Friar Basketball

Henton Emerging as a Building Block (12.1.11)

Providence College was all over the national headlines this summer, and rightfully so.  The Friars out-recruiting Connecticut for in-state product Kris Dunn, and steering Ricardo Ledo away from a slew of traditional powers shortly after, was a resounding statement by Ed Cooley and his staff.  The new Providence staff would go to battle with the biggest names in the game and come out victorious.

But it might not have been the staff’s first upset victory on the recruiting trail.

As noted here after LaDontae Henton committed in April, there were significant obstacles in the way of the Friars landing the first signee of the Ed Cooley era at Providence – specifically in the form of Iowa State.

Like Cooley, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg had significant wins of his own on the recruiting trail this summer, yet before the two made front page news in July and August they went toe to toe for Henton in April after the lefty was released from his letter of intent from Dayton when Brian Gregory went to Georgia Tech.

The biggest obstacle could have been Henton’s relationship with Iowa State assistant coach Cornell Mann.

Mann led Dayton’s recruitment of Henton, but perhaps more significant in Providence’s challenge of Mann and Iowa State was the fact that the coach had a relationship with the Michigan product dating back to when Henton was in 7th grade.

Cooley had started at Providence in March.

Another hurdle was Henton’s long-standing relationship with current Iowa State guard Chris Allen, a Michigan State transfer who played in open gyms with Henton since his freshman year in high school.

Despite the previous relationships, Cooley was able to wrangle Henton away from Iowa State, and if Friar fans weren’t thrilled at the time, they should be now.

Where would Providence be this year without him?

Eight months after his commitment to Providence, Henton is playing critical minutes as a freshman and looks to be a pillar for the future.

With Marshon Brooks and his near 25 points per game gone to the NBA, and an already thin frontcourt desperate for help due to the suspension of Kadeem Batts, Henton has stepped in immediately and played with the poise and toughness that Cooley vowed to bring to this program at his opening press conference in March.

Henton was terrific once again on Thursday night – this time in a road win against South Carolina.  His 18 points and eight rebounds are impressive numbers for the freshman, but it’s how he got those figures that showed his maturity.

Not once forcing the action, Henton connected on six of nine shots from the field, 3-3 from three point range, 3-3 from the free throw line, and only turned the ball over twice while playing the full 40 minutes for the second game in a row.

Over his last three games Henton is averaging 17 points and nearly nine rebounds, while shooting 58% from the field.

He nailed a pair of three pointers in the first five minutes of the second half, pushing the Friar lead to double digits with each make, and converted a three point play with under five minutes remaining to give PC a 63-51 advantage.

While the star-studded Dunn/Ledo/Josh Fortune class is often thought of as Cooley’s first, it was Henton who was the first player to commit to Cooley as the head coach of the Friars and it is Henton who is playing within himself, and with toughness, efficiency, and maturity.

He’s just the type of player Cooley vowed to bring in when he took the job last spring.


  • Bilal Dixon has taken a lot of heat over the past year, but every once in a while he has a game like tonight which draws PC fans back in.  Playing a season high 22 minutes, Dixon gave the Friars solid production on an evening in which they were getting beaten up on the offensive glass.  His 10 points were a side note for the big man, who blocked seven shots after entering the game with six swats on the season.  Minus Batts, and with Dixon seeing limited minutes, the Friars had been overwhelmed on the glass at times this season, but Dixon has the size and surer hands than the likes of Ron Giplaye, Lee Goldsbrough, and Brice Kofane.  Consistency has been a glaring issue throughout Dixon’s career and the hope in Providence has to be that this is a start for a kid who has the size and strength this team really needs.  10-7-7 on the road is a good sign.
  • 13 more free throws for Gerard Coleman tonight.  Sure, a few of them might have come on drives in which he ignored an open Dixon under the basket, but Coleman continues to get to the line at will, shooting double digit free throws for the third time this season.  He’s averaging eight free throw attempts per game this season and his shooting from the field is up to .472 as opposed to .419 last year.
  • For all of the talk of Dixon’s best game and Henton’s continued emergence, Vincent Council makes it all possible.  He continues to be the tone setter in a junior season that is off to a great start.  Council’s final stat line reads 16 points and six assists, which doesn’t take into account the dimes he was cheated out of due to teammates missing a few easy ones, and more significantly the pace he sets.  Council has always been a terror in the open court, but transitioning to a less free-wheeling style has turned Council into a more poised quarterback in the halfcourt set, pulling the ball out at times when he would have pushed the action last season.
  • 54.5% from three and 81% from the free throw line?  It’s amazing what taking good three pointers does for a team’s shooting percentage.  This team does not have a variety of options from three point territory, yet they are hitting 37% of their threes this year.
  • South Carolina might be the worst shooting team in high major college basketball.  The Friars switched up their defenses early, but more than anything they were begging the Gamecocks to beat them from deep and they couldn’t.  The scouting report was right on in this one – they shot 6-30 from three.
  • After snaring 12 rebounds on Tuesday night, Brice Kofane played only five minutes Thursday.
  • The Friars blocked 10 shots on the evening – seven by Dixon and a pair for Ron Giplaye in 13 minutes of action.
  • It was partially a product of horrible shooting, but South Carolina crushed Providence on the offensive glass, grabbing 18.
  • Providence got out in transition again – outscoring USC 16-4 in fastbreak points.
  • PC shot 50% from the field, 50% from three, and 85% from the line in the second half.
  • South Carolina’s only lead was 2-0.