Seven feet and two inches.
I mean, do I really have to explain why this is exciting?
Center Pascal Chukwu, another top 100 prospect in the class of 2014, committed to Providence College yesterday. Cooley and assistant coach Bob Simon had been on Chukwu for a long while now, and just a few days ago it was announced that his list had been cut down to just St. Joe’s and the Friars. With the mystery surrounding Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell’s recruitment, and losing Kaleb Joseph to Syracuse, there was a clout of anxiety surrounding Chukwu’s decision. Would he pick the Friars or end up going to the A-10? Fortunately those questions were put to rest, and Chukwu made it plain and clear what his plans for the A-10 were.
It’s appropriate to have that gif on here too, because Chukwu has frequently been compared to Dikembe Mutumbo for his height and shot blocking ability. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes, I have inquired about Chukwu’s Gieco commercial. They’re getting back to me.
But hey, in the meanwhile, this is great news! How great? Let’s talk about it.
Cooley Keeps Providence in Headlines: You can’t deny it anymore (I don’t know why you even were at this point) – Cooley gets players. It’s that simple. ESPN is recognizing it, and places like 24/7 are putting us in the top 10 for recruiting classes because of it. And bringing top talent in is key to building success and boosting Providence to relevancy. This is obvious, but it goes deeper than before at this point because of the situation surrounding Providence.
We’re heading into a new conference. It has the same name and 70% of the teams are ones we’ve been playing for awhile now, but it’s a new conference. New conferences need identities, and they need branding. When there aren’t games being played it’s hard to keep conference names in the headlines because, well, what is there to talk about other than – wait for it – recruiting? Luckily for us the impact that Cooley is making with recruits is the proverbial shot heard around the world. You simply can’t avoid hearing about the talent and progress that Cooley is making. The fascination goes beyond just ‘there’s another top-100 going to Providence’ but with how Cooley is doing it. Remember how Cooley was hired and the place was a disaster? Remember how we only won four conference games his first year? Doesn’t that seem like a million years ago?
Branding and image is everything at this juncture. It helps build interest, reputation, and status. Going into a new conference allows us the added bonus of keeping us in the discussion of ‘where will they end up?’ and keeping the interest high. It keeps the positive press coming and helps create a certain culture and hype around this team. Cooley has been doing that, but you don’t get hired because you can do something once in a blue moon – you get the job because you’re able to maintain a level of success and grow on that success. Getting Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo was phenomenal for the perception of the program and Cooley’s recruiting abilities, but we couldn’t ride on those successes forever. Cooley’s story – and likewise the story of Providence – is no longer ‘Cooley can get some top talent’, it’s ‘Cooley has continually brought in top talent and is making more inroads with other elite recruits.’ That’s the story, and the story helps build the success. It’s like a circle.
Houston, You are Cleared for Landing: He’s 7’2″, but he’s no stiff in the paint. He’s agile, he’s mobile, he’s smart, and he’s making progress on offense.
But, more importantly, he’s a true center. Providence has recruiting the hell out of the backcourt – the potential of having had Dunn and Ledo in the backcourt together was being called one of the best freshman backcourts in the country – but the frontcourt is a bit more challenging. First of all it’s not like 7 footers just sprout out of the hardwood like flowers out of a garden, so already you’re limited in finding the height. If you do find the height you have to make sure they have the talent to play at a high level. Then, when you do find the height and the talent to go along with it you’re going up against the top schools in the country. There’s a lot, and under Cooley Providence has missed out on some big men such as Chris Obekpa and Nerlens Noel.
But Cooley kept us in the mix and it was only a matter of time before he connected and knocked one out of the park. He was able to do that with Chukwu. Landing a true center means that the roster is freed up and much more flexible in the frontcourt. When we talk about lineups, having the ability to play a four at the four and not needing to rely on putting them at the five as much creates a domino effect where the three can play the three without having to worry as much about playing the four…and so on (I’m not typing all that out). It also allows us to go big. I mean Goliath big. Huge even. Getting opponents in the paint? Forget it. Cooley’s system has always been dependent about creating mismatches and playing the right player in the right position at the right time, and having a 7’2″ center makes that game much more dynamic for Cooley. It’s the equivalent of turning a pawn into any piece you like in a chess game.
Play Along: I want to talk to you about Abdul-Malik Abu and Jared Terrell for a minute. They’re announcing their commitment to schools in seven days. Each of them has whittled their lists down to four schools apiece. Each of them only have one school in common – Providence.
That’s great right? I mean, we’re talking about two more top-100 prospects, both considering PC and both having expressed interest in playing together in the past. We should have the advantage right? Well, as of right now experts are saying that Abu will likely pick Florida or North Carolina State, while Terrell will likely end up at URI or at Oklahoma State.
I believe that the Chukwu commitment will help change that in favor of Providence.
Go back to what I said earlier – Chukwu’s addition creates a more dynamic roster, allowing frontcourt players to play their preferred position. We typically have had to play power forwards at the center because, well, we’ve lacked a truly impact center for some time now, but that’s changed. The fours can be fours!
I believe this changes a lot of things for Abu’s recruitment.
I think one of the biggest deterrents for PC was that there was no promise of having a center to play alongside Abu, leaving Abu to decide if he wanted to potentially play significant time at the five should he commit and we don’t end up getting a center. Yes I know, we have Carson Desrosiers, but by the time Abu arrives he’ll only have one year of eligibility left. Remember what I said about how hard it is to bring in a top big man? If Abu comes as a freshman and then, his sophomore year, we suddenly have to rely on him at the five, that may be a turn off. Sure it’s working out great for a player like Kadeem Batts, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s very possible that this idea isn’t appealing to Abu.
Having a freshman come in at the same time that Abu would be coming in ensures that, barring early leave for the NBA or transfer, Abu is guaranteed to have a true center play alongside him for all four years. For a talent like Abu, who’s most likely evaluating how he’ll get to the NBA (where he’d be playing the four most likely), being able to ensure him that yes, the power forward slot is yours to command is a big game changer. It promises he’ll be able to showcase his talent and grow further in the position that he wants to be in, while playing alongside a frontcourt player that will make him better and help him along with it. He’ll have ensured elite strength and support from both the three (Henton, Harris, Bullock sometimes, and Lindsey all coming to mind) and the five now. I think that, at the very least, pushes Abu to consider Providence as his college destination once again.
And then there’s Terrell. Personally I don’t know how much landing Chukwu helps. Terrell is a two, and he’d be playing alongside the likes of Brandon Austin and Kris Dunn, but I don’t know if having to play behind these talents his first few years is going to deter him or not. Should Abu decide for Providence I think it helps the case, but Abu will have much more time available to him off the bat than Terrell would (again, assuming that players like Austin and Dunn stick around all four years). It is, however, enough for Cooley to make a push, especially if Abu does decide to declare for the Friars, and maybe explain how Terrell now has more dynamic options in the backcourt (if you recall, Austin can play the one, two and three, and with Chukwu locking in the five there’s the domino effect, essentially meaning we could put Austin and Terrell in the backcourt at the same time without too much issue). Terrell remains a question mark, and I think he’s going to be the hardest to get, but I think the opportunity (domino effect) has just increased if Cooley can play his hand right.
Is there any doubting Cooley will play his hand right?