Providence hosted their annual Elite Camp on August 8th on the school’s campus and this was the first year I attended. A while back when I decided that I would keep that Saturday open so I could attend the camp this year I had ideas in my head of seeing some of Providence’s star recruits in person. That didn’t exactly come to fruition as there were other competing events — namely the Big Strick Classic in NYC — that thinned out the field for the 2015 version of camp. Still, there was a lot to see and some new names that popped up onto my radar. Other recent recruiting news is that the Friars made the top 5 for JJ Matthews and the top 6 for Quentin Jackson. Both players cut down their lists on Monday. More on Elite Camp and these two recruits below.
Observations from Elite Camp
While the possibility of evaluating some recruits existed in a small way on Saturday the real things I was excited to see at Providence’s Elite Camp were who would attend and how those attendees would interact with the Friar coaching staff. I had an idea that this Elite Camp was a good recruiting tool because the players get to see the campus and meet the coaches. But the real value in recruiting — at least from where I was sitting — came as the camp was winding down.
The amount of time spent by the Providence coaches just talking to players after the scrimmages ended was surprising to me. The players all seemed engaged and intent on making good impressions — AFTER the games ended. You sometimes forget that recruiting is a two-way street. The focus seems to mostly be on the coaches pining after the recruits and following them around the country to various stops on the grassroots circuit. But I saw the other side of that coin on Saturday. The players grabbed their backpacks and spent time talking X’s and O’s and whatever else came up as relationships were being built and strengthened.
Recruiting is all about relationships. You can build them with text messages and phone calls but there is still nothing more effective than face-to-face contact. That all goes with AAU and high school coaches too. There were quite a few of each in attendance at the camp. Coaches from New England prep schools like Putnam Science Academy and grassroots programs like Expressions Elite were there to observe their players but also to get some facetime with the coaching staff. Getting top recruits, their high school and/or AAU coaches and maybe even their parents on Providence’s campus is why the Elite Camp is valuable. There was likely a player or two that will blow up on the national stage in the next year or two — it appears to be a trend among Providence recruits — and there was also probably a player or two who will don a real Providence jersey for Ed Cooley at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in the near future. The trick for Cooley and his staff is to make the conversion from players that blow up to the ones that wear the Friar jerseys.
6 Players that Stood Out at Elite Camp
Keita stood out by just showing up. He left Vermont Academy for 22ft Academy in South Carolina last summer and it appeared Providence’s chances likely went South with him. Keita got the VIP treatment on Saturday though. He didn’t partipate in all of the skill drills but he was singled out to play in a demonstration drill run by Cooley. He hung out with Ben Bentil — they played for the same WE R1 AAU program — for much of the afternoon. Keita would be a massive get in the class of 2016 for Cooley. He’s still a bit raw but showed some flashes of his abilities in the 5 on 5 drill he partake in. Keita joins a now loaded team at Putnam Science Academy for his final year of high school. Providence is recruiting a number of players at PSA so I would expect them to be on top of Keita this year.
It’s unclear if Providence is actively recruiting Kadisha who was a member of the class of 2015 before opting to do a postgrad year at Coastal Academy in New Jersey to join the class of 2016. Kadisha looked confident and was able to score from all over the floor during the team scrimmages. He came to camp with another 2016 NYC player in Chuba Ohams and the two of them spent some solid time speaking with Andre LaFleur after the scrimmages ended. Ohams and Kadisha were teammates at Wadleigh HS prior to Kadisha graduating and Ohams opting to move to Putnam Science Academy this fall. Kadisha looked more physically cut than the last time I saw him play and was very confident with the ball in his hands. He was named 1st team All-Boro by the NY Daily News and also led the Manhattan PSAL in scoring during his final season at Wadleigh.
Bede looked very good going through drills but where he impressed me the most was running the pick and roll during the scrimmages. He was very smooth operating around screens and making the correct pass in the correct place when the defense reacted. Bede certainly still needs to add some polish to his game but he has the tools to be a very good point guard. His biggest deficiency is his size but he plays hard and has good feel for the game. He was well-known to the Providence coaches and it was obvious there is already a budding relationships with Bede and Cooley. Bede got a Providence offer in early June while on an unofficial visit to campus and the Providence staff will likely see a lot of him this season as he moves to Cushing Academy.
