Friar Basketball

“20 in 60”: #20 Will Ricky Play?

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This article is the first in a series detailing 20 headlines to watch in the 60 days leading up to the college basketball season.  The “20 in 60” series will take a closer look at how the players, coaches, prospects, rivals and college basketball landscape will impact Providence in the season ahead.  

Catch him on the right night and you might see something special.  Watch him enough and you can sense the pending outburst.  The three pointers come in waves of three or four – some off of the bounce, others curling off of screens, and then there’s the inevitable heat check from 25 feet that shouldn’t go in nearly as often as it does.  Long and wiry, he pulls up from a near sprint with the basketball and nestles home mid-range jumpers in transition; he floats 10 footers over seven footers and throws down a windmill on a break – seemingly knowing that it will cap off someone’s YouTube reel later that evening.

But there are things about Ricky Ledo that you can’t learn from watching his highlight tapes.

He makes the game look easy.  Sometimes it seems a little too easy for him.  Lesser opponents don’t always get the full repertoire, and onlookers who previously recognized him only from internet reels walk away wondering if they were expecting too much from the kid Providence fans have seemingly been obsessing over for the past four years.  “Would Ricky really spurn the big time to stay home?”  “Any chance he could reclassify to 2011?” “Ricky’s back in the fold?”  “Is he going to be eligible?”  “Heard anything about Ledo’s status?”  “Think we’ll ever see Ricky in black and white?”

Shining on the biggest stage

There are those certain nights when Ledo shows why Friartown has been obsessing over him for the last four years.  It usually comes when the lights are the brightest.

In 2009, Ledo’s stock soared after he scored 25 points in the first half of the Rhode Island Division I state championship game.

After transferring to St. Andrew’s that fall, he scored 27 in his prep debut at the National Prep Showcase.

A year later, 30 more points came while starring for South Kent against #1 Hargrave at the Prep Showcase in 2010 (a 115-105 loss in which Mo Harkless was limited to 15 points).

Playing for Notre Dame Prep in March of 2011, he scored 20 second-half points against Nerlens Noel and Tilton in the Prep National Championship quarterfinals.

He tacked on another 37 in the 2011 National Prep Showcase in his return to South Kent, and followed that up with monster efforts in a win over Tilton in December (34 points) and versus New Hampton (39 points) in the final game of his prep career in the NEPSAC playoffs.

Yes, when the stage was the brightest, Ledo was seemingly at his best, and the lights will be much brighter in the Big East, leaving Providence fans to hope that the explosions will come with more consistency once the competition raises (for all his talent Ledo was only a 2nd team All NEPSAC selection last season).

He’s been a star from a young age, but a nomadic one.  The problem for Ledo, and the Friars, is the stage, large or small, constantly shifted throughout his prep and high school career, leaving his eligibility in question deep into the summer prior to his freshman season – the result of departing four high schools since 2009.

Looking ahead 

Providence should find out his eligibility status in the coming days.  Kevin McNamara of The Providence Journal noted the typically upbeat Ed Cooley sounded less confident than he was earlier this summer when talking about Ledo’s prospects, noting, “I’m still hoping.  I don’t know if it’s hope against hope, but I have zero feel for it.  We’ll see.”

Not exactly the reassurance Friar fans were looking for.

Months of fretting are about to come to a head in Providence.

The Friars aren’t alone in sweating out eligibility issues.  North Carolina State is currently awaiting the status of their own star recruit, Rodney Purvis, while a year ago Kansas lost a trio of recruits (Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor, Braden Anderson) who were deemed academically ineligible. St. John’s powerhouse class was slashed in half when three recruits (Jakarr Sampson, Amir Garrett, Norvel Pelle) found out late in the summer of their ineligibility, while Arizona State lost the top 50 point guard (Jahii Carson) they desperately needed a season ago.

The “Providence can’t catch a break” crowd will be in full force should Ledo be deemed ineligible to play this season, but the reality isn’t that Providence is less fortunate than others (What’s the last debilitating injury Providence has suffered?); rather, they’re simply more desperate right now.

Teams lose players to injury, transfer and ineligibility regularly, but the rebuilding project Cooley undertook 15 months ago was so steep that the infrastructure isn’t in place to absorb a loss of this magnitude if the Friars hope to claw their way back to respectability in the Big East this year.

Ledo gives them options.  He can play in a big lineup, starting at shooting guard alongside LaDontae Henton at the three.  He can swing over to small forward and form a devastating outside shooting group with Henton at power forward and Bryce Cotton manning the two.

Perhaps most significantly, he gives them an elite scorer – one capable of putting up numbers in nearly any system.  Cooley can run him off screens as he does Cotton, or ask him to generate offense with the ball in his hands.  He can finish on the break and spot up for transition threes from perhaps the best passer in the Big East in Vincent Council.

Without Ledo, November’s guard rotation is paper thin.  Council doesn’t have a backup.  Cotton is their only returning two guard.  If Henton remains at power forward, that leaves Virginia sniper Josh Fortune in a position to step into huge minutes on the wing from day one.

In a matter of days Providence will either prepare to welcome perhaps the most talented freshman scorer in the Big East, or begin questioning how Cooley will scrap together a rotation out of a potentially shallow bunch for the second year in a row.

You make your own luck in this game, but the Friars sure could use some good news in regards to their well-traveled recruit who has found his way home.  The biggest stage in Providence awaits him.

 

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

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