Friar Basketball

David Duke Commitment: What it Means for PC

David Duke Closeup

There’s a lot to absorb and a number of things to sort through after Cushing Academy point guard David Duke became the newest member of Providence’s class of 2018.

Let’s breakdown a few different angles.

The two point guard system: College basketball is changing. 5-10 years ago many would have questioned how Duke fits on a roster with Makai Ashton-Langford already in the fold.

Ashton-Langford was a top 40 player in the class of 2017 and is a current freshman at Providence. Interestingly, he spent two years at Cushing and is from the same Mass Rivals AAU program that produced Duke.

Friar fans need not worry about a potential logjam next year for two reasons:

The college game is changing, and we don’t have to go back very far to see successful teams that started two point guards together. Villanova won the 2016 National Championship with Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson playing alongside each other. The North Carolina team they beat in championship played Marcus Paige and Joel Berry in the same backcourt.

A two point guard system didn’t hurt Frank Mason’s numbers or cut into his playing time last season. Mason was the National Player of the Year in most services and accomplished the feat in a Kansas backcourt that included another star in point guard Devonte Graham.

The trend has even made its way to the NBA, with the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul after James Harden had a career year transitioning to lead guard last season.

A team can’t have enough ball handlers, but a two point guard set can often come at the expense of size defensively. That won’t be an issue with this group. Ashton-Langford is 6’2-6’3 and Duke is at least 6’4.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Duke playing in the same role next season that Kris Dunn did as a freshmen when Ed Cooley also had Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton at his disposal. Dunn played off of the ball and did a bit of everything. By March he was grabbing 12 rebounds one night, and dishing out seven assists the next. Council set the Big East’s all-time assist record that year, while Cotton led the league in scoring.

A case can be made that Providence would be on its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in a row if they’d been healthy that season.

Dunn missed all of the offseason and the first two months of the year following shoulder surgery, Council was out the first two months with an injured hamstring, and Cotton sat a few games with a bum knee. That group lost five very winnable games with a shorthanded roster and went on an 8-3 run to close the year once the guards returned to health. It wasn’t enough to reach the NCAAs, but it put them back in the conversation after entering February with a 10-11 record.

Cooley successfully implemented a three guard system that year, and will do so again with Duke, Ashton-Langford, another top 60 recruit in AJ Reeves, as well as Drew Edwards and Maliek White in the mix as well.

Inevitable Dunn comparisons: I’m terrible at player comparisons. They never feel right and when readers ask who a recruit compares to I rarely feel great about my answer.

In this case, the Kris Dunn comparisons are more than fair. As high school prospects, both were incredibly long, athletic, and had the potential to change the game on the defensive side of the ball. Duke actually elevates above the rim and shoots better from deep than Dunn did at this stage, whereas Dunn was more of a physical presence and simply a tireless backcourt defender and great rebounder.

Dunn was a hybrid weapon early in his career, especially when Council returned to the lineup. Playing off the ball alongside Council allowed him to be brought along slowly as he adjusted to the college game. With Ashton-Langford on board, Cooley can deploy Duke similarly. Duke can swing between playing off of the ball and while also getting some experience directing the offense in year one.

Local flair: Duke is a Providence native who led Classical High School to a state title. His arrival will come with a lot of fanfare (it’s already nearly broken Twitter), and his presence at PC will only help the program’s popularity locally.

There’s another local angle here as well. The Friars are picking up steam in the New England prep ranks.

Cooley hit an initial home run with local products Dunn and Ricky Ledo committing in the summer of 2011, and Paschal Chukwu was a top 100 player from Connecticut in the class of ’14, but it’s been a while since we’ve been able to track a recruit playing in the ultra-competitive NEPSAC.

Ashton-Langford and 2016 top 100 recruit Alpha Diallo (Brewster Academy) were New England preps, but both signed with Providence after their high school careers ended.

Both Duke and Reeves will play in Rhode Island on a number of occasions this year, and their prep schools are a very manageable drive for locals. Get ready to see a lot of footage of the two of them this season.

Development: It’s easy to forget now, but Duke wasn’t a name many were following at this time last year. Few had heard of Dunn in March of his junior year of high school (when Cooley was hired), but he developed and blew up in the same sudden manner as Duke.

That doesn’t happen without work ethic. The next step will be to see how Duke’s game changes with former Cushing teammate Wabissa Bede off to Virginia Tech. Duke was terrific last season, but Bede was the alpha dog (not only on Cushing, but perhaps in all of NEPSAC AA), and it will be very interesting to see how he steps into the leadership role this season.

Cushing has a long history of good point guards — Kaleb Joseph, Jalen Adams, Ashton-Langford, Bede, and now Duke takes the mantle.

Duke is also the latest Mass Rivals prospect to rapidly emerge. Vin Pastore, Tom Nelson, Mike Trovato, and Co. continue to churn out high level talent. It’s been a quick rise for the program that now develops the best talent in all of New England.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar

Email: kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

5 Comments

  1. Rob Perrino

    October 14, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Another great get for Coach Cooley,his staff and the Friars. Go Friars!!

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  3. Paul

    October 14, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Nice breakdown, Kevin. Exciting present (and future) for PC, for sure.

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