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PROVIDENCE â€” There are games against more noteworthy opponents on the horizon, yet itâ€™s probably a safe bet to assume that Providence College basketball fans have been eyeing Tuesdayâ€™s game against Colgate for quite some time.
The night will feature the long-anticipated debuts of two Friars. In freshman Kris Dunn, PC is hitching its wagon to a point guard, a critical position that suffered a major hit when Vincent Council went down in a heap in the season opener. In sophomore Sidiki Johnson, the Friars are receiving a rugged 6-foot-10 sort whoâ€™s expected shore up the low post.
In-season reinforcements of this magnitude donâ€™t come along too often, particularly at the collegiate level. Yet following the first-semester portion of the schedule, one that as Cooley saw his crew â€ślimp to the finish line,â€ť thereâ€™s a Christmas morning-esque vibe surrounding these Friars.
The gifts have been placed under the tree, waiting for the right moment to be unwrapped. Fortunately for Cooley and the Friars, they wonâ€™t have to wait until Dec. 25 to see what exists beneath the paper exterior.
â€śTheyâ€™re both making a lot of mistakes right now, but their athleticism and size is going to give us a totally different look than weâ€™ve seen to date,â€ť said Cooley when broached about fresh faces Dunn and Johnson. â€śOur team is taking on a personnel change. Itâ€™s all moving pieces, so youâ€™ve got to be patient and let it develop as it does.â€ť
Nearly 6 1/2 months after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, Dunn will take the floor with hardly any limitations and the same as far as health concerns go. The New London, Conn. product has been working up a lather for several weeks now, practicing on a regular basis with no reoccurring signs of an injury that was first sustained as Dunn closed out his career at New London High School.
Prior to lacing up the sneakers, there was therapy. For Dunn, his specific exercise was to catch a medicine ball. Originally, the first-year Friar said that the original target date for him to return was Jan. 2 at Louisville. Thanks to adhering to the training staffâ€™s wishes, Dunn was able to progress to the point that suiting up at the dawn of the second semester become more of a possibility.
â€śWeâ€™ve been working on it,â€ť said Dunn when asked about how his shooting stroke is progressing following the long layoff. â€śI havenâ€™t been getting a lot of shots up in practice as far as game situations go, but in drills, things have been going well.â€ť
What figures to allow Dunn to make a seamless transition is that heâ€™s the only pure floor general Cooley has at his disposal at this moment in time. Staying on topic, PCâ€™s second-year head coach noted that Council (hamstring) could be back in the fold at some point over the next couple of weeks.
â€śKris hasnâ€™t played in college yet, so Iâ€™m going to have to live with a lot of his mistakes he had in high school in order for him to learn what he has to do,â€ť Cooley noted. â€śHis natural talent; heâ€™s a God-gifted athlete and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m going to coach â€“ his strengths versus his weaknesses.â€ť
In essence, Johnson is in the same boat as Dunn as far as college-playing experience goes. The forward logged a grand total of nine minutes in four games with Arizona in 2011 before transferring, a paltry sum that suggests that thereâ€™s some rust in need of knocking off. The opportunity to do just that figures to come right away as Cooley plans to play Johnson and fellow big man Kadeem Batts simultaneously, the hope being that the two of them can shore up the rebounding deficiencies that Cooley saw sprout from time-to-time during the seasonâ€™s first nine contests.
â€śSidiki is really imposing around the basket. Hopefully we become a better rebounding team, especially in our zone when weâ€™re not buffaloed on the backside,â€ť said Cooley. â€śSidiki and Kadeem are two big behemoths that weâ€™re going to need.â€ť
While change is in the air at Providence, it also should be noted that the roles of several other players are about to change. Donâ€™t expect to see freshman Josh Fortune come close to logging the 39.1 minutes he averaged during PCâ€™s 7-2 start. Reality it appears has also set in for walk-on Ted Bancroft, who during Sundayâ€™s practice was grouped with transfers Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris along with Ricky Ledo. Brice Kofane and Lee Goldsbrough could also be subjected to less court time.
â€śNow I donâ€™t have to play somebody for 40 minutes,â€ť said Cooley, referencing the seven-player rotation that he was forced to deal with during the pilot-light portion of 2012-13. â€śSome guys have been fortunate to play extended minutes, but itâ€™s only a matter of time before you lose their focus and energy. Physically we were tired heading into exams, but hopefully we donâ€™t get to that point in the second half and have a good run.â€ť