MAL BROWN FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The 2011-2012 Providence College Friars were on display at Alumni Hall for fans to see for the first time, at the annual Mal Brown scrimmage. As usual, there were bright spots and rough spots, as coach Ed Cooley unveiled his first Friar edition.

A festive crowd filled about half the gym, and was treated to their first glimpse of the Friars in simulated game action. The team played two ten minute halves, but the crowd enjoyed about twenty minutes of warm-ups first. During the warm-ups, the Friars ran half-court sets, five man full court weaves and numerous combinations that featured crisp passing, filling the correct lanes and breaks off rebounds.

Scrimmage time brought the White Team, which featured an "iron five" of Vincent Council, Kadeem Batts, Bryce Cotton, Ron Giplaye and graduate student walk-on Chris Carter against the Black Team, which trotted out Gerard Coleman, Brice Kofane, Kiwi Gardner, LaDontae Henton and Bilal Dixon, and Lee Goldsbrough off the bench.

Despite having walk-ons in reserve, the starting five for the White Team played all twenty minutes. For the Black Team, Goldsbrough subbed in fairly early for Dixon, and Goldsbrough took Dixon's spot in the starting lineup to open the second half. This served to point out PC's lack of depth.

From the start, the White Team showed more cohesion and jumped out to a quick 20-10 lead. Giplaye, Kofane and Golsbrough all worked hard on the glass, with Kofane contributing two impressive blocks, on lay-up attempts by Giplaye and Council. Each team played sticky man-to-man defense and executed double team traps on the sidelines, while the Black Team showed some three quarter court pressure, with Gardner and Coleman.

By halftime, the White Team led 24-15, led by ten points by Batts and nine by Council.

In the second half, things loosened up defensively on both sides. Twice, Cooley called timeouts, unhappy first with a too-quick Batts' jumper and second, with defensive lapses that led to too many run-out baskets. A resurgent Black Team cut the lead to 40-38 on a nice, baseline spin move for a lay-up by Henton, but when Council answered with a paint jumper, the White Team held on, 44-38.

It can be very difficult to get a read on a team during an intrasquad game. For one, the players have been competing against each other for months and know each others' moves and tendencies. For another, it's just one glimpse, and it's difficult to know who had a good day and who just had a bad day. One thing that seems obvious, though, is that this team will play tougher defense, at least to it's physical abilities, and will run some recognizable offense.

What follows is a quick summary of player first impressions, and keep in mind that this is after one viewing, and things could look completely different on Tuesday night in the exhibition opener against Assumption at Alumni Hall.

VINCENT COUNCIL
Council was hounded on defense by Gardner, yet maintained control and played a very balanced game of passing and shooting. Consistently posted up the shorter Gardner. He hit several key jumpers in the second half when the Black Team threatened, and showed a willingness to lead and take on a greater load. Looks more polished and was one of the best players, if not the best, on the floor.

BRYCE COTTON
Assumed some point guard duties when Council played off the ball and looked very solid. Looks stronger and more confident and poured in points in the second half. Jump shot looks solid and his quickness enabled him to score on several nice cuts to the rim. Played pesky defense.

KADEEM BATTS
Physically, Batts looks bigger and stronger and more willing to bang. Was more effective in the first half, when he scored all but one of his baskets and flashed a nice jump hook and good form on his jump shot, with range. Will be a key to the Friars' season, as the squad needs production out of the frontcourt. As a redshirt sophomore, Batts is a nicely developing young player.

RON GIPLAYE
Giplaye hits the boards, there's no question about that. He bangs, has good timing on his jumps, and grabs rebounds in traffic. What he does with the ball once he secures it is another story. Shut out in the scoring column, Giplaye still needs to finish better, and needs to be quicker with his moves to the rim, but the thinness in the frontcourt will force him to play minutes and he'll contribute, at least defensively.

CHRIS CARTER
This fifth year grad student hung with the scholarship players and acquitted himself well. He hustles, willingly plays defense, came up with a couple of steals by anticipating well and in warm-ups showed nice form on his jumper.

LaDONTAE HENTON
Henton led all scorers in this scrimmage, and generally looked good, although it must be pointed out that he had Carter defending him for most of the game. Things will come tougher as better players guard him, but he looks like a steal. He runs the floor well, shows very good form on his jump shot and hit four three-pointers, and can get to the rim. Not overly big, Henton does a little of everything and should be a major contributor this season.

GERARD COLEMAN
Coleman didn't look noticeably bigger, but his length and athleticism may be the best on the team. He came alive in the second half as the game opened up a bit, by driving to the basket and finishing but still needs work on his jump shot. The form looks a bit better, but at least on this day, the results weren't there. He did, however, play tough defense and used his length to disruptive advantage.

KIWI GARDNER
The smallest man on the court has hops and can play, but his aggressiveness gets him into trouble. Guarding Council, Gardner easily could have fouled out in the first half, picking up four fouls. He did bang home one long three but misfired on a number of other jumpers and lay-up attempts. He has a nice quick, sudden change of direction and pace with his dribble that will give some opponents fits and he can run a team. Playing under control, both ways, will be a key.

BRICE KOFANE
Still thin, but Kofane can help on the defensive end. He knows how to block shots, has great timing and will mix it up and rebound. Where Kofane needs development is on the offensive end. Not a great ball handler, with so-so hands, Kofane can dunk but is extremely limited as he moves away from the basket. His improvement here will be worth watching.

LEE GOLDSBROUGH
A decent shooter for a big man, Goldsbrough has always shown a willingness to mix it up inside for boards. What limits him is a lack of quickness and athleticism and slow feet. But Goldsbrough looks bigger than last year and certainly gives effort on the floor. Playing in Europe this summer has helped him a bit.

BILAL DIXON
What happened to the explosiveness that Dixon displayed as a freshman? He seems to have lost that quickness and jumping ability. Dixon played lethargically in the first half, when he was on the court, and although he seemed to come alive somewhat in the second half, he wasn't especially effective. He's big, so he can help inside, but he needs more aggressiveness, especially on the glass. A few more moves inside would help as well. Not the improvement from last year that Friar fans were hoping for. At least not yet.

WHITE TEAM: Giplaye 0-0-0, Council 6-3-15, Carter 0-0-0, Batts 5-1-12, Cotton 6-4-17. (3-pointers- Batts 1, Cotton 1). BLACK TEAM: Kofane 2-0-4, Coleman 3-3-9, Dixon 1-0-2, Henton 7-0-18, Gardner 1-0-3, Goldsbrough 1-0-2. (3-pointers- Henton 4, Gardner 1).

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