After missing the first three games of the season with a shoulder strain suffered in an exhibition game, Kris Dunn made his season debut for the Friars on Monday night against the Vermont Catamounts.
The point guard didn’t get the start, and was expected to see the court sparingly, but ended up playing quite a bit in the second half with the game fairly close and finished with 21 minutes played.
Coach Cooley probably would have preferred to ease his starting point guard in, but when the lead got cut to 7 with roughly 15 minutes to play, he recognized that Dunn was the spark that the team needed.
It was evident how much more efficient and fluid the offense ran with Dunn on the court controlling the point. The sophomore finished with 8 assists and only 3 points, but it was how the team as a whole functioned that mattered. The team fed off his energy when on the floor as he slung the ball all over the court hitting open teammates for quality looks.
Providence ended up defeating Vermont by a score of 70-49. Friar forward LaDontae Henton led all scorers with 19 points, while Kadeem Batts chipped in with a double double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
Dunn, a top 25 recruit in the class of 2012 and viewed as the top point guard by many scouts, is a difference maker. His size, length, handles, vision and speed make him a matchup nightmare. A year ago he missed the first six weeks of the season dealing with an injury to the same shoulder that required surgery over that summer. And when he did get back on the court, he was sharing the point guard duties with Vincent Council, a senior and one of the better point guards in the country.
But this year the role solely belongs to Dunn. Three games likely won’t be much of a sample size, but the Friars should see a noticeable difference in the efficiency of their offense and the team’s energy level with the versatile Dunn on the floor. Just as they did against Vermont. He is a major reason why I picked the Friars to finish 3rd in the Big East this season, while most other prognosticators have them in the bottom half of the conference.
It was great seeing Dunn in uniform Monday night, especially when rumors were swirling about a week ago that his injury could be season ending. If Providence is to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade, Dunn needs to be on the court. Friar fans can be a bit more optimistic about those prospects today.