PROVIDENCE RECRUITING CLASSES - PART ONE

By RICHARD COREN <br> Recruiting at Providence College has always been a complicated job. Friar Insider decided to take a look back at the past twenty recruiting classes to see which prospects hit it big and which prospects were busts. The first part of this two part series looks at the classes of Rick Pitino through Rick Barnes.

It's often said that recruiting is an inexact science. Some players who are very highly rated in high school turn out to be busts, while others, like Ryan Gomes, who barely receive a mention in high school, turn out to be all-time greats.

In the case of Providence College, recruiting can be especially delicate. As we've seen recently, with the loss of Craig Austrie to Connecticut and Jerome Johnson to UNLV, sometimes the staff can get in early on a prospect, yet still lose them once college basketball's heavyweights get involved. Yet, it's uncertain whether Austrie or Johnson will ever be stars in college.

Friar Insider thought it would be interesting to look back over the last twenty years of Providence College recruiting classes – from Rick Pitino through Tim Welsh – and with the benefit of hindsight, see how each class turned out. Which players lived up to their expectations, which players were busts, which scholarships could have been better spent.

Each player in each class is listed, along with their position, and the highest rating that they received from a recruiting service that year. NR means that the player was not ranked by any service. In the first part of this two part series, we'll look at Rick Pitino through Rick Barnes.

RICK PITINO
Year One
Brian Benham, F – NR
Patrick Mosely, PF - #172
Darryl Wright, WF - #121
Pitino got off to a late start recruiting and inked three players in the late signing period. He travelled to Georgia for both Mosely and Benham. Mosely never played at PC, while Benham was a four year bench warmer. Wright played out of necessity, but was extremely erratic, although he did have his moments as a senior. This class gets a pass because of its late start.

Year Two
James Best, SF, Transfer
Delray Brooks, SG, Transfer
Quinton Burton, SF - #52
Marty Conlon, F - #81
Carlton Screen, PG – NR
Abdul Shamsid-Deen, C – NR
Dave Snedeker, F, Transfer
Pitino's second class contributed greatly to Rick Barnes success during his first two years at Providence. Conlon was a gangly forward who contributed as a freshman, then blossomed as a junior and senior. Screen and Shamsid-Deen also had their moments as freshmen during PC's Final Four storybook season, and both were starters during their final two seasons. Screen was a pure point guard with electrifying speed and quick hands on defense. Brooks was a former McDonald's All-American who transferred in from Indiana and formed an important part of PC's three point shooting troika, along with Billy Donovan and Pop Lewis. Burton was a highly regarded prospect, who unfortunately had to sit out a year due to Prop 48, and was never quite the same after that. He endured an up and down career. The two other transfers didn't work out as well. Best had tons of talent, but tore up a knee early into his first season which ended his career, while Snedeker had back trouble and never was able to play after his first season.

Year Three
Cal Foster, PF, JUCO - #26
Kevin Gaskins, PG - #225
Eric Murdock, G - #112
Chris Watts, SG - #39
In his final season, Pitino brought in Foster , a high jumping junior college player who made the most out of his limited skills. Gaskins was a small sparkplug of a point, but academic issues kept him from ever arriving at Providence. Watts was extremely highly regarded, but never lived up to his promise at PC. He was a decent three point shooter, but was buried on the bench for most of his career behind Murdock, a somewhat lightly regarded prospect who was considered a better football player than basketball player in high school. Murdock went on to become one of PC's all-time greats, as a senior enjoying the second best single season ever by a Friar, and setting an NCAA career steals record along the way.

GORDIE CHIESA
Year One
Greg Bent, PF, JUCO – NR
Marques Bragg, PF - #159
Terrence Lewis, SG - #24
Marvin Saddler, PF - #77
Chiesa's one class was stocked with beefy power forwards. Bragg played little for two years, but was a monster on the boards during his last two seasons. Bent was a servicible forward, never putting up big numbers, but a contributor. Saddler was a major disappointment, and not a hard worker. Billed as the best high school big man in New England, Marvin had flashes, but never lived up to expectations and spent most of his four years on the bench. Lewis never made it to Providence.

