By Chris Metcalf
For about the last decade, Providence College basketball fans have adopted the phrase: “just wait until next year.” It has been a tough stretch of years filled with mediocrity and disappointment for the Friar faithful. In a time when talent and depth inside the Big East Conference was at an all-time high, it seemed like Providence would play a Top 25 opponent every night. They simply have not had the size, team depth, or overall talent to compete with those rosters stocked with future NBA players on a consistent basis. It was as if the Friars were banished to the basement every season in this unforgiving conference.
Then, Providence College made one of their most important coaching hires in former Fairfield head coach, Ed Cooley, who was born and raised in the Providence area. A strong hire was necessary to right the ship after a less than stellar three year experiment with Keno Davis at the helm. Cooley claimed in his first press conference that “not only will we win here, we’re going to win and we’re going to win big.” That is a powerful statement that could be a very distinct possibility in the coming years. “We will set this place on fire” Cooley said. The one proven thing that he has set on fire thus far has been the recruiting trail.
After several Top 100 recruits and transfers his first couple of years, Ed Cooley is in the midst of assembling his most impressive recruiting class for 2014. Providence now has verbal commitments from 6’7 small forward Jalen Lindsey and 7’1 center Paschal Chukwu, both unanimous Top 100 recruits from all scouting services. For Friar fans, this kind of talent and length seems like a dream. I assure you it is not, however, as no coach in America has outworked Cooley and his staff over the past two years when their tenure began. Their hard work is paying off and these players that Providence never had any business recruiting in past years want to come here and play for this tight unit. They want to be part of something special, and Friar fans from Rhode Island know that there is nothing like the buzz around the state when their team is relevant and winning games. The fans got a small taste of it last year when PC made a run to the NIT quarterfinals, which shows the progress.
Expectations are even higher this upcoming season, as they return all of their top players, aside from Vincent Council who has graduated. They have also added a Top 100 versatile guard in 6’6 Brandon Austin, as well as two talented transfers in 6’9 forward Tyler Harris and 7’0 center Carson Desrosiers. These are the types of players who will certainly contribute immediately and create the kind of depth and length that PC teams have not had in recent years.
The die-hard Friar fans deserve this excitement around their program, and furthermore, they better get used to it. Ed Cooley is a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail, and soon to be, on the hardwood. The news also gets better as Friartown anxiously awaits the announcements of two more prized Top 100 recruits in Expressions Elite duo Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell on September 7. They both have Providence in their final four schools, the lone school that they have in common. These two players have the chance to round out a hypothetical recruiting class being called the “Friar Four.” With Cooley and the staff securing verbals from Lindsey and Chukwu, they are already halfway to that goal. Abu and Terrell have an opportunity to add fuel to the fire that Ed Cooley has ignited. The only question that remains is whether they want to be a part of it.