visit for two weeks, and then it was off to Spain for a round of practice games and some team bonding.
“For my first college-level games, we played against four professional Spanish teams. I obviously felt a few nerves, but as soon as I ran up and down the court I realized it was nothing to be nervous about since this was something I’ve played my whole life.”
Now that the season’s begun, Rahon is focusing on balancing traveling, playing, and schoolwork.
“I think the key is to get as much sleep as possible to help your body recover. It’s grueling,” he explains, citing a recent game played in South Carolina, immediately after which he flew back to Boston late that night, went to class the next morning, and played again that day.
The beginning of the season has gotten off to a moderately slow start, with the school winning and losing its fair share, but it’s nothing Rahon says they can’t make up. Meanwhile, Rahon has quickly turned into a standout player. According to BC Teammate Ryan Anderson: “The fact that both he and (fellow guard) Olivier Hanlan have made an immediate impact as freshman is amazing. It just shows how prepared they were coming into this season. They worked hard and got the job done in the preseason and that is paying off for them now.”
Throughout his time at BC, he always keeps in mind his Torrey Pines experience. “There wasn’t a high school I’d rather play for,” Rahon explains. “TP’s Coach Olive is one of the best high school coaches around; he prepared me for how college is going to be and how practice is like.”
With that, he went to begin his training session to prepare for another slate of upcoming games, including a win at Penn State the next day.