In two years under head coach Ed Cooley, the Providence Friars have displayed marked improvement, going from 15-17 and no postseason in 2012 to 19-15 and two NIT wins in 2013. Next season’s squad was supposed to feature five new players, including crown jewel Ricky Ledo. However, Ledo will never suit up for the Friars; he declared for the NBA Draft on April 9th, not having played a single minute. While many pundits have focused on his departure, there are still four new faces that will take the court at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this fall. We’ll take a look at these players (two freshmen and two newly eligible ACC transfers) and see what each player brings to a team that’s itching to make the next big step: an NCAA appearance.
CLASS OF 2013 RECRUITS
Brandon Austin (FR, Guard/Forward, 6’6”, 180 lbs, Philadelphia PA)
Austin verbally committed to Penn State head coach Pat Chambers in early 2012 but reopened his recruitment. He eventually said yes to Cooley and the Friars in November, and he will probably be called on early and often to contribute on offense. The tall and lanky combo guard is a great ball handler and can score at will off the dribble, as evidenced in the video below. Austin is thin and uses that to his advantage when attacking the bucket. He creates and drives seemingly effortlessly. Yet maybe the most exciting aspect of his game is his speed; saying he’s “deceptively fast” is putting it gently. The Philly product is a consensus top 50 recruit, and its clear to see why:
Rodney Bullock (FR, Forward, 6’7”, 210 lbs, Hampton VA)
The second member of PC’s 2013 recruiting class, Bullock is one of two current Friars to have attended Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA (sophomore Josh Fortune being the other). Bullock has a very nice jump shot and displays accuracy from the perimeter. He also shows an affinity to “bull rush” in transition and attack basket from the wing in this clip. He was also named 2013 Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, VA:
NEWLY ELLIGIBLE TRANSFERS
Carson Desrosiers (Redshirt JR, Forward, 7’ 250 lbs, Windham NH, Wake Forest transfer)
The big man from New England played two seasons under Jeff Bzdelik before seeking his release from Wake Forest. In those two years he averaged nearly 4.5 points, 4 boards, and 2 blocks per game. For a guy his size, he certainly likes the long range shot. But most importantly he showed flashes of a strong defensive presence and will need to develop consistency in that regard when conference play rolls around (presuming the new Big East will be a brand of physical basketball similar to the old Big East):
Tyler Harris (Redshirt SO, Forward, 6’9” 215 lbs, Dix Hills NY, NC State transfer)
In his lone season with the Wolfpack, Harris averaged a shade under 2 points and about 7 minutes of action per game. He’s shown mobility and a deft touch in the paint and low post, but the fact is we haven’t seen much of what he can do at the collegiate level. Both he and Desrosiers have spent a year under Cooley’s watch during practice; we’ll see if that leads to a more explosive Harris in his offensive game.
All four additions assist in two areas of need: height and depth. The only player returning to the team who averaged at least 13 minutes per game in 2012-13 and is 6-foot-9 or taller is Kadeem Batts. Harris and Desrosiers could easily average that and then some while producing on the offensive end. Just as importantly, the roster is now 12 deep as opposed to 10 last season (and that’s not including a stretch of games when guards Bryce Cotton, Kris Dunn, and former Friar Vincent Council all spent time on the bench nursing various injuries). It’s a depth chart that actually allows Ed Cooley to be somewhat creative, something he hasn’t been able to do in the past two years with limited depth.
So what can we expect from Providence with this influx of talent? Well, opposing Big East teams will play a taller Friar team than in years past. In fact, the roster is filled with versatile players that can play multiple positions if need be. The increased depth will also allow for a more up-tempo pace, something that fits the styles of both Dunn and Austin, two of the fastest players on the team. Combine this with the fact that Providence’s top three leaders in Points Per Game, Total Minutes, and Player Efficiency (Cotton, Batts, and LaDontae Henton) return, and you have the makings of a team that will at least ease the pain of a Ledo hangover for its fanbase.