Player Profile: Donnie McGrath

January 2nd, 2003. This was the day in which Providence freshman point guard Donnie McGrath put the Big East on alert that the Friars would have an offensive force running the show for the next four years.

A Boston College team being led by All American point guard Troy Bell was pulling away from the young Friars at the Conte Forum. BC ran out to a 16 point first half lead and the flamboyant Ryan Sidney advised Tim Welsh that his team needed a timeout. No one would have guessed that in an hour Providence would storm back to grab the win on the road with Ted Sarandis stating that McGrath looked like an All American.

The young guard ended the night with 23 points, on 5-7 three pointers, while taking the game over in the second half. He took the game over offensively hitting from long range, up faking his way to medium range jumpers, while leaving the Eagles wondering what hit them. A star was born, right? With apologies to Lee Corso, not so fast, sweetheart.

McGrath has proven to be a steady hand at the point over his first three years at Providence. He has had some monster games, mostly in which he caught fire from beyond the three point arc, but McGrath has yet to recapture that magic that he seemed destined for after his Big East debut.

Friar fans are split on the play of McGrath. Some will say that he has been left on an island, a point guard who was thrust into big minutes, all while playing with average backcourt mates, while remaining the steady hand who never turned the ball over and had a knack of getting hot from beyond the arc. More of a shooter than a creator, Donnie has taken criticism for not being the penetrating point guard that Providence has been longing for since God Shammgod sliced his way to the Elite Eight. McGrath is not a penetrating point guard, but he does set the tone in the half court set and is an above average shooter.

Critics will point to some horrible shooting slumps he has experienced. While it is true that he does not turn the ball over much, he does not create opportunities for his teammates. Jason Kidd traditionally finds his way into the top five in the NBA in turnovers, but he is widely regarded as the best lead guard in basketball.

The truth lies somewhere between. Providence has a horrible time protecting the ball without him on the floor and he can go on hot streaks that can turn a close game into a blowout. The problem is that when he is not hitting from beyond the arc he does little to help the team offensively.

What can he do to take his game to another level his senior year? Donnie has to find a way to make himself dangerous even when he is cold from beyond the arc. In that Boston College game of '03 he flashed an 18 footer that Providence has not taken advantage of since.

The widely speculated move to the off-guard spot could finally take place this year if freshman Sharaud Curry can give Providence 10-15 minutes per game at the point guard slot. The prediction here is that the freshman is going to get some run this season. Curry is a really good shooter who plays the game with his head up. Jajuan Robinson was hyped as a change of tempo guard, but he was more of a 5'8 shooting guard. Of course, Robinson never saw the court. Weyinmi Efejuku is another option – a 6'5 point who is big and strong, but is he ready to run a Big East team? The other option Providence brought in was Dwight Brewington. Friar fans dreamed of a nightmare matchup with the 6'5 Brewington leading the show for PC. Time has proven that Brewington is a wing, not a point. Curry has more natural point guard skills. He is not a combo, but a true point.

McGrath is going to have to shoulder a lot this season. Not only is he one of the few veterans on this year's team, but he will also be asked to set the tone for the offense, all while providing scoring as well. It is quite a burden to place on one player, but it is also an opportunity. Donnie McGrath has a chance to distinguish his career in this, his senior season. Will he be the limited player that some see, or the guy who can take a game over with his shooting ability, the guy that we thought emerged onto the scene that winter's night in Chestnut Hill?

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