Friar Basketball

Recruiting Picking up in the Big East, When Will Providence Join in?

Cooley BET Creighton

It has been quite a seven day run on the recruiting trail for the Big East.

Villanova continues to load up, as Jay Wright and his staff landed a commitment from a four star guard in Jordan Longino out of Pennsylvania. The Wildcats have the makings of a tremendous 2021 recruiting haul, with Longino joining top 40 small forward Trey Patterson and skilled big man Nnanna Njoku. Njoku, is a powerfully built, top 100 center out of the same Sanford School in Delaware that produced Providence freshman-to-be Jyare Davis. He has a good face-up jumper and plays with physicality. The trio of Loningo, Patterson, and Njoku gives Jay Wright a class featuring three top 100 players — and it is a group that is expected to soon include point guard Angelo Brizzi out of Virginia. 247 Sports already ranks Nova’s 2021 class as the third best in the country.

Reports broke last week that Brizzi was expected to commit to Villanova, which paved the way for UConn to pounce on a top 50 point guard of their own in Rahsool Diggins. Diggins, also a member of the class of 2021, committed to UConn on Sunday night, and shared that Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley made it a point to challenge the Pennsylvania native to go against the grain and choose the Huskies over Nova.

With news of Brizzi’s near verbal to Villanova breaking last week, it seems as though the Wildcats had moved on, but regardless, Hurley won’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers in his new league. The era of the “like-minded-we’re-in-this-together” Big East should be dead soon.

Patrick Ewing’s long road back to returning Georgetown to respectability took a step in the right direction last week. The Hoyas added Siena graduate transfer Donald Carey a week ago. Carey will have two years of eligibility remaining. Carey was an 11 point per game scorer, and 38% 3-point shooter on a pretty good Siena team last year. Ewing also nabbed 2021 guard Jordan Riley, a three star prospect from Brentwood, NY. Riley is an explosive athlete whose recruitment came down to Georgetown and St. John’s. He joins Hargrave Academy guard Tyler Beard as part of Georgetown’s 2021 haul.

Xavier also picked up some good news this week, as the sharpshooting Adam Kunkel announced his transfer from Belmont to Xavier. Kunkel grew up near Xavier’s campus and should provide much-needed shooting. He is expected to sit out next year regardless of transfer rules changing or waiver approvals. Kunkel averaged over 16 points per game and shot 39% from deep a year ago. Kunkel joins 6’8 Cesare Edwards, a four star forward who committed to Xavier earlier this summer.

Good news seems to be coming fast and furious for many across the league, but curiously, Providence has struggled to land its top high school targets for the classes of 2020 and 2021. The Friars swung for the fences in the class of 2020, taking aim at top 50 seven footers in Hunter Dickinson from Maryland powerhouse DeMatha and Iowa native Xavier Foster. Dickinson ended up committing to Michigan, while Foster stayed in-state and pledged to Iowa State.

Providence also heavily pursued Dickinson’s teammate, Earl Timberlake, but 247 Sports’ 35th ranked player in 2020 opted for Miami. There were others, like North Carolina native Shakeel Moore who PC looked well positioned with at one time, but Moore is off to North Carolina State.

The Friars landed a pair of high school prospects in Davis and Georgia native Alyn Breed for 2020, and salvaged the class by adding two key transfers last spring in La Salle power forward Ed Croswell and former Syracuse guard Brycen Goodine. Croswell is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, and Goodine was a decorated New England prep before seeing sparse playing time at Syracuse as a freshman last season.

It is hard to argue against the program’s success on the transfer market the past two seasons. Luwane Pipkins was the catalyst during last season’s late-year turnaround, while both point guard Jared Bynum and big man Noah Horchler were among the best transfer additions in the country 15 months ago.

Still, it is fair to question why Providence has struggled to land their top high school targets the past two seasons. They were able to lock up their top two prospects in both the 2017 and 2018 classes (Nate Watson, Makai Ashton-Langford in ’17, David Duke and AJ Reeves the following year), as well as the top target in 2019 (Greg Gantt).

This spring and summer have seen many of PC’s 2021 targets head elsewhere. Point guard has been a particular area of focus, with the killer being Bobby Pettiford heading to Louisville. As was the case with Moore a year prior, PC looked to be in a great spot with a North Carolina point guard, but lost out late.

The staff set up a zoom call with Massachusetts native Bensley Joseph the day Pettiford committed to the Cards, but Joseph’s recruitment felt like a game of catch-up after missing on Pettiford. Providence did make Joseph’s final five, but he committed to Miami on Monday.

Providence also lost out on 6’8 wing Gianni Thompson to Boston College, center Gabe Wiznitzer to Louisville, and Maryland point guard Ryan Conway to Seton Hall.

The hope in Friartown should be for a class of 2016 redux. The Friars hit a bump in the recruiting road in 2015, by far the least productive of Cooley’s tenure, and then struggled to sign priority targets Wenyen Gabriel, Kevin Marfo, Shamorie Ponds, and Sedee Keita in the fall of 2015. Cooley and Co. rebounded strongly that spring by locking up Alpha Diallo, Kalif Young, and JUCO transfer Emmitt Holt to go along with their lone fall signee, Maliek White.

It’s still early in regards to the class of 2021, and there is no telling how the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered this staff, but this is a results-based business and the pandemic has impacted every program across the country.

The sudden halt in high school recruiting momentum makes little sense on paper. Providence opened its impressive practice facility prior to the past two recruiting classes, PC has retained its core in an era of mass transfers, and despite a down year in 2018-19, they were headed for a sixth tournament appearance in seven years prior to the pandemic.

Some have pointed to a lack of a run in March, but Marquette hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since realignment in 2013, and Seton Hall has one tourney win during that time.

Whatever the case, recruits are seemingly committing earlier due to the uncertainty of the next 12 months, and that uncertainty won’t make the staff’s job easy easier. The success on the transfer market over the past 24 months has been the program’s saving grace in terms of recruiting, and with one thousand basketball players transferring annually the transfer market will become increasingly important. Still, from the outside looking in it is perplexing to see success on the floor, stability within the program, and top transfers coming aboard, while prep recruiting has been more of a struggle.


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