Spring Swings and Misses: Why Can’t PC Find a Guard?

Win totals increasing each year Ed Cooley has been at PC – 15 to 19 to 23 – a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals followed by a Big East Tournament Championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament 2nd round, updated athletic facilities, scoring and minutes holes at the guard position. That all sounds really good for the Friars’ prospects of bringing in an impact guard or two this Spring as Ed Cooley mentioned was his plan. It sounds really good except they haven’t been able to sell any of the available guards on coming to play at Providence.

First it was Devonte’ Graham.

Graham’s situation was unique in that he couldn’t speak to coaches until he got his release from Appalachian State which didn’t come until early April 2014. While Cooley had made his interest clear to Brewster Academy coach, Jason Smith, it’s hard to compete when Kansas comes calling.

Next up was Larry Austin. Austin was committed to Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee but got his release after Martin took the job at California following the retirement of Mike Montgomery. Austin looked to be exactly what PC was looking for as a 2nd ball handler that could play alongside Kris Dunn. PC was mentioned by Austin and he even scheduled a visit to campus. He never made it. The day he was supposed to be on PC’s campus, he didn’t travel and instead gave his pledge to Chris Mack and Big East foe, Xavier.

There was a feeling that Jared Terrell might choose PC initially before he chose Oklahoma State. Then rumors emerged he was seriously considering URI. He chose the Cowboys and Travis Ford. He signed with OK State in November. However, he decided to ask for his release and it was granted on April 25th. Most people expected it to come down to PC, BC and URI. It’s hard to say how much interest PC had this time around but there was talk of Terrell trying to schedule a visit to PC. He chose URI on May 16th.

The most recent miss is with Seattle lead guard, Tramaine Isabell. Isabell originially committed to Washington State. They fired their coach and Isabell took some time to rethink his decision. He then told the new coaching staff that he was going to stay committed to the Cougars. A few weeks after that, a mutual parting of ways was announced though there were rumors that the new coaching staff may have told Isabell he might want to look elsewhere. In looking elsewhere, Isabell decided his final 2 was Missouri and Providence. He set up a visit to Columbia for June 21st. He left campus without committing but had very positive things to say. A visit to PC was supposed to follow. It never happened. Isabell committed to Missouri’s new coach, Kim Anderson, on June 26th.

There were some potential transfers too.

At the time that Matt Carlino announced his intention to transfer from BYU for his final year of eligibility (he will be eligible immediately) Providence still had Josh Fortune on the roster. The thought here is that Carlino had interest in PC but didn’t see enough minutes with Fortune returning after playing 33 mpg that he never seriously considered PC before opting to transfer to Marquette in late April.

Fortune would announce his intention to leave Providence 2 weeks later.

Byron Wesley transferred from Southern Cal after 3 seasons and will use his last year of eligibility immediately at Gonzaga. Providence was mentioned as being interested initialy but I don’t think Wesley ever seriously considered coming East.

Antoine Mason announced his intention to transfer from Niagara and use the graduate transfer exemption to play his final season of collegiate eligibility elsewhere shortly before Memorial Day. 3 weeks later he was committed to Auburn even with new Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl not being allowed to speak to him due to his order to show cause with the NCAA being active until August 23rd.

Friar fans may also recall early this Spring that Tarin Smith was a name being mentioned. The St. Anthony (NJ) lead guard had mostly mid major offers at that time and PC was strictly monitoring him and expressing interest. They ultimately never offered and Smith jumped to Nebraska after head coach Tim Miles offered Smith after watching a game.

So the question remains: what’s the deal with all these swings and misses this Spring for Ed Cooley and his staff?

I think a large part of why Cooley and Co. have had a hard time in the Spring of late is that they are a staff that thrives on relationship building. Jalen Lindsey’s former coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy, Drew Maddux, has talked about how good Cooley and his staff are with building relationships. It’s much more difficult to build a relationship in 2 or 3 weeks especially when all of the staffs recruiting this new player are doing it at the same exact time. Where Cooley and his staff have done well is where they have either built a relationship over a period of years or they have a relationship already built with a coach or mentor or friend, etc. of a player.

Another factor, ironically, may be Cooley’s time away from campus coaching USA Basketball. While I think that opportunity is something that will be good in the long term, in the short term it may have hurt the Friars’ chances with a players like Antoine Mason and Tramaine Isabell because both players visited other schools while Cooley was away and didn’t wait for him to get back to Friartown before committing to the other schools.

The final factor that I think played a role this Spring was the timing of Josh Fortune’s decision to transfer. While most players who want to leave a school announce their intention in March or April, Fortune waited until May 23rd when he was already home after finals. That put PC in a tough spot because immediate impact transfers looking for lots of minutes like Carlino looked at PC’s returning backcourt and saw a former McDonald’s All-American in Kris Dunn and a 2 year starter who averaged 33 minutes per game in Josh Fortune.

The backcourt situation looks a lot different now with the likelihood of some players having to play out of position and prayers needed at St. Dominic’s chapel that everyone stays healthy. The pickings are pretty slim in late June-early July. It will be interesting to see if Cooley decides to take a flyer on someone like Armel Potter or if he stands pat and goes into the season with the current roster as is.

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