Exclusive Interview With Keno Davis

Keno Davis has a year of coaching in the Big East under his belt, but next season will be the first one in which he can coach players that he's brought in to play his preferred style of basketball. ScoutFriars.com sat down with the Friar head basketball coach and covers everything from the incoming Friar recruits to Coach Davis' thoughts on installing his up tempo style at Providence.


SH: Has Sharaud Curry made up his mind about coming back next year for his last year of eligibility? Has he entertained the possibility of looking into playing overseas given that he can graduate this May?

KD: He's got one more year left, we expect him back. I don't think he's thought about going overseas more than any kid that would entertain leaving early to go overseas. I think the idea for him to is to progress to the point where he's on the radar to make as much money as possible professionally. If he was all Big East 2nd team that might have put him in the conversation for a good contract, but he wasn't quite at that level this past year coming off the injury. I think he's ready to take that next step this coming year.

SH: Given the turnover in the roster this year, let's talk about the incoming recruits who signed in the early recruiting period. Let's start with Kadeem Batts…A Georgia recruit with Northeast roots.

KD: Batts actually grew up right outside of Boston, and that's why we were able to be involved with him. The previous staff here had also recruited him at some level. I think what was exciting for us about him is that you're talking about a kid that is a good 6'8 or 6'9 now with a really good basketball body but he's also a player who had a big growth spurt where he was 5'11" and then all of a sudden grew 8 plus inches. He was a guard going into high school so his game on the inside has a chance to improve by leaps. He's not just always been the big kid on teams. So I think he has some guard skills and yet his inside skills will continue to develop. He's got a great personality, and he's excited to be playing here. I think he's going to be a worker, and we're happy to have him.

SH: So Batts' role here will be as power forward?

KD: There is no reason why he won't be a power forward, and he could play at center if we need him to. He's 6'8'-6'9, and he's as big as any kid who's listed at 6'9 playing in the Big East. He's a good couple inches bigger than say Alex Kellogg. He's big enough to play at the center position, and he's skilled enough to play power forward.

Kadeem has outside shooting ability and ball skills that are already better than the ball skills of the inside players that we had this past season. If you look at McDemott, and Kale and Hanke, they were more inside scorers. McDermott had some perimeter skills but not really when it came to shooting the ball where Kadeem has the potential to be a real threat both inside and outside. I think he's a little more effective inside than outside, but he definitely is at a 17ft. face up range, and it wouldn't surprise me for him to be a three point threat early in his career here.

SH: A few years back, Kyle Wright was a little used bench player who was on a loaded Brewster Academy team with Weyinmi Efejuku and Jeff Adrian. He was a rail thin situational shooter at the time. Fast forward to now… How has his game changed since then that's earned him a scholarship to Providence as junior college transfer?

KD: One big advantage that Kyle Wright has had over typical junior college players is that he's experienced two four year programs, learned from that, and then has been able to go back to the junior college level and get a lot of playing time and experience. He's learned and improved at every stop along the way. He can really shoot the ball, and I think the ability to shoot the ball is something you need at every level. If you can do that, you will have some success. As for some of the other parts of his game like his driving, his defense, his ball handling; those are things that might not be the strength of his game at this level, but they are definitely at the level where he can compete in the Big East and his shooting is something we're going to really rely upon. He's probably a better perimeter shooter than anyone we had this year other than Sharaud.

When you look back at it this past season, we won some games where we shot the ball well, but overall our three point shooting percentages weren't where we need them to be, especially without 4's and 5's who could step out and knock down shots. So given that, we needed our guards to really knock down outside shots, and we did not get three point percentage production from the wing. Even Weyinmi was more of a driver; he could knock down some shots, but he wasn't shooting a bunch of shots from out there.

SH: Is it safe to say that the extension of the 3 point line had more of an impact than what was anticipated?

KD: I don't know if it was the three point line or not, I just know we didn't shoot the ball very well. When you look around the country, 3 point shooting went down around 2-3 percent, but I just think we didn't have enough shooters. When opposing teams can press out on your guards and we happen to have a couple of guys who didn't shoot the ball well, I just don't know if you can attribute our perimeter shooting problems to the new 3 point line or not.

With Sharaud last year, he had to have the ball in his hands being our only point guard, so he couldn't get as many shots off as we would have liked. Sharaud was even a better shooter than people really saw last year. Now, with having other guards coming in, hopefully we can slide him off to the wing more. We'll be small when we do that, but I think we'll be quicker, and we'll be able to shoot it better. You don't see too many teams posting up guards, you just don't see that and even when teams tried that early in the non-conference last season, he was smart enough to front and we could apply some ball pressure. If we can get the ball out of his hands more, whether he's at point guard or off guard, he'll get more shot opportunities next year and just overall I expect us to have more of a three point threat next year.

SH: Let's talk out your recruits from the Midwest: James Still and Duke Mondy.

