Friar Basketball

Lessons Learned from the Class of 2010


I began this website in December 2009 and the focus quickly shifted from a struggling Providence team to a fascinating prep season in New England.

I almost had no choice.

Keno Davis was in his second year on Smith Hill, fresh off of a 19-win season, but things spiraled quickly for a PC group headed by fifth year senior Sharaud Curry, explosive sophomore Jamine “Greedy” Peterson and Marshon Brooks. This was the year PC welcomed what was a dud of a recruiting haul, with the exception of Vincent Council and Kadeem Batts — Russ Permenter, Kyle Wright, Johnnie Lacy, James Still and Duke Mondy all didn’t last very long. The Friars also got a verbal in that class from Antoine Allen, who reneged, went to Miami, transferred from there to UNC-Wilmington and dropped out to pursue a rap career.

No wonder Cooley’s so popular.

The Friars finished 12-19, and the attention of Friartown shifted to recruiting where assistant coach Pat Skerry helped land the highly regarded Gerard Coleman as part of the class of 2010 and was fighting hard to close on one of two 2011 star point guards in Naadir Tharpe and the emerging Shabazz Napier.

Ten months prior Napier was an unknown commodity, and even after he exploded at the National Prep School Invitational in February ’09 there were many who saw him as nothing more than an undersized shooting guard. Napier was criticized for shooting too much and labeled a “chucker” by some, all without consideration that the talent around him required Napier to fire away to give his team any chance. Not only did he give them a chance, but it made Lawrence a very tough out.

Ironically, a long-time UConn “recruiting guru” who in reality was a message board poster whose credibility seemed to come from a high post count, corrected me when I praised Napier’s game back then. I was an occasional message board poster in those days, but would share what I’d seen on occasion as I began taking in New England preps since the turn of the century, and Napier was jaw-droppingly good.

“He’s Jeff Xavier with a less consistent jump shot,” the poster proclaimed.

I came away with several key learnings from my first season of covering prep basketball, but three stand out when looking back on the class of 2010:

  1. The more condescending the “expert,” the less he actually knows. There are a lot of people out there piecing scouting reports together from what’s available online and they seem to speak with the most conviction somehow.
  2. Believe what your eyes are telling you and learn to put “high major” and “mid major” labels aside; production is most telling. Angel Nunez was once a top-40 prospect and Georges Niang supposedly couldn’t play at the highest level, despite one flashing potential and the other doing whatever he wanted to nearly any defender.
  3. You’ll have your share of misses.

My Miss

Guilty as charged with Gerard Coleman in this class. Coleman had his warts, but he was all but unstoppable at Tilton during his final prep season. The respected New England Recruiting Report ranked him third in New England at season’s end, behind just Brewster’s Will Barton and St. Mark’s forward Nate Lubick. Coleman was rated higher than Napier (who reclassified in the spring of 2010), CJ Fair, Cleveland Melvin, Russ Smith and Melvin Ejim. For good reason too.

The Gerard Coleman at Tilton was the Coleman we really only saw once at Providence — his 30-point explosion versus West Virginia his sophomore year in which he got to the rim at will and drew contact fearlessly. His 30 that night came on 9-15 from the field, all inside the arc, and 16 free throw attempts. It was like a lightbulb went off (“this is the guy I was watching two years ago — finally!”) but that light only flickered.

He was named NEPSAC Class B Player of the Year ahead of the likes of Michael Carter-Williams and Ricky Ledo of St. Andrew’s. Tilton won the B title that season, and I’d seen him tear through nearly everyone. He had a 48-point night against a Winchendon team with trees like Khem Birch and Markus Kennedy inside and 6’8 Eric Ferguson on the wing. He had 40+ against #1 Hargrave and seemingly scored 30 on all others. These were the games that got him a ranking in the 50s nationally.

That Coleman was too quick for future D1 defenders. He blew by everyone with his left, shot confidently from 10-12 feet (especially along the baseline — where he rarely shot from at PC) and when all else failed he threw his body into defenders and got to the line 10-15 times a game, and made probably 7-10 of those.

