Friars Step Up Spring Recruiting

Every Spring a few things are guaranteed, flowers will surely bloom, taxes will need to be done by April 15th, it will start to be light out past 7 p.m., and what appears to be a trend in Friartown, Spring brings panic mode.

Meltdown mode, “add anyone, just add a body since we missed out on every target mode.” Well let me tell you a little story about the Spring of 2016, where Ed Cooley landed just about every target he went after. 2016 was not your typical Friar spring, where they miss out on every single transfer, and big spring target, only to add the only available body that is willing to put on a uniform.

This spring, Ed Cooley went out and did what he said he was going to do; he infused this roster with talent. Cooley had 3 big additions this spring to couple with a Top 150 point guard, and a sit-out transfer.  The Friars needed to get bigger and stronger inside.

 Meet Emmitt Holt. He’s 6’7, 230 pounds, and is going to become the next warrior for Ed Cooley. He has an incredible wing-span - 7’3 to be exact. I did not watch Holt play a single minute of basketball in Junior College. I did see a few flashes of him at Indiana. He is a big body, and athletic for 230 pounds. He plays within himself, and he knows his game. That game is to eat up rebounds, and score inside. He is not one of those guys who goes out and tries to be something he is not; he knows what it is he is capable of. He understands how to use his body, and his great footwork to score down low on the block. The Friars are getting someone with experience; he played at Indiana as a freshman before being dismissed for a violation of team rules, and played a full year of Juco ball at Indian Hills where he was able to shoot an astonishing 69% from the field.

 In addition to shooting 69% at Indian Hills, he averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. I honestly think Holt is going to remind us of LaDontae Henton. Not in the outside shooting sense of his game, but for his tough, rugged, hard-nose play inside. Henton had a way of scoring inside that sort of baffled people because he was not your prototypical big man. Holt is wider, and maybe an inch or two taller, but he is not 6’10 or 6’11. Holt is going to be a big factor for the Friars the next two years; he has a body ready for the Big East wars, and has already played meaningful basketball. This is going to be a welcome addition, and I think Friar fans are going to grow to love this kid.

 In the spring of 2014, the Friars saw Josh Fortune depart late to a transfer. PC had Dunn coming into his first season, praying he was going to be healthy, and we had a roster that looked scarce at the guard position. With loads of time to offer, it seemed like the Friars were set up for a solid spring. Some may remember Tarin Smith and Devonte Graham. These were two names that seemed to be where the coaching staff put a lot of effort and fans were hoping for as the answer. Cooley chased both pretty hard, looked at multiple 5th year transfers, and yet spring came and went and the Friars signed two players, Tyree Chambers and Kyron Cartwright. I don’t want to discredit Kyron for all that he has brought over his first two years, but at the time, it certainly did not seem like this was a big move. Kyron, as most of us know, has turned out to be solid, and a great addition, now heading into his junior year. Tyree was what we have started to accept as normal in Friartown, a sort of panic move where the Friars add anyone willing to put on the black and white for the sake of having someone on the roster. He was 19 at the time of his signing, playing in Germany, and Friar fans were trying to find a way to get excited about it.

 This spring, we have a multitude of guards/wings, and Ed kept telling everyone he wanted to infuse the roster with talent. It appeared it would be quite the daunting task to add a top player in the spring considering our history, and the fact that the Friars actually have players on the roster this year capable of playing some big minutes. Yet, Alpha Diallo’s name kept coming up, Twitter posts constantly discussing how the staff was at Brewster Academy to see the Top 100 wing. Been there, done that, I’ve seen this movie before. Relentless pursuit of a Top 100 player, only to be left at the altar again, alone, adding names no one has heard of. Talent infusion Ed promised, and talent infusion Ed delivered.

 April 26th marked a big change for the Friars, and Ed Cooley got his man. A Big East body ready, Top 100 wing player is heading to PC. I have seen Diallo listed anywhere from 6’5-6’7. Seeing him person I’d say he is a solid 6’6, and is very much ready to play minutes in the Big East as a freshmen.  Diallo is a bouncy 6’6 wing who can do a little bit of everything. He is not a dead eye 3-point shooter, I want to get that out of the way as soon as possible, so we do not have Jalen Lindsay-like expectations when he comes in and does not shoot 45% from 3 (I am really rooting for Jalen to shoot 45% from 3 this year). Alpha attacks defenders like he is a 6’2 guard. One thing I can say after seeing him play a few times, he is very comfortable with the ball in his hands off the dribble. He can create for himself off the dribble, and is not afraid to attack from any spot on the floor, using his big frame to get into smaller guards and go to the rim.

 Alpha has a pretty fluid pull up jumper, and uses it when others play off of him after he has attacked the basket. I want to be clear, I do not think Diallo is going to come in, play 32 minutes a game, and score 18 points a night. I do, however, think that this is the kind of kid that, after getting a year under his belt, could develop into one of the top players in the Big East. This is exactly the kind of kid Cooley talks about when he mentions versatility. Alpha can play the 2 or the 3, and can handle the ball in a pinch. He can be on the floor with multiple guards, or be the secondary guard option if need be. He uses his body well when going to the lane, and understands how to use it. In the few times I watched him in person, one thing that stood out was his ability to go to his left at a very comfortable pace. He does need to become a more consistent outside shooter. My hope is that Alpha Diallo is the guy who flips the switch for the Friars for the coming spring periods. Cooley made Diallo a major priority this year, and was rewarded for his efforts with a Top 100 player.

