Friar Basketball

“20 in 60”: #2 Council’s Legacy Year

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No doubt, it’s Council’s team

By all accounts, Vincent Council had a terrific season in 2011-12.  At the helm of a team with limited offensive options he led the Big East in assists for the second year in a row, scored and dished his way to eight double doubles (coming up one assist shy of a double double on four other occasions) and he scored 20 points or more on seven different occasions.

Council closed the season with double figures in assists in three of the Friars’ final four games.

He was unstoppable in a blowout win against Peyton Siva and Louisville (15 points and 14 assists).

His 26 point, 10 rebound, nine assist stat line at Pittsburgh was among the fattest in the Big East last season.

He’s the Big conference’s third leading returning scorer this season, second in assist to turnover ratio, and it would be an upset if he didn’t lead the conference in assists for a third straight year.

Last week the Big East named him one of eight nominees for the Big East’s preseason player of the year.

Why, then, do so few outside of the Big East know about Vincent Council?  It all started three years ago.

 

The revolving door around him

There were some who would have never believed that Council would be here today.  In an era of mass transfer from Providence, it was seemingly a rite of summer that a rumor would start in regards to Council departing Providence.  Instead, he’s one of the lone survivors from a disastrous recruiting class that is largely responsible for Providence’s scramble to find depth three years later.

Council was part of Keno Davis’s first recruiting haul as head coach of the Friars – a massive seven man swing and miss that triggered the worst three year Big East run Providence has seen since the school went 5-29 in its first three seasons in the conference.

The first opportunity the staff had when building that class in the fall of 2008 they were on the doorstep of James Still, a slender 6’9 power forward out of Michigan.  He carried himself like a superstar, but didn’t belong in the Big East.  He was gone within a year after he assaulted a classmate with the help of fellow freshman Johnnie Lacy, a Milwaukee point guard who came via Notre Dame Prep.  The diminutive Lacy was wholly ineffective for the Friars before his arrest.

Duke Mondy was another early Michigan signee, a steady, unspectacular shooting guard who failed to find his stroke in two seasons at Providence.  A willing defender, Mondy is an eighth man on a good Big East team.  He lasted a year longer than Still and Lacy, getting dismissed from the team at the end of his sophomore year.

Junior college transfers Kyle Wright and Russ Permenter didn’t last long themselves.  The 6’9 Permenter spent a majority of the season sulking and taking to social media to share his displeasure with the head coach, while Wright left halfway through his one season playing at Providence, airing his grievances with the lack of structure surrounding the program in a prophetic Facebook posting weeks prior to the arrests of Lacy and Still.

Kadeem Batts redshirted that season, while Council flourished as his freshman year unfolded.

In hindsight, the core around Council his freshman year was far stronger than what he’d see in his sophomore or junior seasons.  Jamine Peterson was a terrific finisher, a 20 and 10 redshirt sophomore who had dramatically improved offensively during his season off the court.  MarShon Brooks was a solid, yet not yet spectacular scorer as a junior, while Sharaud Curry was a 1,000 point scorer who returned for a redshirt fifth season.

Playing the fun and gun style of Davis while balancing the transitioning of lead guard duties from Curry, the Friars weren’t ready to take advantage of Council’s elite passing ability, but there were signs as the season unfolded.  He controlled the tempo in a better-than-the-box-score-told eight point, eight assist, seven rebound win over Connecticut in which he repeatedly picked the Huskies apart over the final 10 minutes of the game.  Later, he had 16 points, nine assists and five rebounds at the Carrier Dome.

The revolving door has slowed, but it certainly hasn’t stopped the past two seasons.  Gone is the slashing Gerard Coleman, a highly-touted wing who never seemed to be 100% on the same page as Council.  Further help was supposed to come the past two seasons in the form of All American shooting guard Joseph Young, who never made it to campus, and verbal commit Naadir Tharpe, who reneged after assistant coach Pat Skerry left for Pittsburgh.  He’s now at Kansas.

