Friar Basketball

A Decade of Friar Basketball: Part I

Part I of my look back on a decade of Friar basketball. In the 90’s Providence won the Big East tournament in ’94 and came within an overtime of the Final Four in 1997. 11 former Friars from the 1990s played in the NBA. How many Friars from the past decade made it? One. It can be done at Providence as the 90’s proved, but as the past decade taught us, it isn’t easy.

All 2000 First Team:

PG: John Linehan: all time NCAA leader in steals gets the top spot on defense alone. Two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, a game changing defensive player who single handedly took teams out of their offense. A limited playmaker with a non-existent jumper when he came to Providence, Linehan shot 41% from 3 in 2001. Made 33 consecutive free throws to start his PC career. No one rattled an opposing point guard better (see: Cook, Omar). We may never see a breath-taking defensive guard like him again. Does anyone remember that he played with Ryan Gomes for a season?

SG: Weyinmi Efejuku: Gets the nod thanks to a leap his senior year and an injury to Abdul Mills. If Mills plays his senior season he’s part of two tournament teams and puts up similar, if not better, numbers than Efejuku. 12th all time scorer in PC history who was the catalyst on a 19 team win a year ago.

SF: Rob Sanders: Ouch. In a telling sign of how the past decade went in Providence, Sanders lands himself the nod here. Erron Maxey was a 4 and only played one season this decade, so he’s out. Would have been Rome Augustin’s spot (10 ppg, 40% 3s his sophomore year) had he not gotten injured. The old floor in Alumni didn’t do Tim Welsh any favors.

PF: Ryan Gomes: Clear cut player of the decade. First team All American, all time leading scorer in Providence history, the only Friar to play in the NBA in the decade (sadly), and quietly 5th all time in steals at PC. Not bad for a kid whose biggest thrill in sports was winning the Billy Finn award for best player in Waterbury coming into college. Had the character to match his ability. Everything a Friar fan could ask for.

C: Marcus Douthit: One of three Friars to get drafted in the decade, Douthit went from encouraging freshman on a tournament team to dreadful sophomore. Recovered career from the ashes late in his junior year and controlled the paint well enough senior year to get taken by the Lakers. No one saw it coming two years prior. Complete liability offensively who ended his career second all time in blocks per game at Providence. As important defensively as Gomes was offensively in 2004, he played on both tournament teams in the decade.


Second Team:

PG: Donnie McGrath: edges out Sharaud Curry thanks to a tournament appearance and top ranking in PC history in 3s made, minutes and games started. Tough to forget about his shooting slumps and inability to create.

SG: Abdul Mills: Thought this spot would go to Sheiku Kabba, but upon further investigation of their statistics, it wasn’t even close. Injured during Gomes’ junior year, an often forgotten “What could have been?” at PC. Led the team in scoring in 2001-02, including a 26 point, 8 rebound performance against Boston College playing through a badly injured groin that ended his PC career. Scored 20 points, with 8 assists, on a perfect shooting night: 5-5 FG, 3-3 3PT, 7-7 FT against Virginia Tech his sophomore season.

SF: Dwight Brewington: Another sign of the times moment. I spent a few minutes comparing Brewington to Tuukka Kotti and then wondering if I could really consider Tuukka a 3. Brewington’s early season sophomore surge was enough to get him a 2nd team nod. Sad. Brewington is left wondering why he isn’t listed at the 2nd team point guard.

PF: Geoff McDermott: Didn’t do himself any favors with his senior season. A bump in production ala Douthit, McGrath or Herb Hill and Friar fans remember him differently. Peaked with an 18, 16, and 5 in a surprising Thanksgiving Eve win over Boston College his sophomore year.

C: Herb Hill: A senior year that seemingly sprung out of nowhere had to have Gomes wondering where this kid was when he played with him for a couple of seasons. A double-double machine his senior season capped with monster performances against Syracuse (29, 15, 8 blocks) and South Florida (28, 16, and 6 blocks) to close out the season. From deer in headlights to NBA draft pick – a shocking turn. The tournament appearances and early production from Douthit keep Herb off of the first team.


