Double Trouble

It isn’t always the case that Providence College has two excellent ballhandlers and passers on its roster who each get significant floor time, but that’s exactly the situation that the Friars find themselves in this season.

Kris Dunn was the obvious starter at point guard this year. Finally healthy, Dunn was a McDonald’s All-American who was rated either the #1 or #2 point guard (behind Marcus Paige) in his high school class, depending on which recruiting service you were listening to. His brilliance with the ball is no surprise, as his athleticism, court vision and passing ability has allowed him to distribute the ball at will to eager teammates.

The surprise of the season so far has been freshman Kyron Cartwright. Lightly recruited and not in anyone’s Top 250, Cartwright first committed to Loyola-Marymount, but then decommitted and decided to test his ability at a higher level in the Big East Conference with Providence.

When Ed Cooley saw what he had, he decided to go with a two point guard lineup, preferring two ballhandlers on the court at the same time. For the first 8 games of the season, Cartwright found himself in the starting lineup. In the last three, Jalen Lindsey has taken his place, but Cartwright has still played major minutes and still been paired often with Dunn. Against Stony Brook, Kyron had career-highs with 10 points and 10 assists.

So far this season, through 11 games, Dunn has recorded 60 assists while Cartwright has dished for 50 assists, putting the two on target to become just the 13th pair of teammates to record 100 or more assists in a season at Providence since assists started to be tracked in the 1960’s.

Here is the complete list of seasons that saw more than one Friar record 100+ assists:

1973-74: Kevin Stacom (169), Gary Bello (116), Marvin Barnes (113)
1974-75: Rick Santos (139), Gary Bello (122)
1976-77: Dwight Williams (147), Bob Misevicius (113), Joe Hassett (111)
1977-78: Bob Misevicius (164), Dwight Williams (133)
1978-79: David Frye (126), John Nolan (114)
1980-81: Jim Panaggio (108), Ricky Tucker (104)
1988-89: Carlton Screen (198), Eric Murdock (141)
1996-97: God Shammgod (239), Corey Wright (103)
1998-99: John Linehan (113), Corey Wright (109)
2004-05: Donnie McGrath (115), Ryan Gomes (100)
2006-07: Geoff McDermott (159), Sharaud Curry (120)
2009-10: Vincent Council (141), Sharaud Curry (105)

The concept of having two primary point guards or ballhandlers on the floor is not a new one. At Providence, the first case of this dates back to the late 1950’s, when Lenny Wilkens and Johnny Egan played two seasons together and took turns bringing the ball upcourt. Providence’s emergence as a basketball power and postseason tournament appearances date back to this great combo in the backcourt, and after Wilkens graduated, Egan spent a successful NIT championship season alongside Vinnie Ernst, another big assist man.

In the 1970’s, Kevin Stacom took over the primary ballhandling duties after Ernie DiGregorio graduated but he was ably assisted by Gary Bello, who then teamed with Rick Santos after Stacom was gone. The late ‘70’s saw a unique situation when talented point guard Dwight Williams was teamed with 6’9, 240 pound Bob Misevicius, a fairly immobile big man who, nonetheless had great hands and excellent passing ability for a big man. Misevisius would set up at the top of the key in a high-low post offense and zip passes to teammates cutting to the basket for layups and dunks.

In the 1980’s, Carlton Screen and Eric Murdock were a potent backcourt tandem, both offensively and defensively, and God Shammgod teamed with his playground buddy, Corey Wright, in the mid-‘90’s, to torture opponents with loads of assists.

More recently, Sharaud Curry had a career at Providence that overlapped both Donnie McGrath and Vincent Council. Whenever Curry was on the floor with either McGrath or Council, the Friars had two ballhandlers who could deal with pressure and pass the ball.

Now, Dunn and Cartwright are poised to become the newest members of a select group. Having two distributors on the team has usually been a good thing for Providence College. It will be interesting to find out how far this pair can take the Friars.

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