Recruiting the Keno Way

Recruiting is an inexact science, and every coaching staff has their own style and philosophy. Providence fans are quickly getting a sense that this staff is, well, different.

Named head coach on April 15, 2008, Keno Davis knew that the one thing that he had to get started on immediately was recruiting. The Friar team that he inherited from Tim Welsh had five scholarship seniors on it; five players that would have to be replaced. Shortly after his appointment, a sixth player, sophomore Dwain Williams, opted to transfer, giving Davis one additional slot to fill.

Davis set out on the recruiting trail and also set out to assemble a quality staff. It wouldn't be until June 13, however, that the coaching staff was announced by PC, although two members, Chris Davis and Rodell Davis, who had followed Keno Davis from Drake, had already started recruiting for the Friars. The third assistant, Pat Skerry, had traveled thirty miles upstate from the University of Rhode Island, to give Davis an anchor on the Eastern recruiting scene.

Starting so late, the new staff was behind the eight ball in terms of recruiting right away. While the three Davis' had made connections with many high school seniors-to-be while at Drake, most were not in PC's traditional recruiting grounds, and a number were not Big East-level in caliber. Likewise, Skerry had been hitting New England and the East coast hard for URI, but many of his prospects were Atlantic-10 level in playing ability. Meanwhile, other Big East staffs that had been together had been working prospects for many months, and even years, putting the new PC staff, already late to the party, at a distinct disadvantage.

However, a whirlwind summer changed the equation. Seemingly everywhere, the new staff blanketed the summer camps, the AAU circuit, the junior colleges, and made inroads with an unprecedented number of prospects. They did it with a different philosophy, and they did it with a plan. The result? Six commitments over a three month period, starting in the middle of August, and five signings on letter of intent day in November.

RECRUIT EVERYWHERE
For awhile, PC seemed to be everywhere this summer. The Friars were no longer limited by geography, a nice small school recruiting regionally. While New England/New York/New Jersey has always been and will always be, prime PC recruiting territory, this staff, spurred on by their own individual contacts, spread out into unfamiliar territory.

To be fair, PC had recruited kids from states like Georgia and California before, but those players were few and far between, and success in far-flung regions like that had been rare. Now, the driving force behind PC's recruiting philosophy was to go anywhere and to go where the players were.

A peek into the Recruiting Notebook shows thirteen prospects from both New York and Illinois, eight from Maryland, six from Massachusetts, five each from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, four each from Virginia, North Carolina and Connecticut, three apiece from Michigan, Ohio, Maine and Florida, two each from Texas, Georgia and Washington DC, and one from each of Delaware, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In addition, PC was involved, by our count, with eight junior college prospects and several foreign prospects. And that's only by our count. We've surely missed a number of prospects.

In return for the wide net cast by the staff, the six commitments included two players from Michigan, and one each from Maryland, Wisconsin, Georgia and the junior college ranks. It should be noted that the Maryland and Wisconsin commits are prepping in Massachusetts, but both were known to the staff prior to coming to prep in New England.

RECRUIT BY RESPONSIBILITY
On the previous staff, Steve DeMeo had a reputation as an excellent recruiter, with strong ties in New York, but to be frank, he didn't have a lot of help. On this staff, each assistant is a strong recruiter in his own right, and each assistant has certain geographical responsibilities, an advantage that allows each to focus on certain pools of players.

Of those in the media who cover college recruiting, few get around or see more in New England and New York than Phil Kasiecki, of Hoopville.com. "The main thing that stands out to me with this staff is that every coach is very much involved with the team's recruiting, even though they all have their own niche. Since Keno took over in the spring, I have seen every coach on the staff out recruiting at least once, whether it was a travel team tournament, a prep school open gym or an event like the recent National Prep Showcase. While I saw every coach from the prior staff out recruiting at least once, I saw Steve DeMeo far more than anyone else. With this staff, I've probably seen Pat Skerry and Rodell Davis about an equal number of times. This could just be a coincidence, since it's not like I see everything, but that has jumped out at me," said Kasiecki.

Chris Davis has strong contacts in the state of Michigan. He went to high school at Lumen Christi in Michigan, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and his Masters from Western Michigan. He also coached at Western Michigan before moving on to Drake. The second commit for PC, Duke Mondy, is one of the top shooting guards in Michigan, and PC's fifth commit, 6'10 James Still, is considered the number one power forward in the state. Both were Chris Davis recruits.

