Friar Basketball

It’s Time to Embrace These Friars


Former Big East Commissioner and Providence Sports Information Director Mike Tranghese was on Ed Cooley’s radio show last week (listen here) and dropped perhaps the most telling line anyone has said about this edition of the Friars.

To be honest with you, I think they’re sick and tired of hearing about Kris and Ben. I love Kris and Ben and what they did for Providence last year — and what Kris did for Providence his entire career was fabulous — but I think these kids want their own identity.”

Make no mistake, there’s a strong bond between the returnees from last season and Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, who were both selected in last June’s NBA Draft, but this current edition of the Friars has pride of its own.

Kris Dunn brought unprecedented levels of national media attention and Ben Bentil’s rapid development transformed him from role-playing freshman to one of the most versatile scorers in the country, and their departures combined with a 9th place prediction by the Big East coaches in the preseason polls left many thinking a rebuilding season was ahead.

Yet, with each passing week Cooley’s Friars are offering more reasons to believe.

If Providence is playing meaningful games in February and March, the past week may be the catalyst.

They blew the roof off of the Dunkin Donuts Center in a win over nationally ranked Rhode Island, blitzed Brown three days later, and dictated the pace in Saturday afternoon’s 75-69 victory against Massachusetts.

Through ten games PC is 8-2 and trending upward.

Will they make a run at an NCAA Tournament spot? It’s still too early to say, but this doesn’t have the look of a rebuilding team. No, they look like a team that plays with the edge that so many in Friartown hoped would return when Cooley arrived.

What Ed’s done in six years goes far beyond what Providence fans thought they would do,” Tranghese said on Thursday’s show. “Friar fans had given up (prior to Cooley’s arrival).”

Now there’s no quit in this program.

We saw it in November’s loss to Ohio State when the Buckeyes kept pushing the lead to ten before seeing Rodney Bullock shoot PC back into the game.

They trailed by 11 in the first half against Memphis before storming back in the second, withstood early pushes from URI last week, and turned a nine point first-half deficit into a 16 point second-half edge Saturday against UMass.

Massachusetts saw why this Providence team has been such a sneaky fun surprise so far.

Rodney Bullock continued his monster junior season with 26 points and 10 rebounds, with 18 of his points coming in a second half in which he lived at the free throw line and knocked down a pair of key 3 pointers. Bullock is leading the Big East in scoring and doing so efficiently — shooting 50% from the field and 40% from deep.

Emmitt Holt (18 points) scored inside and out and battled the massive Rashan Holloway on the defensive end. Holt scored seven points out of the gate in the second half, helping turn a one point game into a 16 point advantage, and when UMass sliced PC’s lead to three, he hit a pair of free throws and then finished inside on a slick pass from Kyron Cartwright with 51 seconds to play to all but seal it.

Cartwright has taken the reigns with confidence in his junior year. A week after scoring a career-high 19 points against Rhode Island, Cartwright handed out 12 assists and controlled the tempo beautifully versus the Minutemen. He’s now fifth in the country in assists.

For weeks Cooley insisted he doesn’t know what he has with this team, but he insinuated after the UMass win that the picture is becoming clearer.

He has a promising freshman class that has contributed in spurts. On Saturday it was Kalif Young once again out-running UMass big men up the floor and Maliek White seeing bigger minutes in the first half to help handle Massachusetts’ pressure defense.

A week ago Ryan Fazekas earned praise for his grit and glasswork against URI, while fellow sophomore Drew Edwards slipped a few key bounce passes to Holt for scores and finished a pretty scoop shot in the second half yesterday.

And Jalen Lindsey seems to have found the perfect role as the defensive stopper and outside threat.

“A lot of us (on PC’s roster) come from that background where most of our playing careers we were overlooked, and I feel that we all have that hunger to prove people wrong,” Cartwright told me prior to the season. “Ever since I’ve been here we’ve always overachieved expectations. It comes from us fighting: our heart, our desire to want to be good. I feel like that’s always been our mindset because that’s the way Coach Cooley coaches us.”

The roster has turned over, and the talent that departed was enormous, but the mindset remains the same in Cooley’s sixth season at Providence.

The Friars are 8-2 and playing with the quiet edge of a team that’s not ready to accept that this is a rebuilding season.

It’s time to get on board.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar




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