The Big Debate: Can Ed Cooley Close?

As the 2012 recruiting trail begins to wind down, Providence finds itself in a unique position. A top 10 recruiting class is coming in which features arguably with one of the best backcourts in the country, but also a class that lacks in an area most needed by the Friars – the frontcourt.

Now, at the end of April the Friars still have been missing on landing big men. This situation has raised a debate over whether or not Ed Cooley will be able to close on a few big men this season.

The Question: Can Ed Cooley land key frontcourt players for the 2012 recruiting class?

Argument: Ed Cooley will not get key frontcourt players for the 2012 recruiting class.

1. The options are running out
At the timing of this article, Providence College frontcourt target Orlando Sanchez has committed to St. John's, resulting in another blow on the recruiting front. Many fans were excited in the fall with the signing of Kris Dunn, Josh Fortune, and Ricardo Ledo because they felt that the solid recruiting class would yield further success with other high profile targets in the frontcourt.

This failed to materialize as months passed and interest from players such as Nerlens Noel, Jakarr Sampson, and Chris Obekpa failed to result in commitments. Now with the loss of Sanchez the Friars are in a concerning position regarding their frontcourt in 2012.

2. The effort has been for naught
We needn't look any further than the recruitment of Jakarr Sampson in this point. Sampson was originally a St. John's recruit who was ruled ineligible and took a prep year. Ed Cooley used this opportunity to recruit Sampson harder than any other school by attending every one of Sampson's games, arriving an hour early and always sitting front and center. Sampson was being recruited by Kansas at the time as well, and many experts believed Sampson was going to decide between Providence and Kansas. Sampson announced that he was recommitting to St. John's and shocked many. Despite all of Ed Cooley's efforts, Jakarr was easily swept away.

3. Cooley does not have the same inroads as he did with other recruits
When looking at his first recruiting class, nobody can say that Ed Cooley did a bad job, but it's also important to consider how he accomplished this: in terms of his Top 100's, Kris Dunn had been recruited by Cooley since Dunn was in middle school, and while Ricardo Ledo was originally a Providence verbal before decommitting and recommitting, he was always going to have a connection to the school because Ledo is from Providence. Ed Cooley will benefit the most, it seems, on his recruiting trails by making inroads early with most recruits, and staying on them through their development as they get older. Without this advantage it has yet to be proven if Cooley can bring in a blue chipper to Providence College based solely on a sales pitch and 6 months to a year of recruitment.

Argument: Ed Cooley will get key frontcourt players for the 2012 recruiting class

1. There are recruits outside of the Top 100
Sometimes the best recruit is the one that's best for the program, not best on the list. In this regard Cooley seems to recognize that PC needs a talent upgrade in the frontcourt, and all players he's targeting are expected to provide that upgrade. While the higher ranked players have been missed, players like Matt Willms and Kevin Larsen are both prime Friar targets and will help improve the frontcourt situation, despite not being considered "impact freshman."

2. Transfers are still options
Although the list has shortened some now that Evan Smotrycz has committed to Maryland, big men leaving their current programs and looking for new teams remain a huge factor in this process. Carson Desrosiers, a 7'0" transfer from Wake Forest, will have two years of eligibility remaining that can be crucially used by the Friars. While the downside is that a transfer will have to sit for a year, they do add reassurance for fans that there is promise in the future and it's physically present on the roster, and the transfers can also contribute in practice and help yield improvement from current big men such as Brice Kofane and Kadeem Batts, who will both be expected to contribute majorly in the coming season.

3. Ed Cooley has a backup plan to his backup plan
With each new frontcourt name that is being revealed as a Friar recruit, there's plenty more that are unknown. The staff has a laundry list of frontcourt players that they are after, and while they have their first choices, second choices, and third choices, the most important thing is that they have plans in the event of a player choosing to go elsewhere. The staff is evaluating all options across the world, and with that they hope to find players that fit the program, talent expectations, and mentality of Ed Cooley's team.

Final Thoughts/Verdict:

Ed Cooley and the staff understand what Providence College is, and more importantly, what it is not, and they implement this in their recruiting. Ed Cooley's major strength is his ability to connect with recruits early and hope that the loyalty pays off, as it did with Kris Dunn. However, Ed Cooley did not have as many opportunities to do this with big men as he did with Dunn, and the success rate was therefore lower with players like Nerlens Noel and Orlando Sanchez.

For certain players he did invest time with, such as Jakarr Sampson, his inability to land him could be pointed to an array of reasons, but none of them make up for the fact that Sampson won't be wearing a Friars jersey and the staff needed to move forward.

That being said, not every recruit will fall Cooley's way, and Cooley will benefit most by doing what he's done so far – developing contingency plans and constantly recruiting players that fit his program, not just that fit the Top 100. In doing so, Ed Cooley will likely land key frontcourt players for the 2012 recruiting class, though they may not have the same immediate impact that fans were hoping they would yield.

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