By John Fanta, @John_Fanta
NEW YORK — It was a month to the day on Friday night that Ed Cooley sat inside Madison Square Garden and proclaimed four words.
“All freshmen are gross.”
Four games into the season, one Friar freshman in particular has been refreshing, and played a key part in Providence’s 90-63 rout over Saint Louis to take the 2K Classic championship inside The Garden.
Point guard Makai Ashton-Langford dazzled the crowd at The Mecca on Friday, scoring all 11 points in the first half of the victory and tacking on three assists. While the on-court production may look simple, the off-court character of Ashton-Langford, a four-star recruit out of high school, is beyond his years. A story from Cooley said it all.
“Makai played seven minutes in the first half yesterday and he had the best plus-minus minutes – plus-10 when he was in the game. He played seven minutes and then didn’t get back into the game. It’s a credit to him. He came up to me at breakfast this morning, talked about all he wanted to do was win. That’s a very, very unselfish attitude, so none of you would be privy to that, but that’s the type of guy that’s playing for Providence College and I couldn’t be more proud of how he turned it around today to help us.”
For Ashton-Langford, the explanation of his play in the 2K Classic is understandable.
“I came in with butterflies,” said Ashton-Langford. And how could he not? The opening week of college hoops season alone is a heavy undertaking for anybody, nor alone a freshman inside The World’s Most Famous Arena.
Even Providence senior point guard Kyron Cartwright, who averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 assists to win 2K Classic MVP, first praised his teammate before doing anything else.
“I’ve seen in practice what Makai can do,” said Cartwright. “It was no surprise to see him perform at a high level here.”
For the Friars, Friday night brought another step on a long, winding road that ends up back at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.
“This is why you come to MSG during the first week of the season,” said Cartwright. “For our young guys to get a chance to play here now, it’s big for their confidence.”
When Cartwright got asked about bringing a trophy back to Providence, he chuckled.
“It’s not the one we want,” the senior said. “We’ll be back in March for that one.”
With Cartwright and Ashton-Langford forging the Friars ahead, there’s no reason why Providence can’t be a Big East contender once again.