Game of the Decade: January 5, 2004 – Providence vs. Texas. With all due respect to last year’s win over #1 Pittsburgh the Dunk never rocked in the past decade like it did in the Friars’ overtime loss to Texas. This game had it all. Rick Barnes making his return to Providence, Gomes emerging as a star, and an up and coming Friar team that had already defeated Deron Williams and Illinois, would-be Elite 8 Alabama, and smacked down Virginia on the road.

Need more? Providence was ranked for the first time in 3 years and came back from a 32-11 deficit to take a 77-74 lead in the waning seconds when a loose ball rolled to the feet of a wide-open Royal Ivey who calmly drilled a 3 to send the game to overtime. By the time Donnie McGrath’s heel-grazing the end line 3 pointer tied it with three seconds to go in overtime a sweat-filled Dunk (why was it so hot in there that night?) shook with joy. After a timeout, Texas’ power forward PJ Tucker went the length of the floor and laid it in at the buzzer, leading to a good 10 minute review by the refs. Texts messages were flying into fans from friends watching from home and when the hoop was ruled good the crowd lost it.

Fans littered the court with trash in a scene from the WWE and a Texas player nearly rushed the stands after taking a bottle to the dome. Texas guard Brandon Mouton noted, “This game was huge for us. It was huge in terms of getting national respect.” Beating Providence in 2004 meant national respect. That is the difference between this game and the Pitt win. Providence was a team on the rise and fans knew it. The Dunk was alive in 2004 for the first time in years. The buzz was back in Providence and the Friars went on to thrash defending national champ Syracuse and would-be national champ Connecticut in the next month.

Rick Barnes said, “Coming back here was more emotional than I thought it would be.” You’re telling us, Rick. PC lost on a ridiculous shot after a 10 minute review, my car got broken into while I was there and it was my best experience at the Dunk in the past decade. Now, that is a great game.

Worst Game: March 2, 2004 – #12 Providence gets crushed by #6 Pittsburgh. Somewhere Brown fans are outraged. As pathetic a loss as the Brown one was four years ago, nothing hurt like this one. As a friend wrote, “My hands hurt after the pregame introductions. My stomach hurt by halftime.”

The 20-5 Friars were looking at a potential #1 seed in the Big East Tournament and simply never recovered from this one, losing 88-61. “Losing” is putting it mildly. The physical play of Chris Taft and Chevy Troutman was overwhelming. Gomes was limited to three rebounds and Donnie McGrath went scoreless.

Providence lost their season finale against an underrated BC team (Craig Smith and Jared Dudley), then was upset by another underrated foe, Villanova (Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Curtis Sumpter), and had no confidence by the time their first round tournament game rolled around. Pacific rolled over PC and the Friars have been looking for that 2004 Dunk rejuvenation since.

Low Blow of the Decade: St. John’s point guard Omar Cook on Sheiku Kabba. Remember when we talked about Linehan rattling opposing point guards? Omar Cook was a stud out of NYC, a one and done kid, but he wasn’t all there mentally.

Linehan hounded the freshman, flustering him to the point where he took it out on Linehan’s backup, Sheiku Kabba, with a sharp elbow to Kabba’s groin. Kabba went down in a heap, Cook got a technical, and the game was over right then and there.

Cook ended the day 2-10 with a measly three assists and was nothing more than a Summer League pro.  A picture from this game this hangs in the hallway of Alumni Hall.

Worst Play of the Decade: Rob Sanders’ “Look at Me!” Dunk.  Fans lost it when Sanders threw the basketball off of the backboard to himself on a 1-0 breakaway, IN THE 2ND HALF OF A CLOSE POSTSEASON game.  I sat in my seat shaking my head, waiting for Welsh to yank him for the stunt.