Friar Basketball

Sophomores Shine at Mal Brown

Malie White Dribbling

In three of Ed Cooley’s six seasons at Providence, one of his players has been named the Big East’s Most Improved Player.

So, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when a trio of sophomores looked very comfortable in the return of the Mal Brown Scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.

Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey did not suit up for this one, as the Friars were split into two teams: Kyron Cartwright, Drew Edwards, Alpha Diallo, Kalif Young, and Dajour Dickens versus Maliek White, Makai Ashton-Langford, Isaiah Jackson, Nate Watson, Tom Planek, and Andrew Fonts.

The Cartwright-led team came away with a 59-51 victory, as the senior point guard stepped on the gas when the game called for it.

The sophomore class made a statement in this one, however.

Earlier this month, I’d written in this space how the addition of Ashton-Langford could free up White to be more of a scorer. He was thrust into a backup point guard role a season ago and never really got into a rhythm. Playing off of the ball on Saturday he went into microwave mode early, making three 3-pointers in the first half.

White connected on 5-9 shots from the field (4-8 from deep) on the afternoon, and he very well may have the green light from the coaching staff to fire away with playmaking duties going elsewhere.

White seemed to struggle to find his niche last season, but he could be well suited for a tide-turning scorer in year two.

There was an ease in the way in which Diallo scored his game high 21 points. He was simply the best pure scorer on the floor, making an efficient 8-11 from inside the 3-point line and 1-4 from outside. Diallo played with the confidence of a second year man who realized late last season that he can have a major impact at this level. If anyone on the Friars is primed to make a run at most improved honorsĀ it’s Diallo. The game just looked to come easily to him on Saturday.

Perhaps most encouraging was the play of another sophomore, Kalif Young.

With questions looming about Emmitt Holt’s status for the upcoming season, Young is now key. He not only looks leaner, but he’s moving unbelievably well on the court. Friar fans who didn’t get a look at him on Saturday will soon see a quicker and more active Young.

As he did on occasions last year, he got on the board early by beating the defense up the floor for a layup. There was also a loud two-handed tip dunk, a score on a drive to the basket, and a soft finish of a left-handed hook in the second half. That short hook was a shot Young so often got himself in position for as a freshman, but struggled to finish. If he adds consistency in that move alone he’ll take big step forward.

Also noteworthy was his free throw stroke. Young struggled from the line last season, but he knocked down his first three foul shots before back rimming his fourth and final freebie of the day. He finished 5-5 from the field.

It was difficult to walk away from Saturday without feeling very encouraged by Young’s activity level.

As for the freshman, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Nate Watson began to assert himself mid-way through the second half, battling against the frontcourt duo of Young and Dickens. There’s a toughness and physicality already in place, and there is very little backdown from the freshman. Watson and Young will eventually be a punishing duo on the interior — that could happen sooner rather than later.

Ashton-Langford struggled from the field (3-14), but took a game high seven free throws (making six), while Dickens finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar

Email: kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

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