Regular followers of Providence College basketball know what I’m about to say is not hyperbole or an exaggeration; this weekend will be the most important recruiting weekend for the Friars in decades. The recent struggles of the program (and of the fellow “bottom feeder” schools of the Big East like Seton Hall and DePaul) have been well documented. Providence has not made the NCAA tournament since 2004. They have made a grand total of four appearances in the past 23 seasons, and in that time only once did they advance past the first round. And the less said about the Keno Davis era, the better. Commentators are all-too willing to offer this information when expressing their doubts about the viability of the reformed Big East.
We get it. Providence has been irrelevant. For a while. However, to those who claim the irrelevancy will continue in both the new conference and on a national scale, I offer this bit of advice:
Do so at your own peril.
By saying this, you are willingly ignoring the job Ed Cooley has done to not just change the culture at Providence but create a brand new culture, one that is not content with making the Big Dance once in a while as an eight or nine seed. Yes, he guided the program to a winning season and two NIT wins last year. But he’s also scheduling quality out of conference opponents (case in point, a match-up with Kentucky at the Barclays Center this season). Compare Providence’s 2013 OOC schedule with fellow “cellar dweller” Seton Hall. There is no contest which school is looking to thrive and which one is merely trying to survive.
Most of all, Cooley is consistently recruiting at a level never before attempted at PC. It started last offseason with a consensus top ten 2012 recruiting class (Ricky Ledo, Kris Dunn, and Josh Fortune). That success did not come without doubters; people attributed the Dunn commitment to Cooley working on him for years in Connecticut before he even took the Providence head coaching job. They claimed he was lucky to get Dunn before he blew up. While Ricky Ledo is no longer with the program, it took a lot to recruit him back to Providence after he de-committed the previous year. Some claim, however, that Ledo (a Providence, RI native) was an easy pick-up due to his proximity to the school. Simply put, the Friars’ 2012 class was an aberration, the exception that proves the rule that PC should stick to looking for diamonds in the rough.
Fast forward to today and you’ll see Ed Cooley and his staff preparing to host their Elite Camp, an event that showcases Friar recruits for next year’s class and beyond. In attendance will be four of Providence’s most highly sought after 2014 players; forward Abdul-Malik Abu, center Pascal Chukwu, and guards Kaleb Joseph & Jared Terrell. All four are Top 100 players, and all four would immediately fill needs for the Friars next year. Providence die-hards are salivating at the opportunity of having their own Fab Five of sorts (2014 forward Jalen Lindsey committed last month). They know that friends Abu and Terrell have previously expressed interest in going to the same school. They know that Providence is the only school in both of their top four lists. They also know that they will be announcing their decisions at a joint press conference. I don’t think you can blame Friar fans for being excited. The excitement only grows knowing that Magic Johnson will be on campus to coach against Cooley in a celebrity charity basketball game this weekend, too. This is a monumental opportunity for Cooley and his staff to close the deal with talent that will make the Friars a perennial contender and possibly a flagship program in the new Big East.
Cincinnati, UConn, Florida, NC State, Oklahoma, Syracuse, and West Virginia are just some of the big schools recruiting Abu, Chukwu, Joseph, & Terrell. Providence is standing toe-to-toe with all of those programs. They may get all four. They may get none. But we do know this; 2012 was no fluke. Neither was 2013. Ed Cooley is a damn fine recruiter and will continue to be one of the best in the Big East. As long as they have Ed, the Friars will always have a shot.