There were red flags that I’d like to think I wouldn’t ignore today. He was completely befuddled by an amazing Brewster team, and in the first round of Nationals that March he’d been shut down by Hargrave for 20 minutes before pouring in 30+ in the second half in desperation mode. His jumper was brutal (But Greedy just fixed his over a summer, right?), and he seemingly always went left simply because no one could stop it (Why make the game more difficult to prove a point?). That Brewster game was the one time that I caught a glimpse of the Coleman who forced things and made poor decisions. It only happened once in probably 8-10 games I saw him play that season, but it was a red flag I simply chose to ignore — and a sign of what was to come when the defenders got bigger and stronger in the Big East.

Ignoring Rankings and Levels, Paying Attention to Production

There were so many great players in that class that couldn’t break NERR’s top 10 in New England, and even more who were headed to mid-majors. So many of them could have been very good at Providence — far better than the Mondy/Lacy/Still types that came before them.

Russ Smith didn’t crack the top 10, but he was headed to Louisville. We all knew Smith could play — just like Melvin Ejim at Brewster, Cleveland Melvin with ND Prep, and local kid Billy Baron. To be fair, that top 10 was loaded with top 100 players. Barton was regarded as the top shooting guard in the country by many and spent two years at Memphis before heading to the NBA. Barton was unstoppable that year, and his brother Antonio was very good at ND Prep.

Will Barton was followed in the rankings by (in order) Lubick (a steady, but unspectacular four-year contributor at Georgetown), Coleman, Pitt’s JJ Moore, Napier, Carson Desrosiers, Rod Odom (Vandy), CJ Fair, Evan Smotrycz (Michigan, then Maryland) and Georgia Tech commit Jason Morris.

Not all of the top 10 hit as expected, but the depth of this class in New England is what’s so impressive.

So many of the kids not in the top 10, or going to mid-majors, were just as productive as the most highly regarded players that season. They very often out-produced them at the high school level.

Four years later, those who were often overshadowed have proven to be stars in their own right.

Ejim broke the Big 12 single game scoring record and won conference player of the year, despite being the fourth or fifth option behind Barton, Fair, Tharpe and maybe even Mo Walker at Brewster. Fair went on to become a 2nd Team All American at Syracuse, despite being Barton’s #2 at Brewster. Russ Smith finished an All American and National Champion, Baron an Honorable Mention All American this season, and Cleveland Melvin won Big East Rookie of the Year at DePaul.

I swore the tiny Anthony Ireland could play at Providence, but wondered if maybe I was missing something. Instead he ended up scoring over 2100 points at Loyola Marymount — a long way to go for a Connecticut native to have to travel to score so many points. Perhaps he would have gotten more exposure the summer before his senior season had he not backed up Tharpe with the New England Playaz. He was 10 times the player Lacy was the year prior and leaves as an all-timer at LMU.

His teammate at Winchendon, Devon Saddler, was another great one. He scored 2200 points at Delaware and was just as good against high level competition as he was in conference play. His last game was a 21/4/3 tourney defeat to Michigan State in which he made 4-5 from deep. As a junior he scored 23 on Duke, 32 versus Kansas State and 28 against Pittsburgh.

Ferguson was one of the best mid-major players in the country before tearing his knee prior to this season. He was also at Winchendon with Ireland, Saddler, Birch and Kennedy.

Harvard’s Laurent Rivard, a Northfield Mount Hermon product, made 287 three pointers and helped lead the Crimson to multiple NCAA Tourney victories.

Notre Dame Prep point guard Jordair Jett (a teammate of former Friar Ron Giplaye and Cleveland Melvin at ND Prep) was named Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10 this year.

6’8 Melsahne Basabe was a Siena commit who looked the part of a big time player. A coaching change there led to his arrival at Iowa, where he immediately averaged 11 a game as a freshman.

Majok Majok had been written off by some in Providence who saw the South Kent version of Majok, but didn’t see the Northfield Mount Hermon center a year later when he started to dominate. He was a double double machine at Ball State after going the JUCO route. Majok had committed to Ed Cooley and Fairfield over a number of high majors who came calling in 2010, but he did not qualify as a freshman. He had the talent to play at Providence, and just maybe having a top-20 rebounder could have made the difference when the Friars were getting hammered on the glass in their excruciating tournament loss to North Carolina.

Napier Closing it Out

With just the National Championship remaining Napier will be center stage once again — fittingly so, for anyone who followed New England closely that winter. For all of the stars, none were as thrilling to watch as the one-man show at LA who was at his best in the biggest games.

