Friar Basketball

Critical Season Ahead for Rodney Bullock

Dunn and Bullock USC2

Rodney Bullock burst onto the scene early in 2015-16, showing no signs of rust after having missed his first two seasons at Providence College.

The 6’8 junior out of Hampton, VA was regarded as one of the top young forwards on the East Coast early in his high school career, saw his production and national ranking dip a bit as a junior, and then put together a monster senior season at Kecoughtan High School — where he was a teammate of former Friar Josh Fortune and played for current PC assistant coach Ivan Thomas.

As a senior, Bullock averaged 21 points and 16 rebounds. He scored a career high 39 against powerhouse Bethel (where Allen Iverson graduated and 2017 Friar signee Dajour Dickens currently attends) and he grabbed a ridiculous 31 rebounds in one game later that season. Bullock scored nearly 1,800 points in his high school career and beat out Troy Williams (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and McDonald’s All American Anthony “Cat” Barber for the Daily Press District Player of the Year.

Bullock’s first season on the floor in Providence is largely remembered for his buzzer-beating layup in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against USC, or his 3 point barrage in a come-from-behind road victory over #9 Butler in the Big East opener (25 points, 10 rebounds, 6-9 from deep).

That’s selling the junior short, however.

Bullock was inconsistent at times last season (16/10 in the first round of the NCAAs, followed by 0-7 shooting against North Carolina in the second, for instance), but he scored in double figures in 19 games.

Early on, it looked as though Bullock might even be Kris Dunn’s #2, not Ben Bentil.

As Bentil struggled through 3-14 shooting in an opening night victory over Harvard, Bullock went for 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks in his debut. He followed that up with 13/6 against Illinois, 24 points and 10 boards versus Brown, and 18 and 12 in a win over NJIT.

Bullock went quiet as the team traveled to California for their stiffest portion of the non-conference slate — wins over Evansville and Arizona before falling to then-#3 Michigan State.

A return to Rhode Island meant a spike in production. Bullock was key in the Friars’ 74-72 win over Rhode Island in a raucous Ryan Center (16 points), and showed signs of leadership by taking over in the second half against Boston College when PC played without either Dunn or Bentil (17 points, 7 rebounds).

The Friars were without Dunn once again versus Bryant, and Bullock responded with 13 points and 14 boards. He followed that up with his fourth double double of the season (16 points, 11 rebounds in an eight point win over Rider). He recorded four double doubles in PC’s first 12 games.

But it wasn’t until the Big East opener at Butler that Friar fans saw Bullock’s range. He had never made more than one 3 pointer, but connected on 6-9 from deep en route to 25 points and 10 rebounds in his Big East debut.

The Butler outburst was ultimately Bullock’s high water mark, but there were several other big nights in Big East play. The next time PC met Butler he went for 16 and 8, Bullock made 4-5 from 3 and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in a Big East Tournament Semifinal loss to eventual national champion Villanova, and he twice torched Georgetown — 10 points and 14 rebounds on the road and 23 and 10 in the return date at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Bullock’s eighth, and final, double double came in the NCAA Tournament, when he scored 16 points and snared 10 boards against the Trojans.

There’s not much Bullock can’t do on the court; the question is how consistently he’ll be able to do it with the departures of Dunn and Bentil.

The Big East coaches aren’t buying in, having left him off of the preseason all-conference teams in October, and locally the feeling is that this is Kyron Cartwright’s time to lead the Friars.

But for Providence to surprise and push for the middle of the pack in the Big East, Bullock is going to have to emerge as PC’s top offensive threat. The skill set is there — Bullock averaged over 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game as a distant third option behind Dunn and Bentil. There aren’t many players in the league capable of grabbing 14 rebounds or going off for six 3s in a game as Bullock did a season ago.

Bullock has the talent to become an 18 point/7 rebound per game threat for the Friars this season, and Providence desperately needs him to carry the load early as PC incorporates five newcomers to a returning core with returnees who were previously role players.

Strength: Inside/out scoring threat capable of cleaning the glass and scoring from beyond the arc with ease.

Question mark: Is Bullock an alpha dog, or more comfortable as a role player? PC badly needs him to be the former.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


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