Friar Basketball

What Alex Illikainen to Brewster Means for PC


2015 top 100 big man Alex Illikainen, a PC target, is headed to Brewster Academy where he’ll play for what’s become the most powerful prep team perhaps in the nation. Jason Smith has taken a program not known for basketball prior to his arrival and turned it into a destination point for future NBA players and the highest of high major targets.

Illikainen is a Minnesota native whose stock has really risen on the EYBL Circuit this spring, and his decision to attend Brewster has a certain segment of Friar fans asking if this move is good news for the Friars.

The question is a fair one. PC has swung big, and missed, at Brewster prospects in recent years, with the most notable examples being JaKarr Sampson (2012, St. John’s), Ron Patterson (2013, Syracuse) and most recently 2014 guard Devonte Graham (Kansas).

In fact, the last time Providence landed a Brewster grad was in 2005 when Weyinmi Efejuku committed to Tim Welsh.

The thought from here is that Illikainen’s move will be beneficial to PC if they are a true contender. It’s probably not coincidental that 2015 PC commit Ryan Fazekas nearly ended up at Brewster last year, and there aren’t many programs who are going to wrestle players away from Kansas and Syracuse. Wolfeboro isn’t exactly a short ride to Providence (3+ hours), but it’s certainly much more accessible than Minnesota.

Illikainen will pair with long-time top Friar target Donovan Mitchell (6’3, combo guard) at Brewster next year, so there would be no better time to get back on the board with a Brewster graduate (0r two). The Bobcats will also return 6’8 power forward Jarred Reuter who is also a highly-regarded 2015 prospect.

A look back at the past five seasons of PC recruiting Brewster prospects reveals that the “drought” is more circumstantial than worrisome trend.

2014: Point guard Devonte Graham was a high priority, and Ed Cooley did tremendously well to get Providence in position to be in his final handful of schools when practically everyone came calling this spring, but teams weren’t allowed to contact Graham until his season was over because he signed a National Letter of Intent with Appalachian State. The Jayhawks were too much to overcome that late in the game.

Smith’s 2014 class also included Jared Terrell, who CBS reported PC stopped recruiting this spring prior to his commitment to URI.

2013: Patterson was the only target from this class, and PC went hard before he committed to the Orange.

2012: Semaj Christon committed to Xavier before stepping foot on campus at Brewster (PC had him in for a visit in May 2011), while backup guard Joe Bramanti was a potential preferred walk-on who eventually earned a D1 scholarship.

2011: An important distinction should be made here. Cooley and his staff took over in March 2011. Naadir Tharpe (Kansas) was a one-time PC commit who jumped ship when Pat Skerry headed to Pittsburgh, while Durand Johnson was a kid the Friars were after, but he eventually committed to Skerry and Pitt.

Cooley’s first shot at a Brewster product was Eli Carter, who committed to Rutgers in the spring of his prep season after seeing his stock soar after a breakout fifth year. Cooley and Co tried to get involved that spring unsuccessfully. Carter transferred out of Rutgers and is now at Florida.

2010: Will Barton was a pipe dream for Keno Davis and company, but they tried. Barton was a Memphis commit and the top shooting guard in the country. Austin Carroll was a guard PC monitored for a bit who ended up at Rutgers without a fight from the Friars, while the real miss was Melvin Ejim who was a role player on Brewster during a time in which PC thought they scored two potential stars in Joseph Young and Gerard Coleman. BC, Providence and Butler had all offered Ejim and he went on to win Big 12 Player of the Year for Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State.

The Verdict:

Eventually, PC and a Brewster product will connect, and it may be as early as this fall. It’s difficult to draw any significant trends from the time Efejuku committed to PC and today, as Providence has gone through three different coaching staffs in those nine years, and Cooley hasn’t exactly aimed low in Patterson, Graham and Sampson over the past three years.


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