As a senior at Lawrence, he all but won the Class C title by himself against a team loaded with stars (Lubick, Alex Murphy, Kaleb Tarczewski, Basabe), and his tremendous run through the NCAA Tournament has sparked so many memories of the great performances of Napier and his classmates in New England four years ago.

He’s now an All American who will play in his second National Title game — the most distinguished career of a deep and talented class that dominated the prep scene while young talent like Carter-Williams and Andre Drummond waited in the wings.

The sheer depth of New England’s 2010 class was amazing, and it’s fitting that the most electric player from that group is up against the same circumstances four years later: with a team that wouldn’t be close to a title without him going up against one full of players who are all projected to do so much more at the next level.

It will mark the end of an outstanding four-year run for New England’s class of 2010.

* * *

When this site was and I ran it by myself, I used to create PC recruiting rankings that I’d score based on need, likelihood of them coming to PC, and talent. Here’s a fun look back at February 2010…

In’s 2nd installment of the recruiting rankings we will rank our top 7 prospects overall.  In January they were rated by class and those rankings will come later this week.  For now, here are the top 7 overall.

As noted previously, these rankings are not simply based on talent.  We’re looking at talent, need, fit, and the possibility of the student becoming a Friar.

Kevin’s 7 for 2/8/2010:

  1. Khem Birch, 2012 6’9 power forward, Winchendon.  Keno Davis has shown he can land guards (Vincent Council, Gerard Coleman, Joe Young), the next step is getting an impact big man.  Birch is quick off of his feet and times blocks well.  With so many scorers on Winchendon Birch only takes a handful of shots a game, but he tops this list as a game changing defensive player who has noted that PC is his leader.  The Friars need a shot blocker in the worst way and Birch was great around the rim against a solid St. Mark’s frontline.
  2. Shabazz Napier, 2011 5’11 point guard, Lawrence Academy.  For a kid as good as Napier things have been quiet publicly in terms of his recruitment.  With Naadir Tharpe recently taking in the Marquette game and Napier continuing to blow up, the feeling among many Friar fans is Tharpe may be a closer lean.  Until I see it written that PC is out of the running for Shabazz he’ll be the top guard on this list — the kid is great.  With Council on campus for his first two seasons, Napier could play a microwave role off of the bench before being handed the reigns.
  3. Ricardo Ledo, 2012 6’5 shooting guard, St. Andrew’s.  After a subpar opener at the NPSI (0-5 from 3), Ledo carried St. A’s home in a nice win over MCI.  Currently ranked among the top 25 players in the country in the class of 2012, the Providence native will see plenty of love from across the country, but the thought here is that Providence will be in this fight until the end.  Not as polished as fellow 2012 Rhode Islander Alex Murphy at this point, but gut tells me that he is a more realistic get.
  4. Naadir Tharpe, 2011 6’0 point guard, Brewster Academy.  Some of the big boys are sniffing, but Boston College is PC’s biggest name competition for a kid who recently said he’d like to stay local.  Then again, Gerard Coleman was quoted in his junior year as saying he’d like to get away from home.  Tremendous quickness and an above average passer who would make teammates better.  Can he play with Council?  Is a better player than he showed at this NPSI.
  5. Alex Murphy, 2012 6’8 small forward, St. Mark’s.  On talent alone, Murphy might be the top player on the list.  It’s all coming together for Murphy, who is being recruited by seemingly every big name in the country.  A dominating game in a win over Winchendon at the NPSI won’t stop the big boys from calling.  Landing Murphy would mean the PC staff fought off tremendous competition.
  6. Kadeem Jack, 2010 6’9 power forward, Rice (NY).  A relatively new name to Friar fans who Providence has a good shot at.  As has been reported, he visited Arizona, but since his visit the Wildcats grabbed a commitment from Jordin Mayes and may have to sacrifice a scholarship due to self-imposed sanctions.  They were low on scholarships as it was and may not have room for Jack.  Kadeem would immediately help a frontcourt in need of immediate help.
  7. Nerlens Noel (pictured), 2012 6’9 power forward, Everett (MA).  Shh.  Things have been quiet on the Noel front who broke his leg a few weeks ago.  A fine alternative (or better yet pairing) to Birch, Noel is a big kid for someone so young and flashes good defensive instincts.  Doesn’t get the buzz of a Birch, Ledo, or Napier, but would be an impactful get for his size and defensive potential.

Who is your top target for the Friars?  Vote at the poll on the left.

email Kevin at

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar

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