HIGH HONORS -
Sharaud Curry: A; 11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.51 assist/TO ratio, 45/89% FG/FT %
The first time I saw Curry play this fall in Alumni I knew he could shoot. He drilled two open looks from beyond the arc, then canned his next two with defenders running at him. He hit his first six looks that day. I was encouraged, but I was unsure if he was big or fast enough to free himself to score in the Big East. Those questions have been answered.
It didn't take long for Curry to establish himself as this team's point guard. Tim Welsh must be ecstatic to have a freshman who does not turn it over, has good scoring ability, and isn't afraid to take the big shot at the end of the game. Providence's long awaited "true" point guard has arrived.
SOLID B STUDENTS -
Herb Hill: B; 8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 61% FG percentage
This is why we wait a while to do a mid-season report card. A month ago, Hill is nowhere near a B, but for a team that has been dying for someone to step up and give them minutes at center, he has emerged as the man.
Providence has won 4 of 6 in Big East play and it is not a coincidence that this streak has come with Hill providing a steadying presence in the middle. Most recently, he battled St. John's huge frontline to the tune of 17 points and 8 rebounds and he kept PC in the game with 14 first half at Depaul, making the second half run possible. If he keeps this play up for the rest of the season his grade will jump up and PC will be playing into the postseason.
Donnie McGrath: B; 14.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.7 apg
There seems to be two camps on McGrath: those that think he has had an underrated and under-appreciated career at PC and others who have seen McGrath has a painfully inconsistent performer from game to game.
I admit, I fell into that second camp. In previous seasons, when the three was not falling, it seemed as though he did not contribute much in other areas. Donnie has evolved into more of an all-around threat this year. He has hit a three in every game this season, has already taken more free throws than he ever has, and has avoided long droughts, as his scoring average is up five points from a year ago.
Geoff McDermott: B-; 9.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg
McDermott has provided a toughness and attitude that PC was sorely lacking a season ago. He has had over 10 rebounds on seven different occassions, and nine rebounds in two others. He was at his best in the first half against Memphis, with an ultra-aggressive five steals in the first half before going down with an injury.
Geoff has had his turnover issues of late, but his presence on the boards is essential. He deserves credit for playing through injury, but even more love for that attitude he brings to the floor.
HAVE HAD THEIR MOMENTS, BUT...
Weyinmi Efejuku: C; 8.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
Efejuku scored double figures in four of his first five Big East games, highlited with a 19 point effort against Louisville in which he got to the free throw line at will. The ability to get into the lane and draw contact is what got Weyinmi to Providence and what will make him a player at this level. He can get into the lane and has great body control in the air, but he needs to develop a jumper to become more of an offensive threat.
Charles Burch: C-; 4.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 41% 3 point shooting
Burch has given Welsh a decent option coming off of the bench. While hesitant to shoot at times, Charlie has quietly put up good shooting numbers coming off of the bench at 41% from beyond the arc, and nearly 80% from the free throw line.
He hit some big threes against Memphis.
Randall Hanke: C-; 13.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 68% FG percentage
This grade is due to what was expected, and more importantly, needed from Hanke this year. He has the potential to be one of the best centers in the Big East (just ask Rick Pitino). While the scoring and shooting percentages have been there, he has lost his minutes to Hill at center (17 minutes or under in the last three contests).
A lack of rebounding and defense have kept him on the bench at key moments this year. His highest rebounding total in a Big East game is 6. A 16 point, 5 block effort against UConn is evidence that he can score and defend against anyone in the country. If he can put a string of games together at the end of the season like he did last year, this team becomes very dangerous.
It would be nice to see him play with more fire, but that comes with confidence, which might be low right now.
Jon Kale: C-; 3.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg,
I like Kale's game, and while there have been flashes out there, he just has not produced on a consistent basis. This comes with being a freshman big man in the Big East.
Double-doubles against San Diego State and Notre Dame provided a nice peak into the future. Much like McDermott, he provides a physical presence that has been lacking at PC, and his enthusiasm has been a welcome sight.
THE COACH - B; 11-10
Welsh has done a solid, but unspectacular job this year at Providence. He has played short-handed with only eight scholarship players, four of whom are freshman, but at this level you are expected to win with what you have.
Scanning down the schedule, things have pretty much fallen as most would expect. There have not been any major upsets, nor have the Friars lost to any teams they should have defeated. The URI loss hurts, but it is not a shock at this point. The win at the RAC against Rutgers is the best of the bunch.
The coach has managed to find his point guard of the future, freed McGrath to become a scorer , instead of trying to make him a play-maker, and brought in an active big body in McDermott.
The center position will make or break Welsh's season this year. If he can continue to get results from Hill and get Hanke to turn things around, this team will be a very tough out in the Big East Tournament.
Three more conference wins, including one over Pitt would push the coach up to a B+, an 8-8 conference finish would be an A-, a NCAA bid would mean it is time to extend him again.
I've stopped trying to guess who is going to be a contributor before the kids lace them up. There is going to be plenty of competition at guard next year. The three guards Welsh is bringing in all bring something different. Brian McKenzie is a shooter, Corey Lowe brings point guard skills, and Jamal Barney looks like the best scorer of the bunch.
Ray Hall is another big body to build with McDermott and Kale. In an ideal world, PC will have a bulky frontline with Hall at 260-270 and McDermott and Kale in the 240-250 range. Providence has been pushed around under the basket over recent years and Welsh has recognized this and worked hard to change that.
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