Providence has spent a better part of the last decade undersized. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance came largely behind their power forward-center combination of Ryan Gomes, who controlled the glass and carried the offense, and shot blocker Marcus Douthit, who averaged over three blocks per game in his final two seasons at PC.
Since then you’d have to look hard to find Friars who stood over 6’8 and played a leading role. Herb Hill was brilliant in his fifth year on campus in 2007, averaging 18 points, nearly nine rebounds and three blocks, but otherwise Providence hasn’t had much success finding contributors with length.
Randall Hanke led the nation in shooting percentage his sophomore season (while averaging 13 points and five rebounds), but saw his numbers dip as his career unfolded, and Tuukka Kotti was quietly solid playing alongside Ryan Gomes for four years, putting up 10 points, six rebounds and three assists a game as a senior, but was hardly an impact player.
In more recent seasons Providence has relied on small forwards who played bigger than their height. 6’5 Jamine Peterson was a double double machine in 2009-10, MarShon Brooks found time to grab seven rebounds a game while scoring nearly 25 a night two years ago, and LaDontae Henton was an all-freshman performer as a 6’6 power forward in 2011-12.
While Ed Cooley was unable to land potential high-impact big men from the high school class of 2012, he found success going the transfer route, nailing down commitments from a trio of former top 100 recruits in Sidiki Johnson, Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers. Johnson will be eligible to play in the second semester (and will be featured as part of this series in the future), but today we take a look at the two ACC transfers who have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season.
Tyler Harris: Providence fans focused on his freshman year numbers at North Carolina State will be surprised with the talent level the 6’9 forward possesses. Even the more optimistic PC supporters may be.
In Harris Cooley added a forward who may not help the defensive and rebounding woes that have plagued the Friar frontcourt of late, but he’s got a weapon that could drastically diversify his offense.
Harris can score in a lot of ways. He has range beyond the three point arc, is slippery from 15 feet in and possesses a terrific touch at the free throw line. Much was made a season ago of Henton being in the same mold as the inside-out forwards that Cooley coached at Boston College, and beginning next season Cooley will have a pair of left-handed forwards comfortable scoring from a variety of different spots on the floor. In a sport that is becoming increasingly focused on finding, and exploiting, matchup advantages, a Henton/Harris forward combo will be a headache to prepare for next season.
What to look for in his redshirt year? Providence has seen significant gains through their training programs under Cooley. Henton lost nearly 20 pounds after arriving on campus a season ago, while the coach recently told Vin Parise of Cox Sports that freshman Josh Fortune has gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle in just a few months on campus.
At 6’9, the expectation of many will be to see a bulked up Harris put on muscle in his redshirt season and play more on the interior. The versatility and rebounding prowess of Henton may allow Harris to log a majority of his minutes at small forward next year, where his length and ball skills would make him a difficult cover for most. He’ll certainly benefit from adding muscle in his year away from game action, but equally as important will be finding offensive chemistry in a group that will feature more scoring options than in season’s past.
Harris will be asked to be a presence on the glass, and with added muscle combined with his length and athleticism he should be able to contribute there, even if he isn’t a typical 6’9 banger. It’s worth noting that he started college at 17 years old. He’d be a sophomore at some prep schools at that age.
In-person reports: I certainly picked a good time to get my only in-person take – the 2010 Providence Jamfest. Harris was probably more 6’6 at the time and absolutely shot the lights out from three point range in the semi-finals (33 points on eight 3 pointers) before going quiet in the finals. He won the MVP in a stacked field. I was surprised to see how versatile he was offensively in a New York Pro-Am league this summer (on tape), as he’d been more of a perimeter player when I saw him two summers ago. He moved well without the ball, finished on difficult floaters and scored at the rim on a night when his deep jumper was off.
For more on Harris see: 9 Things You Should Know about Tyler Harris
Carson Desrosiers: A seven footer with range, the New Hampshire native comes to Providence after two seasons at Wake Forest. Like Harris, Desrosiers was a priority recruit for the previous coaching staff and vaulted his way into the top 100 of every major recruiting service after winning a pair of Division I Massachusetts state championships at Central Catholic. His dominant Massachusetts high school career was capped with a 26 point, 14 rebound, 10 block triple double in the state title game.
Desrosiers came to Wake as part of a decorated recruiting class, and while he started nearly 40 games in two seasons for the Deacons, was one of three to transfer this spring after the team combined to go 5-27 in the ACC the past two seasons.
Though he had double figures in rebounding in three of the four games in which he played at least 30 minutes as a sophomore, Desrosiers sounded like he expected more out of himself early in his career, “Coming to Wake, I thought the last two years would have been a little better,” he told the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. “Now I have next year to improve my game, work at it and get stronger. The two years I play at Providence will be very important to me, to show myself that my performance was stifled. I had a lot of confidence toward the end of the year at Wake Forest, with a couple double-figure games, and I believe that confidence in my offense will just carry over.”
Confidence seemed to have been a theme for Desrosiers in his Wake Forest career, but it started to rise after he made 5-8 from three point range over two late season games. As Wake head coach Jeff Bzdelik told the Gaston Gazette after those games in March, “Carson’s worst enemy has been himself. It’s only his second year. He’s been in the weight room and he’s been working hard. He’s feeling more confident and it’s coming together for him.”
The hope in Friartown is it will come together under Ed Cooley, a head coach who speaks openly about coaching confidence – citing this spring how his staff was able to help Bryce Cotton emerge from part-time freshman to one of the most dangerous shooters in the Big East.
At his best, Desrosiers is a shot blocking presence (top 10 in the ACC in blocks last season) capable of stretching defenses with his jumper. How much stronger he gets in his redshirt season may go a long ways towards improving his rebounding figures (just over 4 per game a year ago). While the Friars will have more length in 2013-14 they may have to rely on gang rebounding, as their best pure rebounder will most likely be the 6’6 Henton.
In-person reports: A local product, I saw my share of Desrosiers on the high school and AAU circuit. A few things stood out about him most in the AAU ranks when he played for a talented Mass Rivals team. Most big men with range are spot-up shooters, but Desrosiers made a few three pointers off of a dribble or two. That type of coordination at his size was a huge factor in him being a top 100 (#41 per Scout) coming out of high school. He was 210 pounds in high school, but has worked his way up to 240 since starting college.
From afar, fans may compare him to a Hill or Hanke physically, but Desrosiers has a bigger lower body than either of those kids – even back in his high school days. Hill’s upper body developed over his five years at PC and similar growth would certainly benefit Desrosiers.
While he dominated the glass on sheer size playing in Massachusetts’ competitive, but undersized, Merrimack Valley (where kids like Georges Niang and Noah Vonleh grew up, but eventually left for the prep ranks), he wasn’t as much of a presence on the glass as one might expect when I saw him playing for the Rivals. It will be interesting to see how Cooley utilizes Desrosiers, who is probably more capable of making long range shots than what he showed at Wake, yet possesses more length than any big man on the roster.
For more on Desrosiers see: 13 Things You Should Know about Carson Desrosiers
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