Rodell Davis is well known in Chicago and the state of Illinois. He went to high school at Thornton High in Illinois and graduated from the University of Iowa, before coaching at two high schools in Illinois and then at Laramie Community College in Wyoming. Rodell was the lead man in the Chris Colvin recruiting saga and has PC involved with a number of Chicago and Illinois prospects. With strong ties in the junior college ranks, Rodell was lead on landing PC's fourth commit, 6'5 swingman Kyle Wright from Monroe Community College, as well as PC's final commit, point guard Johnnie Lacy from Wisconsin (at Notre Dame Prep), who he knew from Wisconsin.

Pat Skerry is considered one of the top recruiting assistants in the nation and has strong contacts throughout the East and New England. A graduate of Malden Catholic in Massachusetts, Skerry received his degrees from Tufts and coached at Stonehill, Curry, Northeastern, College of Charleston and URI. Working tirelessly up and down the Eastern seaboard, Skerry was responsible for PC's first commit, Antoine Allen of Maryland (also at Notre Dame Prep), and the third commit, 6'8 Kadeem Batts of Georgia (originally a Boston native).

In truth, while certain assistants may assume lead roles in pursuing prospects, all of the assistants are involved, to one degree or another, in landing recruits. And Keno Davis, naturally, is as involved as any of the assistants in scouting and closing the deal.

RECRUIT IN NUMBERS
It quickly became apparent this summer that PC was recruiting in unprecedented numbers and was casting a wider than usual net. Some of that certainly had to do with needing to fill a large number of slots, but some of it also had to do with a different approach.

"It seems this staff is clearly leaving no stone unturned, and I'm sure it's not just because they entered this year needing a big recruiting haul since they inherited a senior-laden team. In fact, I've seen staff members checking out players for the class of 2010 already," said Kasiecki.

The staff got out with the goal of seeing and identifying as many realistic prospects as possible in as short a period of time as possible. Once a prospect was identified as being Big East caliber and a player who would fit into Keno Davis' system, offers were tendered. PC had as many as thirty offers floating out there, and would have been happy with any number of commitments. If a player was offered, and that player committed, they were deemed as appropriate recruits for the level of play and the system. While some fans might have expressed concern that Mondy, for example, was a Big East level player, the staff had no such concerns.

The Recruiting Notebook shows ninety-two prospects in the Class of 2009, fully a third more than in previous years. And that doesn't include the prospects that we never knew about. Clearly, this staff had great success not just in making contact with recruits, but in making serious in-roads with recruits in a relatively short period of time.

RECRUIT TOP RATED KIDS
In this area, the philosophy could not have been more different than what we had previously seen. The mantra here was, go after any kid, anywhere, regardless of who else is recruiting him, or how highly he's rated, so long as he fits the system. Give it a shot. You never know.

PC wasted no time in getting involved with players who were in, or who would crack the recruiting guru's Top 100 lists. Players like Chris Colvin, James Padgett, Thomas Robinson, James Still, Johnnie Lacy, Durand Scott, Talib Zanna, Mouphtauo Yarou, Jordan Williams, Matt Vogrich, Sherrod Wright, Tamir Jackson and many others, were recruited, some more seriously than others. PC successfully peppered their list of potentials with equal shares of unknowns, sleepers, mid-majors, Top 150-300 types, and Top 100, high-major players.

"One of the challenges of being at Providence is nabbing those guys just below the radar and turning them into good players. I think Providence has targeted some guys who fit that bill. They've been aggressive and ahead of the pack in terms of being on top of guys who are ready to hit their stride. So far, so good!" said Dave Telep, recruiting director of Scout.com.

Ultimately, there were not many kids that PC realistically wanted, and that they then missed out on. Zanna and Colvin were two, for sure, but PC was right there until the end with both. And the point is, the Friars swung for the fences and took their shots. That attitude bodes well for future recruiting, when this staff will have a lot more time to work on prospects and to get involved with top players much earlier.

There is no minimizing the effect that a refurbished Dunkin' Donuts Center has had on PC's recruiting. In the past, coaches would avoid showing recruits where they were going to play because the building was in such disrepair. Likewise, new infrastructure improvements on campus and in the basketball offices have created a far more recruit-friendly experience. This staff has taken full advantage of the new niceties. However, equally important is that a new philosophy and a new plan is in place. The future results should be interesting.

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