By John Fanta
The standard has changed for Providence men’s basketball.
Before Ed Cooley took over in Friartown in 2011, the program had not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2004. Three years into his tenure, the Providence native powered the Friars to the dance floor. They haven’t left since.
Making the last five NCAA Tournaments, there’s no reason to think that a sixth straight appearance can’t become a reality in the 2018-19 for the Friars. The next step for the program is advancing in the Big Dance. Cooley has one just one Big Dance win in the five-year run, but the upward trajectory on the recruiting trailway and beyond could lead to the Friars making noise in March down the road.
Cooley’s track record is appealing to prospects, as seen in the 2018 incoming class with two Top-50 recruits (according to 247 Sports) signed to Providence.
Four-star point guard David Duke (42nd in 247 Sports Rankings) is staying home near his parents, whose home sits less than a mile from PC’s campus. Committing in October, the Cushing Academy product made a name for himself on the Rivals circuit, where Providence also found current freshman Makai Ashton-Langford. Duke’s joined by his Mass Rivals teammate in A.J. Reeves, who committed to Cooley back in June.
The 6-foot-5 wing shined last summer in the NBA Players Association Camp in Virginia as one of the top offensive talents. Ranked 44th in the 247 Rankings, Reeves has expressed his excitement for playing alongside his AAU teammate, Duke, several times.
While the Friars lose point guard Kyron Cartwright, wing Jalen Lindsey, and forward Rodney Bullock, the two highly-touted freshman additions look to fill the holes.
Who’s returning to Providence? It may be the most intriguing 3-4-5 combination in the BIG EAST.
Alpha Diallo was one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST this past season, and the 6-foot-7 junior really surged at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. A huge reason why the Friars returned to their second BIG EAST Championship Game in five years, Diallo scored in double-figures in the final 10 contests of the season. The wing ended up averaging over 13 points and nearly seven rebounds per game. He projects to be an All-BIG EAST First Team selection and could very well be an NBA Draft prospect because of his frame and wingspan. Along with Diallo at the wing is X-factor Isaiah Jackson, who offered a spark off the bench for the Friars.
At the power forward spot for the Friars is Emmitt Holt. The redshirt senior missed all of this past season due to an abdominal injury, which left a void in Providence’s frontcourt. As a junior, the Webster, NY native tallied over 12 points and five boards per contest. Holt will be vital for the Friars inside.
Speaking of that void that was left without Holt this past year, it meant that freshman Nate Watson and sophomore Kalief Young carried more of the load. Watson broke out in the Friars’ BIG EAST Tournament run to the title game, while Young sparked Providence as well.
With Ashton-Langford having a year under his belt, expect the rising sophomore to share ball-handling duties with Duke next season.
There are questions to answer as new leaders need to emerge for Cooley’s program, but the Friars have everything in place to continue succeeding. Add in a men’s basketball practice facility at the Ruane Development Center, which will be completed this summer, and life is good in Friartown.
It has the potential to get even better..