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PC Recruiting: Cooley’s touch could be golden

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


The excuses stopped when Ed Cooley became head coach of Providence in March 2011. Prior to Cooley taking over on Smith Hill, the popular refrain typically alternated between the proud tradition of the program and the uphill battle the Friars faced in trying to compete in the mighty Big East.

With each passing season the program’s tradition seemed more memory than a recruiting tool, while the shortcomings were either alluded to by former Providence coaches, or hammered home by national pundits.

Providence was a tiny school in the country’s most powerful conference, they said. They weren’t in a recruiting hotbed. The campus wasn’t diverse enough. The facilities could use upgrading. And on they went.

Cooley could have taken cover under the same excuses and found security in simply bringing stability to a program badly in need of it, but he immediately went the opposite route -- promising deep tournament runs fueled by recruiting classes made up of future professionals. As Cooley told me after his first season here, “You always want to swing and try to get a pro. If you’re going to compete for it all you’re going to need pros.”

True to the words he had the nerve to say from his opening day press conference, Cooley has aimed high and recruited at a level beyond the wildest hopes of all of Friartown.

* * *

“Everything he told me is coming to light,” shared junior LaDontae Henton this fall. Henton was Cooley’s first recruit at Providence and reinforced the eye for talent Cooley was known for as an assistant at Boston College and later as the head man at Fairfield. A rush of elite recruits has followed in the two and a half years since Henton came aboard.

Henton could well be speaking for all of Providence. Cooley has more than delivered on his vow to up the talent level.

How high has Cooley raised the bar in Providence? Look no further than the rankings.

The Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI) creates their top 100 rankings by aggregating the rankings of all the major recruiting publications.

Over a 13-year span, from 1998-2010, Providence had four recruits ranked in the RSCI’s top 100 players (Gerald Brown and Dwight Brewington in 2003, DeSean White in 2004 and Gerard Coleman in 2010).

In just over two years Cooley has crushed those numbers -- and the perception that you can’t land players at Providence.

His first class brought a pair of top 25 players in Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo, and they were joined by former top 100 transfers Carson Desrosiers (Wake Forest) and Tyler Harris (North Carolina State).

This year Providence welcomes unanimous top 60 guard Brandon Austin out of Philadelphia, while the class of 2014 haul already features a trio of top 100 players.

The first domino to fall was Jalen Lindsey, a 6’7 small forward from Franklin, TN who has been considered one of the top prospects in his class since he burst onto the scene as a 13-year-old kid making an impact at the varsity level.

Next came 7’1 center Paschal Chukwu out of Fairfield Prep in Connecticut. He’s widely considered one of the top defensive centers in the nation, and his length will be matched by the bulk of Cooley’s latest catch, the rugged 6’8 Ben Bentil from St. Andrew’s in Delaware.

The trio is currently ranked #16 of all 2014 recruiting classes by ESPN -- a spot below Florida and slightly ahead of powerhouses like Arizona (20) and Michigan (21).

Including the transfers, in just over two years, Cooley has doubled the number of top 100 players that committed to the program from 1998-2010. You don’t hear about the shortcomings anymore -- certainly not from the coach, or national reporters who have shifted their focus from what Providence isn’t to what it’s becoming.

With this talent infusion, Cooley’s Friars may be on their way to adding their own chapter to Providence’s history.

* * *

Throughout the 2013-14 season, the staff of Friarbasketball.com will partner with GoLocalProv to bring you all of the latest on not only the makings of Providence’s 2014 class and beyond, but the recruiting classes and efforts at Rhode Island, Brown and Bryant as well. We’ll also feature local prep and high school players throughout the year.

We’ll take you through who may be on the verge of committing and highlight how commitments from each of the schools are faring throughout the season.

Follow Kevin Farrahar on Twitter @Kevin_Farrahar.


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