You read and hear the names of highly visible, sought-after recruits only to see later in the same sentence that Ed Cooley is right there in the trenches, making inroads with the Jakarr Sampsons of the world.
As Cooley approaches the one-year anniversary of becoming the head coach at Providence College, the time seems appropriate to take stock of the substantial gains the program has made on the recruiting front. Through tireless efforts, Cooley and his staff have created this endless flow of buzz to the point where followers are opening themselves up to a world of future possibilities. Recruiting might be the name of the game, but to associate Cooley with some of most touted prospects out there speaks volumes about the mentor’s refusal to play second fiddle.
For the sake of the dear reader, we asked one of the experts in the field – Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels, who was more than amenable to share a few thoughts on all things Providence. Needless to say, Daniels feels the sky’s the limit for PC under Cooley’s close and meticulous watch.
“I think Friar fans have the right to be excited about the direction of this program and where it’s going under Ed Cooley,” Daniels said when reached late last week. “Once he gets those two guys [Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn] in there next year and continues to recruit based on his philosophy, I think Providence is going to be a program on the rise and I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
“I think it’s realistic to raise the expectations a notch,” Daniels added.
Regarding the intersection of social media and recruiting, it seems that Cooley can’t set foot inside a high school gym without someone taking to their Twitter account to announce that the coach is in the house to check out player X. Case it point, the day after PC’s 32-point shellacking courtesy of Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament, Cooley ventured to New Haven’s Albertus Magnus College, sitting courtside as Sampson and his Brewster (N.H.) Academy teammates went on to cop the prep national championship.
Whenever Cooley’s whereabouts are denoted – nowadays it appears as if there are eyes everywhere – it seems to set off a mini-celebration among Providence enthusiasts. The game has changed since Ledo and Dunn became PC property. By raising the bar in the swift fashion he did, Cooley has carved out a reputation more as a dreamweaver than a X-and-O technician.
“(Cooley) hit the trail running and is a pretty likable guy. His personality and the way he goes about things, I think he’s well liked by the kids,” Daniels acknowledged. “He’s done a great job of being visible.”
You need players, good ones at that, in order to climb the heights Cooley hopes to someday reach. Along that line Ledo and Dunn represent a very good jumping-off point, yet Providence still has plenty of holes to fill, ones Cooley openly acknowledged last week inside Madison Square Garden upon saying “I like the guys who have committed to us, but recruiting is an everyday process for us.”
It’s also a landmine chock full of aggressive coaches from teams who at this moment carry more prestige than Cooley and PC. In the case of Sampson, the 6-foot-7 forward is garnering serious interest from Kansas, Florida and Baylor, three schools part of the NCAA Tournament. Despite facing long odds, Daniels noted that Cooley isn’t running scared when coaches of more-established, blueblood programs begin chasing the same players the Friars target.
“Cooley has gone and seen (Sampson) as many times as he can,” Daniels said, “but it’s not like that deal is an easy one. Providence is fighting against Bill Self and Kansas.”
If anything, Cooley’s 2012 recruiting haul “definitely helped put PC on the map,” as Daniels acknowledged. “They’re bringing in two top 25 recruits. There’s not many schools that can say that.”
Time will tell if Cooley is able to strike it rich with Sampson or any other target he’s eyeing. In order to keep Providence’s name associated with blue chippers, success on the court is paramount. In turn that would allow Cooley to attach this all-important carrot to one of his sales pitches – that of a talented youngster joining the ranks of a winning program.
Job interview of a lifetime
T.J. Sorrentine’s quest to discard the “interim” label and become the permanent head coach at Brown is one that those in close contact with the Pawtucket native hope come to fruition.
“I thought this was richly deserved. For Brown and T.J., this was a win-win,” were the words expressed by Keith Glass, Sorrentine’s agent. “His knowledge, I don’t think you have to go into how well he knows the game. His whole background has been geared toward this moment.”
The idea of Sorrentine taking over the reins at a Division I institution mere months shy of turning 30 is something that shouldn’t be viewed as a red flag. To that end, Glass feels that his client’s age serves as a major trump card.
“The way he can relate to players is an extraordinary thing,” Glass delved further. “They respect him for where he’s been, but they also respect him for where T.J. can take them.
“His ability to get the most out of people, specifically young kids, is as big an attribute as the other stuff,” Glass added.
Whether Sorrentine sticks around at Brown appears contingent upon how long Brown administrators take in naming a successor to outgoing athletic director Michael Goldberger, who is set to retire in June. The school formed a 10-person search committee in January with the hopes of having a finalist selected by April.
Depending on when the new Brown A.D. officially takes office, the person will have to make a snap decision regarding Sorrentine. Given that the season for changing college basketball coaches usually runs until the end of April, the waiting-in-the-wings athletic director may simply exercise the option of extending Sorrentine’s trial period to the 2012-13 season before revisiting the matter a year from now.
“He’ll make the most of whatever chance you give him,” Glass said, “but it’s my opinion that T.J. is the right man for the job.”
Keeping an eye on the goings on
Player movement has come to serve as one of the prominent storylines during college basketball’s down time, the rate at which transfers happen resembling the scene reserved when the free-agent frenzy sparks pro sports.
Along those lines, two Friar players worth watching are Vincent Council and Kiwi Gardner. There are whispers that Council could forgo his final season of eligibility and apply for the NBA Draft should the junior and Cooley come to the conclusion that separation is the best course of action. The idea of Council moving on isn’t something out of left field when you take into account that the Friars are set to welcome their point guard of the future (Dunn).
Should Council return, that could spell the end for Gardner, the freshman guard who didn’t play a single minute of the 2011-12 campaign after the NCAA ruled him a nonqualifier. Given the players on target to return next season combined with those set to come aboard, it’s hard to imagine Gardner receiving major minutes.
In the face of uncertainty, Gardner has done his best to fit in at Providence. The Oakland native aided in the distribution of stat sheets during men’s and women’s basketball games with PC officials noting Gardner has been spotted regularly in the weight room.