KD: With James Still, I had a chance to see him out on the AAU circuit in Las Vegas, and I watched him in quite a few games, but I immediately saw someone that will fit the way we want to play here. He's somebody who can run, somebody with size to who can face up and shoot, and is somebody who can block shots and be athletic around the basket. He hasn't filled out his body yet, but that's just diet and being in the weight room. That will come in the normal course.

SH: So you feel he has the body type that can actually put on enough weight to compete in the Big East effectively?

KD: I think he's somebody who will be able to bulk up. That's going to be so important for those guys this summer, learning how to adapt to a high division one program with weight training and diet, and all the things off the court that lead to success. I saw how he played last summer in AAU when he was playing with good teams, and there's no question that he's Big East good. So now when he comes in here, it's just a matter of adapting to the Big East, as opposed to when he was the only threat on his high school team, and he wasn't surrounded by the best team. They had a coaching change and some adversity there, so I'm not so concerned about the numbers he might have put up on a high school team. You need to look at the individual player apart from his high school team. Same goes for Kadeem Batts. High School numbers can really deceive you for all sorts of reasons.

SH: Would you say that James Still excels at shot blocking? Is that something that highlights his game?

KD: I think James is one of those all around guys. He'll be able to block shots, but he'll also be able to use his athleticism to finish in traffic, he'll be able to face up, and he'll be able to run the floor well. He's got NBA potential down the road. Now can he develop his body and game to take it to the that level? That's his challenge.

SH: So do you see him as a center in his college career?

KD: I think he can play either the four or the five spot. The same goes for Kadeem.

SH: Assuming Bilal Dixon has a leg up at the five spot given his maturity, where do you see Batts and Still coming in as freshmen, assuming no red shirt?

KD: I'm not sure yet. I think you take all your inside players and throw them out there. Now if the two best players on the court are both fours, we'll play very small. If the two best guys are five's, we'll play them together too… I am a firm believer of taking the best players and putting them on the court, regardless of position.

SH: What about Duke Mondy, he is a sleeper prospect. What do you think he adds to the program?

KD: He's between 6'2 and 6'3 and Duke is somebody we had been aware of for some time. Chris Davis had done a good job recruiting in Michigan and Rodell in Illinois when we were at Drake. So we knew the players in the area well and Mondy was on our list early. When I saw him play, he might not have been 6'8 or 6'9, or be the guy that was evaluated as some 5 star can't miss prospect, but when we saw him we liked his game.

In our recruiting, we don't pay too much attention to stars or ratings. Most of the people who rate, they often go watch a kid for five minutes, or they go by the first evaluation of a kid that was put out there, or base the rating on the programs who are recruiting them. We can't worry about that too much. If we feel a kid is going to be a good Big East player for us, we're not going to pass on him just to take another player who happens to have one more star than him.

We saw a guy in Duke that could just flat out play. When he is on the court, his team was just a lot better. He could score, he could defend, and he could run the floor well. Now will he be ready right away as a freshman? You don't know that ahead of time, but I think he's the type of kid who will try to outwork everybody, and I've always been a firm believer that if you bring in a player that's going to outwork everybody, that player will eventually be a big factor for your team; if not the first year, sometime down the road.

SH: Johnnie Lacy was the last recruit of the early signing period. Can you talk about his skills?

KD: The ability to have a point guard that has the quickness of a Johnnie Lacy is something that gives you what you see when you watch teams like Missouri, or North Carolina, or Syracuse who have point guards who just push the ball. If you're going to play up tempo, that's what you like. You want to have that type of player. If you want a slower pace, you might want a 6'3 point guard who is bigger and stronger and fits that game more, but we want to be able to go up and down the court here at Providence. When we saw Johnnie, we said that's a guy that will fit in our up tempo style. Later, when we had him on campus, his personality really came through that this was a kid that felt like this the type of system was what he wanted to play in. He was also recruited by Tennessee and other up tempo type programs. I knew he had to go to one of those type programs to be successful, where they like to push the ball. I think he made a good choice.

SH: Some people have compared Johnnie Lacy to Sharaud Curry. Is that fair or is the comparison made simply because they are both smaller guards?

KD: I think that Johnnie Lacy is quicker than Sharaud. Johnnie Lacy will more times just get the ball and go. As a coach, you have to allow those players the flexibility to be aggressive like that and yet be able to teach them enough to know when the numbers are there or when you want them to be aggressive or not. He's somebody that will sometimes take the ball, go 94 feet, and lay it up on the other side.

Sharaud right now is a better shooter, and he's always very analytical with the ball, but I think it will be a good compliment to have a couple other point guard options to play with Sharaud. Lacy is a guy who will try to go by you or around you while Sharaud will pull up for the floater or dish the ball. It will be good to see that who ever comes off the bench, you'll feel like you get a different dimension without losing much.

SH: The verbals from Vincent Council and Russ Permenter?

KD: I'll be able to talk about any spring verbals once they are signed after April 15th.

(Editor's note: The interview was conducted a few days before the April 15th signing day.)


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