Friar Basketball

Searching for Marcus Douthit

One of the biggest misses of the Tim Welsh era came after the 2005-06 season.  A local shooter out of Manhattan had just lit up Maryland to the tune of 31 points in the NIT.  The kid grew up in Pawtucket, dreamed of coming to PC, and everyone was thrilled when Jeff Xavier transferred in.

Everyone but me at least.  Not with Shawn James transferring out of Northeastern.  You might remember James, the America East Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 5.4 blocks per game.  A year later he broke an NCAA record by averaging 6.53 blocks per game.  He had over 190 blocks his sophomore season.  Only two Providence teams ever have had that many in a season. And he was available.

Welsh jumped on the shooting guard, James went to Duquesne (second time I’ve posted about missing out on a guy who ended up with the Dukes in a week) and an inability to stop anyone spelled the end of Welsh’s career at Providence two years later.

Did Welsh not realize what he won with at Providence?  The 2000-01 squad feaured a roster that had been stripped bare after the Prime Time incident and it would have been a long year if Welsh didn’t have a defensive dynamo at point guard and two seven footers protecting the paint.  A year after what might have been the most embarrassing season in Providence College history Welsh and an offensively crippled team went dancing.

Three years later the headliner was Ryan Gomes, but the secret to that team’s success was the emergence of Marcus Douthit halfway through his junior season.  Douthit had a year and a half lull beginning in his sophomore year and was on his way out the door until he awoke from his slumber in a win at St. John’s in Queens.  Welsh shortened the rotation, played Douthit consistent minutes after benching him previously and the Friars finished 8-3 in their last 11 games.

The next year they peaked at #12 nationally with wins over defending champion Syracuse, Deron Williams and Illinois, and a win over that year’s champion, Connecticut.  And they won with defense.  The Illinois game was the most telling.

Illinois featured three NBA guards: Deron Williams, Luther Head, and Dee Brown.  Their frontcourt had two cup of coffee NBA types in Roger Powell and James Augustine.  Illinois shot 30 percent from the field, scored a mere 21 in the second half, and Williams, Head, and Brown combined for 9 points.

They did all of this with a cast of average defenders (at best) protected by Marcus Douthit who blocked six shots and altered countless others.   As important as Gomes was to the offense, Douthit was equally impactful defensively.  When Douthit graduated (with Sheiku Kabba and two non-impact Europeans) Providence went from an 11-5 Big East team to 4-12.  The year after Gomes left the team won one more Big East game.

The point of all of this?  Keno Davis’ Friars just scored 110 points on the road with a bunch of guards that he didn’t even bring in here.  Only 12 times in Providence history have they scored over 110 points in a game.  Keno’s teams are going to score every year he’s here, I have no doubt about that.  The key is going to be to find his Douthit, Shabazz, or James.

Each of those kids were below average offensively.  They were liabilities with the ball in their hands, and couldn’t face up and hit an 18 foot jumper if their lives counted on it.  None of them were anything to write home about on the glass either, but with a cast of guards capable of putting up 110 points around them it doesn’t matter much.

The development of Greedy in his season away and the dabbling in the John Riek and Carson Desrosiers sweepstakes gives me hope that Keno can develop guys with limited offensive abilities and provides hope that he recognizes the need for a shot blocker.  Shot blockers like Douthit, James, and Shabazz can be found and if Providence is fortunate enough to get a shot blocker of that ilk the defensive liabilities of their teammates will suddenly vanish.  Combine an upper eschelon swatter with this offense and Keno’s Friars become scary.

Let’s hope Keno realizes what Welsh didn’t in 2006.

Note: the top shot blockers in Providence history (career per game) are:

  1. Marvin Barnes – 4.08
  2. Karim Shabazz – 2.45
  3. Marcus Douthit – 2.42