Wheeler stood out to me during the drills portion early in the camp. I didn’t know who he was by look but kept commenting on “the kid in the green shorts” and eventually got my hands on a roster (Thanks, Craig!) and was able to identify the lanky athlete wearing the #61 jersey and the green IS8 shorts as Aaron Wheeler of St. Andrew’s.
Wheeler is a long, athletic player who is still trying to figure out what position he will play. He projects most likely as a wing player but was very accepting of coaching from Andre LaFleur during the scrimmages when LaFleur would tell Wheeler to mix it up down low and grab some rebounds. Wheeler ran with the NE Playaz program this summer and it appears he is now with the Mass Rivals. He also attended Late Night Madness in October 2014 at PC. He was ranked as the #1 player in the class of 2017 in Rhode Island and 12th in New England by New England Recruiting Report’s latest release of their rankings earlier this week. He’s a name to keep an eye on as the Friars offered him after camp on Saturday.
Santos was bigger than I expected though he is very thin right now. That isn’t too unusual though for someone that is only a rising sophomore in high school. Santos showed a variety of offensive weapons on Saturday and it was clear why he is already so highly thought of in the class of 2018. The smooth operating lefty played in the main scrimmage and was used by Cooley in the same demonstration that Keita and Bede were involved in. Keep an eye out for Santos as he enters his second season at Bishop Hendricken this fall.
2018 Jared Whitt
Whitt is in the class 2018 so he’s still very early in the recruitment process. He impressed me for a few reasons. One is that I was shocked to learn he was in the class of 2018. He simply didn’t look that young — both physically and how he played. Another is that he’s already 6’8 and isn’t a stiff. He spent some time talking with Brian Blaney after the scrimmages ended and could be a player that is on Providence’s radar by this time next year. He currently plays at Worcester Academy and with the BABC program. Whitt is new to the New England area after growing up from ages 4 to 14 in Florida. He also had dealt with some shoulder injuries that have kept him out of action but he appeared healthy on Saturday.
Providence Makes the Cut for Two in 2016
I haven’t been as alarmed as some others about Providence’s recruiting misses of late. I certainly don’t feel extremely confident in how recruiting has been trending but I’m still not ready to sound the alarm. It might seem odd that I would start off a section about Providence making the top 5 for a point guard in 2016 and the top 6 for a power forward in 2016 with a seemingly negative — or at best neutral — mention of Providence’s current recruiting efforts. But my initial reaction to seeing the list that JJ Matthews cut down to on Monday was that Friar fans were not going to like the other names that besides Providence.
Matthews — a 6’8 power forward from Virginia — cut his list down to James Madison, Murray State, Old Dominion, Providence, Temple and Towson. As some have pointed out, that looks an awful lot like lists of Providence recruits that Tim Welsh got crucified for during his tenure in Friartown. One thing that people may be missing from looking just at the list of final schools is the list of other schools that were recruiting Matthews. Matthews also held offers from Boston College, Saint Joseph’s, URI as well as interest from schools like Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Xavier. Matthews is a Jeff Battle recruit, telling me they “talk quite often.” Friar fans are anxious to see what Battle can do on the recruiting front after losing Bob Simon to Alabama earlier this spring.
The other recruit to cut his list and include the Friars is also a Battle recruit. Quentin Jackson — a point guard from North Carolina — cut his list down to a final 5 on Monday. Like Matthews’ list there were some schools that made Friar fans raise an eyebrow but I can assure those fans that Jackson is the real deal. He has great size for the point guard position at 6’4 and is the son of a former NC State player and coach. He began the AAU season running with Stackhouse Elite on the adidas gauntlet circuit but spent the July live periods playing for his father and SEBL.
Jackson’s final 5 schools are Charlotte, Cincinnati, Lehigh, Providence and Rutgers. Jackson also held offers from the likes of DePaul, Harvard, Iowa State, Kansas State, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Temple, Tennessee and interest from the likes of NC State and Virginia Tech. Last season at Carlisle was his first as a full-time point guard so he is still growing into the position but he has the size and skills to blossom under Battle’s tutelage. Jackson told Jamie Shaw of PhenomHoopReport.com that he is “working on setting [official visits] up now” and he “plan[s] on taking all five soon.” He also told Shaw what he likes about all 5 schools on his final list. “The coaches and styles of play fit what I want. They do a lot of pick and roll stuff. They play a flowing game and like to get out and run in the open floor.”
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