Cooley sent the following e-mail out after Dunn's on campus announcement: "IT'S A GREAT DAY TO BE A FRIAR!
I am proud to announce that we have received a verbal commitment from one of the top recruits in the country.
I said it in my press conference and I will say it again: Make sure you have your tickets as we go through this journey. We are doing this the right way, piece by piece, brick by brick.
This is a very exciting time for Friartown and I hope you join us on this journey and BELIEVE!"
It's not difficult to understand Cooley's unbridled joy with the pledge of Dunn. This was a statement recruit for the new PC coach. Make no mistake, Kris Dunn was primary target number one for Cooley and assistant Andre LaFleur. Grabbing your number one target is huge for any program, but for PC, a program in tatters both on and off the court under Keno Davis, this commitment takes on added significance.
Any time you have a player as talented and as highly rated as Dunn, the big fish will be circling. Dunn had narrowed his choices to Providence and Connecticut, but Louisville, Pittsburgh and Georgetown had made him a high priority recruit, as well.
While the reality may be that Connecticut had backed off a bit in August, preferring to use their one remaining scholarship pursuing a big man, the perception in the college basketball world is that PC has gone head-to-head with the defending national champions for a top recruit, and come out on top. And perception often becomes reality.
This verbal backs up Ed Cooley's boasts that he will go head-to-head with the top programs and win his share of the battles. Beyond that, verbals like these can have a domino effect – especially when other top recruits, like Rhode Island's own Ricky Ledo – are on campus, as well, when the announcement is made.
While Ledo is not ready to commit at the moment, he could decide soon. Providence clearly wants him badly and Kris Dunn is willing to help with the recruitment. As he told the Providence Journal, "I told him, ‘This is the place you should be."
Truth be told, no one recruited Dunn harder than Cooley. The coach began recruiting Dunn when he was at Fairfield and Kris Dunn was an off the radar type recruit. Upon moving to Providence, Cooley continued recruiting Dunn. Either the head coach or LaFleur attended every summer league game, every AAU game, always present, always showing Dunn how much they wanted him.
"You don't really see a lot of head coaches go to your summer league games, but he was at every single one. He was showing me love. That's what I like about him. He's trustworthy," Dunn told the Journal. "I was going to go see Louisville, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, but I had a gut feeling that I only wanted to go to Providence because Cooley is a great guy and I trust him. I think this is a place where I can grow my game."
"Providence is a special place for me," Dunn told ESPN.com. "I have a great connection with the coaches but most importantly with [coach Ed Cooley]. He made my family and I feel at home and like we were wanted."
Finally, Dunn told Scout.com's Evan Daniels, "Me and coach Cooley are the same people. We are the under dogs and we want to prove to people we can do some big things. He has a big vision and I have his back on it."
"Coach LaFluer is a great guy," he added. "I just got done talking to him. Basically he's going to improve my game. He's a great guy to talk to and he worked out Kemba (Walker). I want him to work me like he did Kemba."
At 6'4 and 185 pounds, Dunn has excellent size for a point guard and led New London High to the state championship in Connecticut last year. While there had been talk of Dunn transferring to Wilbraham And Monson Academy to play with his friend and teammate on the AAU Connecticut Basketball Club, Andre Drummond, he has since stated that he will return for his senior year at New London.
Especially adept at passing, breaking down defenders and getting into the lane, Dunn has also greatly improved his shooting, and is a point guard who makes others better. What has been astounding has been his meteoric rise on the national recruiting scene.
Back in the spring, Dunn was considered a three star recruit by ESPN.com, which graded him out with an 88. Even then, Dunn was listed as a combo guard, someone as likely to play shooting guard at the next level as point guard, and he appeared in no one's Top 100 lists.
Then came a whirlwind summer season, in which Cooley became Dunn's shadow and other coaches from nationally prominent programs fell in love with the young guard. He began his assault on the national rankings with his performance in late April at the Real Deal in the Rock. Evan Daniels selected him as one of the top five players at the camp and wrote "No ones stock improved more at the Real Deal in the Rock. A 6-foot-3 combo guard, Dunn has the ability to play both guard spots. But for Connecticut Basketball Club he spent majority of his time on the ball creating for teammates and dropping in mid-range shots. The 2012 class is in dire need of more lead guard prospects and this is one stepping it up at the right time. I expect high majors will begin making moves, as he's well worth it."
At the Pangos Camp in early June, Dunn again was one of the top ten performers and Daniels wrote "Getting to the basket for lay-ups and dunks was effortless for the lanky Dunn, who was smooth to the hoop all weekend. Pangos is mostly transition basketball which is where Dunn excelled, as he not only could consistently find his way to the basket but he did a good job of setting his teammates up for buckets."
In the Adidas Invitational, in early July, Dunn was selected as one of the top ten performers at the camp. Scout.com raved about him, writing "As a point guard, Dunn was doing it all for Connecticut Basketball Club. His athleticism and strength allowed him to get into the lane, and then his skill allowed him to finish shots once he got there. Also he got his teammates involved and played intense on the defensive end. Quite simply he was a man possessed all tournament long, and at times single handedly kept CBC in games."
In Las Vegas in late July, Daniels wrote "Over the past year, Dunn has made improvements to his game and he showed that in a morning match up with the Southern Califronia All-Stars. A much more consistent ball player, Dunn is playing with the highest level of confidence and has developed into one of the top lead guards in the country. Dunn has physical attributes that many lead guards wish for, as he's long, has good height and is quite the athlete. What he showed today was his vision and passing ability. He sees the floor and always has his head up looking for the next assist. He's already ranked the No. 6 point guard in the country and I expect him to rise in the next batch of rankings."
In early August, Daniels selected Dunn as one of the top players in the second evaluation period, writing "There wasn't a lead guard that improved their stock more in July. Sure he's already recognized as a four-star prospect, but Dunn is a guy that is now in contention for the top point guard spot. His physical attributes are impressive and his athleticism and speed are things that jump out about him. Throw in his vision and passing ability and Dunn is a lead guard that is improving at just the right time. Drummond is the big name on CBC, but Dunn is the emerging one."
When all was said and done, Kris Dunn had rocketed up in the rankings.
Currently, Dunn is ranked as the #1 point guard in the country by both Scout.com and CBSsports.com; he is the #2 point guard as ranked by ESPN.com (behind only North Carolina commit Marcus Paige) and the #4 point guard by Rivals.com (behind Kyle Anderson, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Indiana commit Kevin Ferrell), although Rivals rankings haven't been updated since July 2.
Overall, Scout has Dunn rated as the #27 player in the country, ESPN has regraded him at 96 and four stars and #30 in the class and Rivals has him at #40. From unranked in the spring to a legitimate McDonald's All-American candidate in just four short months.
Now, the focus of Cooley and staff will be on Ledo. Another elite, Top 15-30 talent, Ledo could fill out an outstanding recruiting class with a recommitment. While Providence could use a big man and has been recruiting Zach Auguste and Chris Obekpa, among others, the Friars do not presently lead with any blue chip big men. They do arguably lead with Ledo. To build a quality program that wins, you start with the backcourt and a backcourt of Dunn and Ledo would be as impressive, from a pure talent standpoint, as any in the Big East. Throw in Virginia sharpshooter Josh Fortune, add Ledo's and Fortune's ability to play the three as well, and Providence would have a dynamic playmaker and two sparkling wings.
For Ed Cooley, August 24, 2011 may end up being the day that will forever be remembered as the day the statement was made. To the fans of Providence, to the Big East and to the college basketball world.
Dunn Commitment Makes a Statement
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