The “Thoughts from the Road” posts will be back this season and I’m looking forward to getting to write one of these following an actual Providence basketball game that counts. But for now I’ll give you my thoughts from the road after an exhibition matchup against Division II Stonehill that was played at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on October 31st….
- Oh hey, Rodney Bullock. Bullock came out aggressively right from the tip and showed off an impressive array of offensive moves and proficiencies. He also displayed his knack for being around the ball, especially when a shot would carom off the rim. He scored Providence’s first 4 points of the game and would go on to finish with an impressive stat line of 26 points, 11 rebounds — 6 offensive — 1 block and 1 steal. He shot 10/14 from the field, including 2/3 from beyond the arc. He also went 4/7 from the free throw line. All in all it was an extremely impressive outing for Bullock but he still has yet to play an actual game in a Providence uniform that counts and he’ll have to prove that the Italy trip last summer pre-injury and this performance against Stonehill wasn’t just because of the level of the competition. After watching Bullock with my own two eyes on Saturday I predict he will prove that he’s a big-time player.
- It was nice to see literally every eligible member of the Providence basketball team play on Saturday but the guys I was most excited to see were the freshmen. Everything besides Kris Dunn is a question at this point or, at the very least, fans are expected to take a leap of faith that Ben Bentil, Kyron Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey will continue to develop and become more consistent players as sophomores and that Bullock can shake off the rust and be a big part of the 2015-16 team. But the freshmen are a bit of an enigma because no one in this 2015 recruiting class was a ballyhooed prospect, yet Ed Cooley is counting on these rookies to be contributors right away. Some will contribute more and earlier than others and from the looks of things against Stonehill it will be Ryan Fazekas — the first player to commit to Cooley in the 2015 class — who will be asked to the most. Fazekas was out there with the likely starters often on Saturday and he showed a good chemistry with Dunn and his shooting stroke looks smooth, despite having a wrap on his left thumb during the game. What is probably the most impressive and telling of why Fazekas could be the earliest contributor of the freshmen is that he exhibited the chemistry with Dunn and the shooting prowess even though he is behind his classmates in number of practices under their belts. Fazekas broke his thumb which forced his left hand to be in a cast for weeks and has missed all but 3 of the team’s official practices. Drew Edwards was the next most impressive of the newbies. He showed good effort on the defensive end and was able to finish in transition a couple of times. Quadree Smith is certainly a big body but he picked up two quick fouls, cut to the wrong side of the lane during an offensive set and was being beat off his feat by Stonehill players for tipped rebounds. Smith will have to play more than he is ready to handle because of the lack of frontcourt players on Providence’s roster. Ricky Council has a smooth looking stroke but I think he may be the least ready of the freshmen crop.
- Kris Dunn was on cruise control in this one and he still scored 15 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds. Dunn also had 3 steals and was harassing the much smaller guards from Stonehill all 27 minutes that he was on the floor.
- The press was another thing I was anxious to see because Cooley has been talking about playing uptempo and pressing more this season. To say the Providence press was lackluster would be an understatement. The Friars came out in a man to man press which was predicated on the big man guarding the in-bounds pass and hovering for a possible double team — that is of course when they actually ran the press. Cooley could be seen tossing his hands up in the air a number of times after a made basket when his team failed to stay up and press their opponent when that was clearly what Cooley wanted. It seemed like Bullock was guilty of this on back to back baskets at one point. Bentil also missed the call. Even when they did get set up the press didn’t bother Stonehill and the Skyhawks were even able to move the ball up the court to get a few easy attempts. I was hoping to see something more like a 1-2-2 or a diamond press with some trapping elements every once and a while. After the game Cooley called the press “3rd grade” and said he hoped it would be ” a high school press…and eventually a college press” as more time progressed.
- The Friars get one more tune-up on Saturday when they host Northeastern in Mullaney Gym for a closed door scrimmage that will not be open to the media, fans or anyone besides the teams, referees and essentially personnel from each school. Thanks, NCAA rules. The advantage is that coaches can have more control in these settings and play more situational basketball than is possible during an open exhibition. I’m sure some stats — that aren’t supposed to be kept — will be leaked over the weekend.
- The season opener is on November 14th against Harvard. Stay tuned for another Friartown Fan Voice podcast between now and then as I’ll talk about that game and breakdown the rest of Providence’s non-conference schedule. Now that the calendar has turned to November there will be basketball for the next 5+ months. Get excited, Friar fans.
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