A Conversation With Keno - Part 1

With the start of official practice for the college basketball season only weeks away, ScoutFriars.com talks with Friar Head Coach Keno Davis on some topics of interest as fans await the next edition of Providence College basketball.

Part I

SH: What can you tell the fans about the two spring recruits who committed in the late signing period? Let's start with Vincent Council.

KD: We really have a fine talent there. When you are an up and down team that's going to try and run, you can't be stuck with just one point guard. You've got to have at least a couple so with Vincent and Johnnie Lacy both coming in, I think they compliment each other. They have different strengths, so I think either one of them could play a lot of point guard, but I also think they both have the ability to slide over to the off guard position, even though we might be small at the position at times. Vincent is a very good passer and a good leader out on the court. He played the back of a half court 1-3-1 zone for Patterson, so I'm sure defensively he's going to be able to fight hard no matter where you play him at.

SH: Is Vincent Council's defense one of the more underrated aspects of his game?

KD: I think so. I think the underrated parts of his game are his defense and leadership ability. You look at his team and how successful they were…you watch them and I don't think there was any question that he was the leader of his team. Now he didn't always do that by scoring points; a lot of times it could have been his assists, his defense, or even his rebounding. I think those leadership qualities that he has were a big part of making the teams he has played for so successful.

SH: That's the thing though, Vincent has played on such good teams, whether it be with Lance Thomas in New York or a talented Patterson team, it's been difficult to determine how much of the success he's had was due to him or the great talent around him.

KD: True. I think the thing that will help Vincent is that coming from great teams he'll have an advantage at this level. A lot of the players have been ‘the team' at the high school level where they are often asked to score 30 points or are asked to win games on their own. Then, they come to college, and most of the time they aren't in that same position. What they need to do is to develop their game even more, learning to play with other talented players at a much higher level. I'm comfortable that Vincent will be able to fill a role here immediately with his background while he continues improve all his skills. I think we got quite a steal out of that recruiting class.

SH: So he's known as a penetrator and a good passer, but reports say that his shot still has a bit of hitch in it. Is his outside shot the area that he most has to improve?

KD: To be able to get your shot off in the college, there's definitely a transition period that you're going to have to get through, but I'm not too worried about the fundamentals of his shot. To me, if the ball goes through the basket, it's a good looking shot. With his passing, he's been a pass first player when his teammates have been able to knock down shots. When he's been needed to step up and score, he's put points up and you can't ask for much more from a player than that. You want that kind of player who puts winning above everything else and does whatever is asked of him to do.

SH: Let's talk a little about Russ Permenter. He's bounced around a little bit looking for the right fit, but he's 6'9 and has some skill. What your take on this junior college transfer?

KD: I think that when any young man goes to college, sometimes it's just not the right fit. Whether it's not the right school, or the right coach, etc… He decided to take the option of attending a junior college after being at a four year school. Russ is somebody that our staff quickly wanted to take a look at because he could fill an immediate pressing need for us in the front court. Having a player like that who comes in with some college playing experience and also being a solid academic fit was attractive. He and Kyle Wright were both qualifiers out of high school, so that academic piece was also important when we brought in these two junior college transfers.

I think Russ is guy who is going to fight you for rebounds and be a very physical presence inside which is something we need. How quickly he'll be able to really step out for shots in games is a little bit of an unknown until we really see what his range is as a jump shooter in a game situation. He wasn't asked to do that at 6'9 before. They always had him as close to the basket as possible, emphasizing physical play. I want to do a lot of that with him, but I also want him to be able to step out and spread the defense.

SH: So what you've seen of him, he's operated exclusively around the basket?

KD: Well that's all he's been asked to do in the past. During our recruiting process, we really wanted to focus in and see what kind of range he had as a jump shooter, as a face up player because obviously you are going to be facing bigger players at the Division 1 level, and especially in the Big East. We feel like he can compete inside, and also step out and spread the defense as well.

SH: It's been reported that Russ can shoot from 12 to 15 feet with his outside shot. Is that accurate?

