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Extended preseason pleases R.I. college basketball coaches

May 15, 2013

Providence head coach Ed Cooley. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

You take what you can get.
With that mantra in mind, the NCAA’s decree to lengthen college basketball’s preseason is a welcome development in a sport where the run-up to the regular season barrels down on coaches and players like a fastbreak. Earlier this month, the governing body of collegiate athletics ruled that men’s programs can begin practicing six weeks prior to their first game.
The 2013-14 season is set to tip-off on Nov. 8, meaning teams can begin laying the groundwork in earnest on Sept. 27.
Two weeks may not seem like a major addendum, but consider this: between mid-October and the mid-December exam break, teams around the country don’t stop. One day you’re holding intrasquad scrimmages and the next thing you know, it’s time to play a couple of exhibition games.
Ready or not, the focus then shifts to ushering in the regular season and with it a schedule that leaves little room for squeezing in valuable practice time – or to catch one’s breath.
With extra time now at their disposal, the headaches that head coaches were forced to deal with due to a compressed schedule are now alleviated. It gives these leaders of young men a prime chance to stress areas that may have slipped through the cracks before, i.e. settling on a rotation that builds cohesiveness.
“You may be able to get a little more synergy and timing in the early games and gain a better feel of what your team is going to look like,” relayed Providence head coach Ed Cooley. “I think you have a chance to see who your team is sooner rather than later and it’s an opportunity for you to grow.”
Coaches like Cooley and Bryant’s Tim O’Shea understand that the additional practice time that has been allotted doesn’t give them carte blanche to put the players through the meat grinder and subject them to possible burnout before everyone starts playing for keeps.
See COOLEY, page C6
“We have to come up with what’s best for Providence College, not so much what’s best for the year. Do we practice Monday-Tuesday, give them Wednesday off and come back Thursday-Friday or give them Friday-Saturday off? It’s all moving pieces right now to what fits who we are and what we’re trying to do,” Cooley stated. “We’ll strategically do something where our players are fresh come November 1.”
Added O’Shea, “The operative word is flexibility. You can go hard for three days and take two days off. The way it was set up before, you went six days and took one day off. It’s not a game changer, but it’s a rule that I think most coaches welcome.”
There is a trickle-down effect to keep in mind. Per NCAA rules, teams were allowed to come together in September for only a few hours a week. The curtain figures to get lowered on such get-togethers, but remember that coaches are permitted to work with players two hours per week during the summer.
“You have more control over your players rather than having them workout with someone else,” Cooley said about the NCAA granting permission for summertime workouts.
Cooley passed along that Friar guard Bryce Cotton is “aggressively rehabbing his knee and that he’s coming along fine.” A first-team All-Big East pick as a junior, Cotton underwent surgery last month to repair a slight tear. The procedure was performed on the same knee that hindered the sharpshooter at times last season.
“He’s probably got another month before he’s full-go,” was the status update Cooley offered.
NBA general mangers continue to pick Cooley’s brain regarding Ricky Ledo, who is in Chicago for the two-day draft combine that gets underway Thursday. The PC coach remains in constant contact with Ledo.
“Emotionally he’s doing well,” said Cooley. “Ricky’s a hot name. I’ve told GMs how Ricky did during practice and the things he’s good at and what he needs to work on. I want to make sure our players become the best they can be.”
As far as summer schedules go, the Friars will welcome incoming freshman Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock to campus in time for the July summer school session. For the Bulldogs, O’Shea will have just one of his four first-year additions to next season’s roster – 6-foot-8 forward Ellis Williams via Ohio – in Smithfield for summer classes that get underway next Wednesday.
“The other three players don’t graduate high school until June so they won’t be able to attend summer school,” O’Shea noted.
Recruiting-wise, don’t expect the Friars to add a player for next season just for the sake of filling up one of the scholarship spots that remain available. A possible scenario is to see Cooley award one to hardworking walk-on Ted Bancroft, who will be a senior.
“We’ve talked about that because he’s somebody who has given to our program,” Cooley said.
From the scheduling department, Cooley says that Providence is still looking to add a high-level non-conference game to complement the one against John Calipari’s Kentucky squad on Dec. 1 at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. Bryant’s O’Shea mentioned that he needs one more home game to fill out a slate that will feature a visit by Brown.
Neither PC nor URI appear on Bryant’s non-conference schedule, with the absence of the Friars mainly due to conference realignment. O’Shea expressed confidence that Providence will be on his team’s schedule moving forward. The coach is also optimistic that some sort of agreement can be reached with Danny Hurley and Rhody.
“From my standpoint, I would like to play PC and URI every year,” expressed O’Shea.
The sounds of silence that have been coming from Big East headquarters figure to cease when the conference stages its spring meetings beginning Sunday in Florida. Cooley and Providence Athletic Director Bob Driscoll will be on hand with the hopes of receiving some news regarding who will sit in the commissioner’s chair along with the finalization of the league schedule.
“It’s going to be interesting,” said Cooley.
Two main contributors from North Smithfield High’s once-in-a-lifetime campaign have finalized their college hoop destinations. Forward Matt Walkow is heading to CCRI while guard Cody L’Heureux is ticketed for Westfield (Mass.) State.

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