Providence - an early 2010-11 preview - Basketball Junkie
 
 It’s now been just about four months since the Friars played their final game of a disastrous 12-19 campaign that ended with 11 straight losses, but as bad as last season’s results were, these four months have been far worse for head coach Keno Davis and his program. First, it was announced that point guard Johnnie Lacy and center Russ Permenter would be transferring out of the program. Then, a couple days later, Lacy and freshman center James Still were charged with felony assault, with Still having since been suspended pending an investigation of the incident, with expulsion still possible, even likely. A month later, the bright spot in the Friar program was extinguished, when leading scorer and rebounder Jamine “Greedy” Peterson was kicked off the team. About a week later, assistant coach Pat Skerry left to head to Big East rival Pitt, and in the process, severely hurt Providence’s recruiting, with incoming ’10 recruit Joseph Young announcing via his father, that due to an aunt with medical concerns, Young would be looking to stay closer to his Houston home for school. Since then, Davis and Providence have chosen to deny Young’s request to be released from his Letter of Intent, all while taking a (well-deserved) PR hit in the process. To add salt to the wounds, PC’s biggest recruit and the only verbal commit for the class of ’11, Naadir Tharpe, decommitted from Providence and opened his recruitment back up, citing the loss of Skerry as the main reason in his decision. And, all of this came after junior guard Kyle Wright left the team abruptly at the tail end of last season to focus on his academics. Really, the highlight of the offseason so far has been the confirmation that center Ray Hall will be able to return for a fifth season of eligibility. While Hall is a good kid who has overcome injury issues in his career, he is a severely limited big man who is little more than a warm body, averaging a point and a rebound in his 71 minutes of action last season. When that is your good news for the offseason, you know it has been a disaster.

The remains for the Friars do include two returning starters. Power forward Bilal Dixon started 30 of PC’s 31 games during his freshman season (after taking a redshirt the previous year), and was effective, averaging about nine points and eight rebounds a night, numbers which should improve in his second season. Dixon is also a strong interior presence on defense, as he blocked about two shots a game for the Friars. Guard Marshon Brooks also returns after having started 25 games last season. He is a wispy left-hander, capable of scoring from the perimeter or slipping into the lane and scoring in a variety of ways. He’ll likely be the go-to scorer for the Friars. Sophomore Vincent Council got a handful of starts in his first season and is now the only experienced point guard on the Providence roster, so he’ll clearly be counted on for a ton of minutes. Already expected to be the main man replacing departed point Sharaud Curry, the departure of Lacy merely cements Council’s stranglehold on the position. He is a penetrating point with acrobatic finishing ability and a penchant for finding open teammates for easy looks and the Friar offense is in very competent hands with him in charge.

While Dixon, Brooks and Council form a nice nucleus for the Friars, the problem is going to be rounding out the rest of the roster. Probably the most intriguing talent on the rest of the team is incoming off-guard Gerard Coleman, a smooth and lanky lefty that is perhaps a newer version of Brooks with more upside, impossibly skinny, terrific in the open court, improving perimeter game and a very strong and disruptive defender. He’ll be called on for plenty of minutes, and may need to start as a third guard, just to get the best five on the court for the Friars.

The fifth starting spot is wide open, and will likely go to one of a number of bigs. Hall could possibly snatch up the starting center spot (bumping Dixon to his more natural four spot), but if there is any hopes of a successful season for the Friars, coach Davis has got to hope that someone else wins the spot. Candidates include 6-7 redshirt freshman Kadeem Batts and three incoming freshmen: 6-8 Brice Kofane, 6-5 Ron Giplaye and 6-9 Alex Gavrilovic. Batts, Kofane and Giplaye are all strong rebounders and defenders who are varying degrees of raw offensively, but Gavrilovic is an intriguing prospect. A native of France, he possesses the skilled offensive game of the stereotypical European big man, but has a mean streak to pair with it. While he may be a year or so away from really being able to play in the Big East, it would be a nice surprise to see him step up and earn significant minutes.

Depth in the backcourt will be provided by two players: 6-4 sophomore shooting guard Duke Mondy and 5-10 freshman point guard Dre Evans. Evans was the last signee of this year’s six-man recruiting class and is a tiny scoring point who is at his best in transition. Mondy, one of Davis’ seven-man recruiting class from last year (of which it is likely that just three players will suit up for the Friars in 2010-11) is an active and energetic defender with good three-point range.

Technically, Young and Still are still on the squad and will be available for the Friars, but the odds of either one of them seeing any action, even in practice, in 2010-11 are exceedingly slim. If Young does somehow wind up with the team, however, he would be a definite asset. He is primarily a three-point bomber with in-the-gym range, but is skilled enough to get in the paint and score, a useful tool for any team, but even more so for a team like this that is a little undertalented. If Still is exonerated from his felony assault charge and avoids expulsion, he will be in the mix with the bigs for either a starting spot or a role off the bench.

As Davis enters his third season in Providence, the natives are getting restless. After leading his team to a winning record and an NIT berth in his first season, last season and the offseason has been an unmitigated disaster. Hopefully Friar fans are patient, however, because Davis is a very capable coach and an excellent recruiter, and frankly the PC job is not an easy one. There is probably not enough talent on this current Friar squad to compete for an NCAA tournament berth, but if Davis and his staff can settle Tharpe concerns over the make-up of the program, a backcourt of Council, Coleman and Tharpe in 2011 is a pretty exciting prospect. Better days are coming for the Providence program, even if those days are hard to foresee from this current trough.


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