Ed Cooley has landed hometown guard David Duke to add a second top-50 player out of the Mass Rivals pipeline to Providence’s 2018 recruiting class. Duke, who announced his decision via social media on Friday — his 18th birthday– chose the Friars over Virginia Tech after also considering Indiana, Florida and Villanova as a final 5. He joins AJ Reeves, Kris Monroe and Jimmy Nichols as committed recruits for the 2018-19 season. Duke’s recruitment had Friar fans on pins and needles, especially as his ranking and profile began to soar after transferring away from local public school Classical High School to Cushing Academy 75 miles north in Ashburnham, MA and spending the last two Spring’s and Summer’s on the adidas circuit with Mass Rivals.
— HoopMajor (@HoopMajor) October 13, 2017
Tom Nelson, who coached beside Vin Pastore with Mass Rivals and is also Reeves’ prep coach at Brimmer & May, believes that while the hometown factor played a role the thing that put Providence over the top was the program that Ed Cooley and his staff have built in Friartown. “More of a factor is what Providence has done over the last 7 years to put them in a position to increase talent level, win big games, reach the NCAA Tournament and produce pro’s,” Nelson told pcbb1917.com. Nelson also mentioned that “creating an environment of inclusiveness, togetherness and a family atmosphere” was a big part of why Duke chose the Friars.
As for the pipeline of Mass Rivals players that has developed of late for Providence, Nelson contends that “Cooley has recruited Rivals hard for years [but] what he and his staff have created has enticed some of the best players locally to stay close [to home] and play for a program that resembles their core values.” Those values? Nelson says “Mass Rivals players are coached hard, earn what they get and believe in competing. [They aren’t] afraid to earn minutes…be criticized…fail so they can eventually succeed.”
Duke’s first high-major offer came from Providence after he led Classical High School to the Rhode Island Division I state championship in 2016. At the time Duke was a member of the Class of 2017. The Providence offer was extended in May and, after Duke decided to re-classify to 2018 and transfer to Cushing Academy, the Friars were joined over the next 9 months by the likes of Florida, UConn, Syracuse and Kansas. Virginia Tech offered in April 2017 while Villanova and Indiana offered in May and June of 2017, respectively.
“David has elite game changing athleticism and can alter the game defensively as well as attacking the rim offensively or off the glass,” Nelson says of the lanky guard. Duke “has matured the last few seasons in the way he approaches the game and his confidence,” Nelson says of Duke’s development. There’s no doubt that Duke has changed his body to make him more ready to tackle to rigors of high-major college basketball, but Nelson indicated that Duke “now believes he can play with our out-play the best players in the world. When you add his ability with that confidence, look out.”
Duke becomes Cooley’s 6th commitment who has a 247Sports composite national ranking inside the top-50 since Cooley arrived at Providence in the Spring of 2011. To date, the only one that has made any real impact on the court for Providence was Kris Dunn. However, Makai Ashton-Langford figures to play a prominent role on the 2017-18 Friars and Reeves and Duke should take things up a notch beginning in 2018-19. The 247Sports Class Calculator now projects Providence’s 2018 recruiting class to be ranked 8th nationally and tops in the Big East. Providence’s 2018-19 roster will include 4 players ranked in the 247Sports composite national ranking top-100 and 7 players inside the top-150, which represents depth and talent that no Providence roster has had in quite some time, if ever.
Providence assistant coach Brian Blaney was the lead recruiter for Duke, as he was with both Ashton-Langford and Reeves. “Blaney is terrific,” notes Nelson. “He recruits in a manner that you know he cares but doesn’t smother you.” Similar to Cooley, Nelson calls Blaney “genuine” and Nelson believes that “our guys see through phonies and Blaney is real. [He] explains how they are going to get you better on the court and off then backs it up, year in and year out.” Blaney has certainly made an impression in New England, but Nelson also mentioned “what I can say is these guys, the whole staff, works.”
Having a nearly full complement of commitments on October 13th allows the Providence staff to turn their attention a little more towards the classes of 2019 and 2020. Recruiting never stops with transfers, injuries and players leaving for professional opportunities, so the final number of new players for next season can always change. For now, Friar fans can exhale and enjoy the weekend. Games will be here before you know it.
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