RICK BARNES
Year One
Trent Forbes, PG - #40
Tim Parker, SG - #90
Tony Turner, WF - #188
Barnes got off to a late start, but still managed to land a highly rated recruit in Forbes. Unfortunately, although Trent had his moments, he never lived up to his rating. Parker came in with a reputation of being a top three point shooter, but had personal problems and left school before ever playing for the Friars. Meanwhile, Turner languished on the bench for most of his career before emerging as a true three point threat as a senior.

Year Two
Troy Brown, PF - #32
Fred Campbell, WF, JUCO - #40
Corey Floyd, SG, JUCO - #19
Kenny McDonald, SG, JUCO - #29
Rob Phelps, SG - #18
Disckey Simpkins, C - #73
Michael Smith, PF - #14
Franklin Western, WF – NR
This was Barnes' crowning jewel of a class, and the one that cemented his reputation as PC's best recruiter since Gavitt. This was rated as the 4th-best recruiting class in the country by some services, and Barnes was so exhausted by the effort that he put forth bringing this class to fruition that he suffered from pneumonia after the early signing period. Smith was the plum, a McDonald's All-American, and he lived up to the hype, becoming PC's best power forward. Simpkins was a four year starter at center and put up impressive numbers. Phelps was New York's second leading all-time scorer, but may have been affected by sitting out a year as a Prop 48 and struggled for most of his career until a hot hand against Connecticut in the Big East Tournament semi's redeemed him in the eyes of many Friar fans. Brown played sparingly for his first three years, redshirted, and then started as a senior at center and put up decent numbers. Even this class wasn't perfect, however. The three junior college players were all disappointments to one degree or other. Campbell had limited skills and played little as a senior; Floyd could jump and was strong, but that was pretty much the extent of his game; and McDonald came in with a rep of being a three point marksman, but never shot consistently. Still, this was by far Rick Barnes' most talented class.

Year Three
Matt Alosa, PG - #24
Ira Bowman, SG - #91
Opinions varied wildly about Alosa, who Barnes never saw play, but offered anyway on the advice of his assistant, Fran Fraschilla. One recruiting service had him rated as the top point guard in the nation, another service barely had him in the Top 100. The latter service was closer to the truth. Alosa struggled in the Big East against quicker, more athletic guards, and transferred to New Hampshire midway through his sophomore season. Bowman also was not physically gifted enough to play in the Big East, and joined Alosa in transferring midaway through his sophomore year to Penn, where he flourished against Ivy League competition.

Year Four
Abdul Abdullah, PG, JUCO – NR
Michael Brown, SG - #112
Orlando Vega, WF – NR
Maciej Zielinski, WF – NR
Now desperate for a point guard, Barnes found Abdullah living in a trailer in California, attending yet another junior college. Abdullah was a great floor general, however, despite his inability to shoot, and led PC to back to back 20 win seasons. Brown was a sleeper, a true unknown from the Syracuse area, who was a very versatile guard and had a much better career than his high school press clippings would have suggested, while Vega was a supremely talented athlete with a long list of personal and academic problems who never played at PC.

Year Five
Austin Croshere, WF - #67
Jason Murdock, SG - #117
Piotr Szybilski, C – NR
Eric Williams, F, JUCO - #3
Williams was a stud, a First Team All-American junior college player, and he lived up to his reputation at PC, scoring both inside and out. Croshere was largely unknown, ranked highly by one service, but ignored in the others, a 6'9 skinny kid playing in a bad high school league, who wanted to go to UConn, but was rejected as not good enough. Austin transformed himself into a PC great, however, and proved that high school rankings matter little. Murdock was the cousin of Friar great Eric Murdock, and played at the same high school. He was a role player, and at times, sixth man, for most of his PC career. Barnes hadn't landed a center since Simpkins and took a flyer on Szybilski, who was a project, redshirted a year, and ultimately transferred out after his sophomore year.

Year Six
Greg Buckner, SG – NR
Jason Evans, C – NR
Jason Williams, PG – NR
Barnes signed three players in the early signing period of his final year at PC, and none of the players wowed PC fans at the time. Williams was the best known of the recruits, while both Evans and Buckner were considered sleepers. Only Evans ever played for PC. By now, Barnes was having problems landing quality low post players (he hadn't landed a true blue chip low post player since the Smith-Simpkins-Brown class) and Evans was a reach. PC's first seven-footer, Evans had little talent and left early in his freshman season, possibly Barnes' biggest recruiting mistake. Buckner and Williams will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.

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