Bright spots emerged and flaws were exposed in the first 11 games of the season. Despite the soft schedule, some games that were expected to be walks in the park turned into life and death struggles. But when you have a new coach putting in a new system and are dealing with a thin roster, that's to be expected.
Academically, the end of the first semester is marked with studying and final exams and first semester grades. Athletically, there are wins and losses, points and rebounds and playing time. Since everyone will be receiving grades on the academic side, let's take a look at grades on the athletic side. But be warned. We're tough graders.
Ed Cooley and staff – A
Walking into the situation at Providence that he did, Big Ed faced no easy chore. Everything needed to be rebuilt, from the bottom up. Players lacked basic defensive skills, academics were a mess, and a whole new style of play and whole new culture needed to be implemented.
So far, so good. Cooley has a force of personality, one that has taken Providence by storm. He has commanded respect, regained control of the program, and has seen his players respond. On the sideline, he has mostly made all the right moves, but his biggest impact has been on the overall program. Providence has respect again, and that's due to Cooley and his staff of teachers and recruiters.
Chris Carter – A
It's not often that you expect much from a walk-on. But with PC's thin bench, Carter has been an important place to look for Cooley. When the starters aren't playing well, Carter is called on. Capable of knocking down a shot in a pinch, Carter's main role is to provide intensity, play strong defense and grab an occasional rebound. The fifth year grad student has played this role to perfection so far.
LaDontae Henton – A-
As a freshman, Henton has been a revelation. In no one's Top 100 recruiting lists, Henton has grabbed two Big East Rookie of the Week honors so far, and is mentioned among the top ten freshmen in the nation for his performances to date. Averaging 13.7 ppg and a team high 8.5 rpg, Henton has routinely posted double-doubles or near double-doubles. When we saw him at Mal Brown, he looked unexplosive and problematic as a classic tweener. Having lost twenty pounds, Henton now looks closer to Ryan Gomes in performance, sneaking inside for key rebounds and lay-ups, and able to step out and drill a three. He's a four-year keeper and an absolute steal.
Bryce Cotton – B+
Another revelation, Cotton returned to Providence bigger, stronger and with a tweaked jump shot and improved ball handling. Averaging 16 ppg, Cotton saved PC's bacon against Bryant with a career high 34 points and his season shooting percentage is 48%, and 47% from three along with 93% from the charity stripe. Cotton may be too unselfish, as Cooley is constantly begging him to shoot more, but many fans also suspect that his diminutive size may be playing a factor in getting his shot off. Fans also wonder if he will be able to maintain this pace once the heavier competition comes. Unfortunately, two of his worst performances came in PC's two losses in Texas, but he was under the weather in those two games, so the results are inconclusive. We're betting that he'll continue to thrive.
Vincent Council – B
Statistically, Council has upped his game so far. He leads the team with a 17.1 ppg average and has dished out 72 assists against only 33 turnovers, an excellent ratio. Off of the stat sheet and on the court, he's been a bit up and down. His speed and ballhandling can burn teams, especially those of lesser talent, and he's generally done a good job of running Cooley's flex offense. On the flip side, he has shown a tendency to slip into previous bad habits, which include overdribbling, quick shots and a reliance on a one-on-one game. Still, he is absolutely critical to the Friars' season, plays a ton of minutes, and his decision making is improving. What knocks his grade down a bit is his off and on shooting (.416, .270 from three) and his shocking drop in free throw shooting (.588).
Gerard Coleman – B-
Gerard is a bundle of untapped potential. Rail-thin, Coleman excels in an open court game, using his athleticism to run the court and fly to the rim. Averaging 16 ppg and 6.2 rpg, Coleman has begun to expand his game, contributing on the glass. He sometimes struggles in the half court offense and despite his length, has had issues on the defensive end. Coleman is showing major signs of buying into Cooley's system though. Recognizing his weakness as an outside shooter, he has limited his three point attempts and is attempting to assert himself in the half court. Shooting remains a weakness, which knocks his grade down.
Brice Kofane – C
There is quite a dropoff offensively after the top four players on the team. Kofane averages 2.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg. Where he makes his mark is on the defensive end. Although undersized and thin, Kofane possesses shot altering jumping ability, as evidenced by his team leading 19 blocks. Where he gets into trouble is in his desire to block every shot, which often gets him into early foul trouble. Lately, Cooley has been bringing him off the bench in an effort to maintain his fouls. Kofane's other issues are poor hands and raw, almost nonexistent offensive skills.
Bilal Dixon – D+
A redshirt junior, Dixon has shown regression throughout his career at PC. Averaging just 2.9 ppg and 4 rpg, Dixon has struggled to stay on the floor. Seven of his 14 blocks came in one game, and Bilal has looked heavier and slower than in the past. The explosiveness that he flashed as a freshman seems to be gone, and he is much better in a zone defense than in man, as he can hide his lack of mobility and reaction time. The Friars need his experience and size, but time is running out for his productivity to increase.
Lee Goldsbrough – D
The 6'9 sophomore from England had six opportunities to start and played solidly but lacked production. Averaging 1.2 ppg and 2.6 rpg, Goldsbrough has shown brief flashes and is a good positional player, but lacks quickness and athleticism, two traits that inhibit him from being more aggressive with the ball. He's unafraid to mix it up for rebounds and occasionally will put his head down and drive to the basket for a lay-up, but his lack of production has caused his minutes to drop.
Ron Giplaye – D
Giplaye owns the body of a pro, but lacks the skills necessary to play like one. A starter for the past five games, Giplaye averages just 8 minutes per game and is often pulled two or three minutes into a game. He averages 1.9 ppg and 2.8 rpg and is extremely aggressive in going after boards but has trouble finishing and doesn't dominate the glass the way he should against lower level opponents or play solid enough defense. He'll need to improve his skills and production dramatically to see his minutes increase.
First Semester Report Card
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