Inside Late Night Madness

Providence College kicked off a new basketball season with their Late Night Madness event last night, and Friar Insider was on the scene to catch the first glimpse of the new edition Friars while catching the latest off court happenings in and around Alumni Hall.

As is customary with Late Night Madness at Providence College, the Friars put their best foot forward to showcase the college's most featured sport. Friday night, both College President Rev. Brian Shanley and A.D. Bob Driscoll spoke to the crowd and showed great enthusiasm for the upcoming season for both the Friar men's and women's teams.

Both Head Coaches, Tim Welsh and Phil Seymore, spoke to a full house of students and interested fans in Alumni Hall before the Providence College men's basketball team put on display of dunks which managed to pump up the crowd at 11 pm.

For high major programs without weekend football games to entertain recruits, a basketball madness event is an important tool that a college like Providence uses to energize their fan base and host recruits. While the SAT exam this weekend prevented a few Friar targets from otherwise attending the event, there were two significant recruiting guests of note in the house.

The first was 2007 sleeper small forward Justin Harper from Meadowbrook, VA and the Richmond Metro AAU team. Harper is a lean and fleet 6'7 forward who can finish well on the break and can knock down the outside shot in the half court set. Physically, he is vaguely reminiscent of former Villanova great Kerry Kittles. Harper came north on an official visit with his parents to see the campus, meet the team, and consider a college future in the Big East. By all appearances, Harper seemed to be very engaged in the festivities. Obviously, the Friars are seriously considering Justin Harper for one of their 2007 scholarships.

The other major recruiting target at the festivities last night was Quasim Pugh, a 6'0, class of 2008 lighting quick point guard from Worcester Academy. Pugh is a true ‘push point', and makes great decisions in transition while also having the skill to breakdown any defender for a basket. Pugh is being pursued by a number of high major programs besides Providence. Expect Pugh's recruitment to heat up in the coming months.

The highlight of the on court activities was the dunking show put on by a number of the Friar players. As an active, healthy, and visibly leaner Geoff McDermott threw down two dunks with ease, the team watched their senior teammate Herb Hill finish his own a pair of impressive jams. Hill is barely recognizable from the slight freshman who first arrived at Providence. He is now a strong, confident player who is ready to make his mark on the program.

Despite still recovering from cutting edge surgery on a sports hernia, Weyinme Efejuku glided to the hoop and displayed his trademark athleticism. He should be healthy and ready for the start of the season. While Randall Hanke missed the festivities last night with his hand injury, there is every expectation that he is expected to be back healthy within two weeks.

Friar Insider had a chance to briefly catch up with Head Coach Tim Welsh, who was in good spirits and eager to get to work with his bolstered squad. The Coach continues to be optimistic about Jamal Barney's qualification issue, and hopes it can be resolved before the regular season begins. Fortunately, Barney is eligible to practice with the team.

Welsh made a point of how coachable this particular group of players is, and how he feels the incoming recruits will blend in very well with the veterans. He told Friar Insider that Ray Hall has lost 30 lbs since first arriving at Providence in the early summer, and how he's been aggressively working on his game while consulting with a nutritionist to maintain a healthy playing weight. The 6'10 Hall is currently listed at 275 lbs.

Friar thoughts and predictions...

Friar Insider also surveyed some informed opinions from some local college basketball observers and AAU experts who were in attendance for Late Night Madness. Here are some of those comments:

"Jeff Xavier is a player and the toughest guard Providence has had since John Linehan. He and Sharaud Curry could make a deadly backcourt together next year."

"Besides having size, Ray Hall has good hands, a few solid post moves, and he can pass. He is ahead of a number of other Friar big men when they were freshmen."

"Beware of Longwood on January 2nd...they're coming to Providence to pull a Winthrop."

"This team can make some noise if they stay healthy; with the added depth, they should be able to get to 17 wins without any miracles."

"Brian McKenzie really knocks down his shots. He may be the biggest freshman contributor."

"2007 BC recruit Rakim Sanders may have difficultly qualifying to play for the Eagles next fall. If that turns out to be the case, look for him to prep a year, possibly at the Winchendon School in Massachusetts."

Harper was the only Class of '07 recruit that the Friars are pursuing, present at LNM.

As Herb Hill and Geoff McDermott worked the crowd up for another season of Friar hoops, there seemed to be more overall optimism than there was the previous year. Providence still has a number of questions with its team, but it also has more answers than it had last year. Friar fans are eager to see the most recent addition of the Friars take the floor at the Mal Brown scrimmage and Fanfest in two weeks at the Dunk, beginning yet another chapter of Providence College basketball.

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