Friar Basketball

Can Greg Gantt Make an Impact in Year 1?

Greg Gantt Friars.com Friars.com

Greg Gantt practiced a total of two days before making his Providence debut last week against Sacred Heart. He wasted little time in making his presence felt.

Shortly after being inserted into the Friar lineup late in the first half of a game that was already well on its way to being a blowout, Gantt went to work.

The freshman from North Carolina made a short baseline jumper with a little over three minutes to play in the first half, and finished the half with seven points in total after converting a layup and knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

 

In his postgame press conference, Ed Cooley noted that Gantt had practiced only two days as he recovered from an achilles injury suffered earlier this fall. Cooley explained how the time away impacted Gantt’s defensive awareness, but gave a bit of insight into why the Friar staff made him their top priority in the class of 2019, “He’s one of these gifted athletes. He has an ‘it’ factor. He’s got an active body, a live body.”

Gantt would have been excused if he showed signs of rust. Not only had he missed significant time this fall, but his senior season at Trinity Christian was cut short after he underwent surgery on his thumb.

It is someone surprising that Gantt looked so comfortable on offense, while Cooley alluded to the need for him to improve his defensive awareness, because if there is anything Gantt was known for in high school it was his defensive prowess.

Scouts in North Carolina consistently called him the best defensive player in the state. At 6’7 with great athleticism and above average strength, Gantt is capable of chasing guards on the perimeter and battling bigger players in the post.

For a freshman who has barely practiced, Gantt has looked comfortable through two games, which should not be a surprise considering the path he took to Providence.

“Greg played varsity in the 8th grade,” said Jamie Shaw of Phenomhoopreport.com in North Carolina.

Shaw is as familiar with Gantt as anyone covering the prep game, having first seen Gantt play when he was in middle school. Trinity Christian is a high school powerhouse, and when Gantt was in 8th grade he played alongside the top point guard in the country in Dennis Smith Jr. Other Trinity Christian teammates included Joey Baker (currently at Duke), Au’Diese Toney (Pittsburgh), and dunking sensation Kwe Parker (a Tennessee transfer who is now at North Carolina A&T).

Gantt was always productive. He made his way on the court early because of his defense and versatility on that end,” said Shaw.

While Gantt closed his high school career as one of the top 60 players in the country (a recruit that PC beat out Texas and Florida for) his rise up the rankings was a slow climb.

Shaw explained, “Around Gantt’s sophomore year, you started to see the light click on. Opposed to being a switchable defensive four man, he worked hard on his ball skills to transition to a three man. He was a process, but Gantt is a ridiculously hard worker.”

“He is a high level defender. He can guard the perimeter or switch on to the block. He is strong and lengthy, he can move his feet. It would not surprise me to see him be an all league type of defender for multiple years.”

In reading about Gantt over the past two years certain themes kept popping up: hard worker, non-stop motor, high character. Shaw echoed those sentiments, “He is a great kid, an unbelievable personality. People flock to him. He works incredibly hard as well. He’ll be an instant hit.”

Providence assistant coach Jeff Battle was critical in establishing a relationship with Gantt. He and Cooley recognized Gantt’s talent early, and continued to make him a priority through both strong outings and struggles. By the time Gantt exploded into full fledged top prospect the likes of Louisville, Florida and so many others made a push, but Gantt repeatedly said in interviews how he appreciated the honest approach the Providence staff took to his recruitment.

As Phenomhoopreport wrote at the time of his commitment, “Providence College was at every single game Greg Gantt played in over the Summer. Jeff Battle was front and center, EVERY SINGLE TIME, while Head Coach Ed Cooley came at least once per tournament. It was truly a masterful job, as Gantt had also set visits to the likes of Texas and Florida, major programs. Providence showed the love and Gantt reciprocated with his commitment.”

Shaw added additional context to Friarbasketball.com, “They made him a priority, with Battle at every game that summer and Cooley coming by each week to see him. When most of the other schools backed off, Providence hung in there. Battle got on him early and saw it, even when Gantt had a bad summer. Gantt then turned things up his senior year, and showed he could go anywhere in the country. But Battle stood in there through the rough and will be rewarded.”

We saw glimpses of Gantt’s raw defensive potential against NJIT on Saturday. He is still learning defensive assignments at the D1 level, but was he ever active in limited minutes — playing passing lanes aggressively and flashing good instincts.

While Cooley has emphasized picking up the pace offensively, he wants to do so by turning PC’s defense into early offense. If Gantt can make up for lost practice time in the coming weeks, his defensive potential and versatility could lead to him seeing legitimate minutes this season, even on a team with great depth.

All his growth came from hard work,” said Shaw. “The kid has a great personality, but is never afraid to put in the sweat equity — he’s a leader.”

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar

 

4 Comments

  1. wayne pacheco

    November 11, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Kevin: Great article on Greg Gantt. I love articles like this that tell us the behind the scenes stuff that made it all happen. I have been a Providence College fan since 1959 and this kind of recruitment that emphasizes loyalty and commitment and caring makes me proud to be a fan. Go Friars. It surely seems like this could be a special year.

  2. DAVID CONTE

    November 12, 2019 at 1:31 am

    So glad to have Ed Cooley as our coach…………….He is as good a person as he is a coach

  3. Kevin Farrahar

    November 12, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Wayne, it is always nice to see the staff’s loyalty to a recruit reciprocated. Gantt’s recruitment really heated up late, but Cooley and Battle were rewarded for being in early. Not the case with so many recruits who fly up the rankings.

  4. Derec Lamendola

    November 17, 2019 at 5:27 pm

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    Jimmy Nichols Sophomore
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