 Last Spring, the Friar roster stood at two big men after someone I won’t mention as it seems to give most Friar fans heart burn, decided to leave for orange pastures. Cooley and staff chased 5th year transfers and freshmen late in the game. It appeared it would seem pretty easy to land someone; we had Ben Bentil at the 4/5 and Rodney Bullock, who, although undersized would play minutes at the 4. Cooley was offering up minutes galore here in Friartown, and yet another spring, another empty situation. We added a 6’8 (which was questionable), 280 pound somewhat unknown freshman, Quadree Smith. Stuck in another situation where we needed to add a body, we did just that. I don’t want to put Q down, he appeared to be well liked and a nice kid. He was, however, not a Big East basketball player.

 Providence found themselves in a similar situation for big men this spring. Bullock, still on the team, is set up for a big year, and with the addition of Holt, the Friars now have two players very capable of playing the 4. Kalif Young is a name that started popping up late winter time. He was offered by the staff on January 9th, and from January 26th-29th he would be playing a few games at Rhode Island College in the National Prep Showcase. A perfect situation for the Friar staff to show they were interested in him, and a chance to get a real look at his game.

 Back in January it was reported that besides Providence being really involved, Marquette was making him a priority. I talked to a MU assistant while at RIC about Kalif before getting to see him play. “You won’t find anyone who works harder than this kid,” “Not going to overwhelm you with crazy athleticism for a big guy, but never going to be out worked.”  That had me pretty excited to see him; he was going to matching up with Omari Spellman, a top 20 player in the country, with a similar frame. Young is a legit 6’9 and 260 pounds, He’s a big dude, and he plays big. He had decent touch from 15 feet, and could score inside against Spellman. He also did not look over matched defensively. Spellman had the better game, and rightfully so, he should have.

 Young is a good player, but I want to make things clear, he is not filling Ben’s shoes with that kind of impact in 2016-2017. Ben has now declared to stay in the draft, leaving the Friars in a tough situation. Young is a nice player, with a ton of ceiling and potential to be great. Big men honestly have the toughest time adjusting to the college game. Understanding ball screen D, understanding hedging, understanding how much stronger guys are. It’s not a knock on Young or anyone for that matter, its reality, the game is faster, guys are stronger, and things are a lot more complex.

 Now that Ben has decided to not return, Young is going to be forced into more minutes than he probably should play as a freshman, and that’s just a fact of life unless the Friars land a 5th year big, which at this point seems unlikely. Young should develop into a really nice, solid starter for the Friars in the years to come.

 Regardless of Ben going pro, I think the bigger story is the spring signing period. Young noted he was headed here regardless of Ben’s choice. This spring, the Friars added a Juco transfer PF who can play immediately, and will be an impact player, a Top 100 wing, and a big man who is more than just a body on the roster.  Put that together with a top 150 point guard in Maliek White, and what would seem to be a very good sit-out transfer in Isiah Jackson. Of note, I have seen Jackson in practice a few times, and I think fans are going to like him. The Friars have five guys coming in who all realistically can play right away. The past two springs, we have added four players, Kyron Cartwright, Tyree Chambers, Quadree Smith, and Ricky Council.  As of right now, two of those players are not on the roster, one of them does not look ready, and Kyron has turned into a good point guard.  Those previous two springs are not the kind of success you can have if you want to continue to make the NCAA tournament.

 This spring has marked a real change in recruiting for the Friars and Ed Cooley. It’s unfortunate for the fans Bentil is not going to return, and for Coach Cooley who did a remarkable job adding a lot of quality talent to the roster. This team would have been a lock for the NCAA tournament if Ben comes back. Young, as it stands, is going to be forced into more time than I think Cooley would have wanted for him as a freshman. That is something fans need to be ready for, and understand that we are going to experience some serious growing pains this coming season.

 My early guess at a starting 5 right now would be Kyron, Jackson, Lindsey, Bullock and Holt. That line actually has more size than I think people would expect.  Jackson at 6’6, and Lindsey at 6’7, give PC some really good length at the wing. I think we realistically need to be prepared for an NIT season. I want to be wrong, I want the added talent and depth to be a huge factor in our success. The fact of the matter is, Kris and Ben are gone, and we are going to rely on guys who have not had to be the primary scorer. I do however, think this team is set up for a major run over the next couple of years. We do not have a single senior basketball-wise on the roster. In 2017-2018 this entire team we watch this coming season will be scheduled to be here again, seasoned, and hungry for a big year. On top of that, the 2017 class already has a 6’11 player signed in Dajour Dickens. Things are going to continue to look bright in Friartown. PC is coming off three straight NCAA appearances, and we have a coach who has signed up to be here for life. What more could you ask for?

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