KD: I think he can shoot further than that. I have no doubt that he can shoot 15-17 feet. I think the question is whether he can consistently knock down shots from 3 point range.

SH: How is his post game? Is he generally limited to dunks and put backs or can he do more?

KD: He's got a very good post game. He's got a number of different moves around the basket, he moves well around the basket, and has a very good shooting touch in the post as well. He can face up shoot and also has some turnaround stuff as well, so he'll be able to get his shot off in the post.

SH: Other than being a more mature player, how does his game differ from James Still?

KD: I think James Still is more of a shot blocker; right now James Still is a great athlete who can run the floor well and also face up. Russ Permenter has more of a presence right now because he's a little more physical. He's got about 20 to 30 pounds on James right now, so he's more ready in the post to be a physical presence right away. Now that doesn't mean he's ahead of James, they are just a little different. I think with our 7 guys coming in, we didn't want to replicate any positions. We didn't want to bring in two players with the exact same skill set. So even with a couple of point guards coming in, they are completely different players, and with Kadeem Batts, James Still, and Russ Permenter, they are all different players so we can fill a lot of needs on the court.

SH: With the summer evaluation period behind us, what did you think of the New York Times article that spoke of the escalating charges to coaches at various player camps around the country this summer and the flap that has arisen from that? Is that a new problem?

KD: It's been that way for a while. It's probably been increasing as problem for some people, and I think with the tough economic climate, it comes to the forefront when you are trying to control spending. I think most of the organizations have done a good job giving coaches admission options that let you gain entrance with or without player lists at different rates, but when you don't have an option, that's what raises the objections.

SH: Do you think enough coaches have a problem with the way things are going that the NCAA will investigate this?

KD: I don't know that investigation is the right word, but I definitely believe the NCAA will look into it, because those events need to get certified for coaches to attend, and it's that certification that makes those events the most popular. So, if the NCAA were to say here's your limit on charging fees or these are some additional policies you need to follow to be certified, that may change things a little bit.

But, coaches have to be careful with what they say about pointing out specific individuals and events because these organizations often can help coaches with contacting players and there are established relationships there. These organizations also need to cover their costs and make some money as it is a business; they just need to make sure things are not going overboard in any certain area.

SH: The Big East has announced the pairings for this upcoming season. What do you think of Providence's draw? At first glance it looks about average as a schedule…not grueling but certainly not the easiest either.

KD: I think you could look at our Big East schedule either way. I think that getting so many of the top teams at the Dunk is nice for our fans. You could also say that our schedule gives you a chance to win some road games as well. Or, you could say that with a young roster, you'd rather have some of those more winnable games at home where you have a much better chance to win.

We'll find out at the end of the year. You really don't know with some of the teams we are playing; they could have injuries, and what happens between now and the Big East season will say a lot. Some teams will turn out better than you expect, other teams won't turn out as good. There are a lot of things that go into how difficult your schedule really ends up being.

SH: While most experts say the top of the Big East is a little down this year, it may also be true that the bottom has really come up this year. Do you agree?

KD: I don't think there is any doubt that when you look at the teams from the bottom half last year, all but maybe one or maybe two are expected to be improved this coming season. So that means a lot more parity in the league this year, which isn't always good for national recognition, but it's good for the future of the league in that you don't always have the same teams struggling and you can see some teams at the bottom making progress. When you've got that, you've got a lot of teams who can potentially make post season play.

SH: Sometimes parity can also hurt your ability to get NCAA bids too.

KD: I think you can make an argument both ways. The Big East may never have another season like last year, with 3 number 1 seed, and yet we only got 7 teams in the NCAA tournament. The Big Ten, with only 11 teams got 7 bids as well. I think when the middle of a conference like the Big East is strong, you will usually get more NCAA bids, but you just won't get as many number 1 and 2 seeds. The highest seeds tend to go to teams that run through their conference, and I would be very surprised if we see a lot of that this year. People expect West Virginia and Villanova to be right up there this year, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see a team picked to finish in the middle of the pack to finish right at top as well.

End of Part I

Scout Friars Top Stories