His freshman year there was the awkward handing over of the reigns from Curry to Council, Brooks evolved into a megastar in Council’s second season, but the team was in disarray and lacked any semblance of secondary scoring, and his junior season was a year of transition under a new coach.

A few key pieces seemed to come together under Cooley last season, as Bryce Cotton emerged into a top tier three point shooter and LaDontae Henton had one of the most productive freshman seasons in PC history.

That’s why many in Providence first thought of the impact on Council when uber-scorer Ricky Ledo was deemed ineligible prior to this season – Council’s last at Providence.  Ledo and McDonald’s All American Kris Dunn were to not only add scoring punch to a lineup in need of it, but to take a measure of the play-making burden off of Council.  For as terrific a creator as Council is, he’s yet to play with a Friar who can create for him.

The long-awaited depth around Council seemingly vanished in a matter of weeks, as Dunn is out until at least December after offseason shoulder surgery.

Council has had the burden of making all of the plays for his teammate without the benefit of solid playmakers returning the favor – and he’s been forced to do so with the benefit of a breather, playing nearly 40 minutes per game as a junior.

 

Reshaping his legacy

In each of Council’s three seasons at Providence the Friars have finished 4-14 in the Big East.  The only three year stretch in which they had a worse conference record came in the first three seasons of the Big East, when the lowly Friars went winless (0-6) in their inaugural Big East season and proceeded to go 5-23 over the next two seasons.

Few have the vision, instincts of PC’s senior

It’s difficult to play the disrespect card for Council with a 12-42 conference record marking his first three Big East campaigns, no matter how many times he leads the league in assists, or the shortcomings of the roster around him.  A sub 40% field goal percentage last season combined with 29% from 3 won’t help convince those who watch him once a year and pull up year-end stats to make a determination on him (a 1-13 close from 3 point range didn’t help his percentages), but those who’ve watched a majority of his games realize what makes the Providence senior one of the great distributors in the nation.

Few point guards in the country are equally effective making plays at a breakneck speed, or in the halfcourt.  In the open floor Council is a blur with instincts that come naturally to few, seemingly making the right play every time the Friars take to the open floor.

In the halfcourt set he’s a better than advertised shooter from 17 feet and a terrific passer once he gets into the paint.  While some may label Missouri’s Phil Pressey or Ohio State’s Aaron Craft the best playmaker in the country, Council has made more out of less than either of them.

Combined with Henton, Council gives the Friars a 1-2 punch that can play with any in the Big East, but on a team lacking depth and experience it will be Council who will be most responsible for not only leading the Friars to a bounce back season, but altering his legacy at Providence. Barring injury he’ll graduate Providence’s career leader in both assists and minutes played, and he very well could end up with over 1,700 points scored (he’s currently at 1,248).

Ed Cooley believes Council is the best point guard in the country, and for the Friars to remain competitive with seven scholarship players while they wait for a rehabbing Dunn and a redshirting Sidiki Johnson, the burden of creating for this roster falls on the player who has continued to make teammates better despite the revolving door around him.

 

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

34 Comments

  1. wtm97

    October 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Recently, CBS Sports placed Council as #59 nationally. As others have already stated, if there are better point guards out there playing on his level then let them step up and show us. The revolving door angle you focus on here is a painful reminder of how this program has stumbled along in recent years; now we have a Practice Team in the wings that only adds to that element of anticipation and frustration.

    Your analysis is sound, sober and serves as a platform for Vince to shine despite the lack of depth that once again could keep Council off that national radar scope this season Hopefully more consistent and improved play from the returning eligible front court trio of Batts, Goldsbrough and Kofane will ease this expected burden.

    Let’s not discount the potential of Freshman Josh Fortune to help right away – sure this is asking a lot from a true freshman but insider reports have been promising. Additionally, forward Sidiki Johnson insertion mid-way through this upcoming season could be a major plus and later, (a healthy) Freshman PG Kris Dunn will provide added depth allowing Council to not only catch his breath but earn the respect his play truly deserves…

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