Providence fans are reaching for the Dramamine once again after yet another turbulent offseason as the Friars’, still unsettled, roster has experienced more ups and downs than a yo-yo riding the Tower of Terror. The collective queasiness is led by recent news that the two cornerstones of Ed Cooley’s nationally acclaimed recruiting class face a few challenges before they can get on the court. McDonald’s All-America honoree Kris Dunn needs shoulder surgery and will be out for approximately five months, while hometown savior Ricky Ledo has yet to officially be declared an academic qualifier by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Difficult circumstances to digest for sure but before we all head to the Mt. Hope Bridge for a final plunge let’s pause and assess the situation.
This is why coaches never stop recruiting. All positions, all years, regardless of how secure things appear with a roster. Some wondered why Providence has continued to recruit guards in the 2012 and 2013 classes given what was a seemingly crowded backcourt featuring commitments from Ledo, Dunn, Josh Fortune and Ian Baker to go along with key returnees such as Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton, despite a more pressing need for bigs. Well now you know why.
More than ever in college basketball there are increasing variables and moving pieces with regard to players, so coaches have to maintain a pipeline to draw upon when the expectedly unexpected happens. This spring and summer for PC has been a case study. Some of the roster movement (see Bilal Dixon and Ron Giplaye) was certainly perpetuated by the new staff and their desier to mold a damaged program in their own image. However, in addition to the anticipated turnover Cooley and company saw the foundation wobble as Council considered going pro while Cotton pondered following his former backcourt mate Gerard Coleman through the transfer door. Fortunately both players remain in the fold now that both Dunn and Baker (torn ACL) are sidelined with serious injuries and Ledo is in academic limbo. I also saw on Twitter the other day that Vincent Council was going to play some soccer. The way things have been going, here’s hoping he was talking about FIFA ’13 and not the real thing. Free Kiwi!
So what happens now? Kris Dunn’s injury, while disappointing (mostly for Dunn to be sure), is not career threatening and the worst case scenario is that he red shirts this year. However among the many things Dunn has going for him, he is a young, highly conditioned athlete and in this day and age people like him tend to heal quickly. So, barring any problems with the surgery (no, a URI doctor is not operating on him….I think), or setbacks in his recovery, it is a more than fair expectation to see Dunn on the floor at some point this season.
With regard to Ricky Ledo, on the plus side there have been positive signs, rumors and reports out there saying he has made positive strides and accomplished what he needed to qualify from a grade, core course and testing standpoint. In contrast, Ledo’s fate is in the NCAA’s hands now and they are about as well thought out as Snooki. So we simply have to wait and hope they do right by the young man. As far as the worst case scenario? Well, it is definitely that for Ledo. By all accounts he is committed to being a Friar and playing a key role in the resurgence of Providence basketball. However if Ledo does not qualify and faces a year away from competition, he could very well opt to explore other options and never step foot on the Dunk’s floor as a Friar. On the other hand, if the NCAA delivers good news the upside is huge and a reinfusion of energy instantly surges into the program.
Ian Baker has a torn ACL and it appears likely he will sit out the year. Baker did not sign a letter of intent and there has been speculation around his status, but he was recently reported to be heading to campus for July classes.
Even if the worst case scenario plays out and both Ledo and Dunn miss the season, a Friar backcourt featuring Council, Cotton, Fortune and Kiwi Gardner will be thin, again, but certainly formidable. Yes, there is also a possibility that former Virginia and URI guard Billy Baron will opt to come to PC as a non-scholarship player which would add some additional depth. Insert Ledo in there from the jump and things go from good to great because, barring any initial jitters about the perceived magnitude about playing for his city and state, Ledo should provide instant impact with his length and scoring ability. Add Dunn back into the mix sometime in November or December and it gets that much better.
Ultimately what the presence this season of Dunn and/or Ledo will do is provide Providence with the talent, depth and flexibility to compensate for what is looking like an anorexic, albeit potentially improved, frontcourt. Barring a late commitment from the likes of Jordan Dickerson or Tony Trocha the workload will be massive for LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Brice Kofane and Sidiki Johnson. That is the same Sidiki Johnson who, as things stand right now, will not even be available until December. The good news is Batts and Kofane should benefit from a full off-season under Ed Cooley and Johnson has plenty of potential to live up to. Lee Goldsbrough will add depth as well. Further, not sure if you heard but, players like big minutes and at the moment the minutes offered by Ed Cooley are anabolic.
Stay tuned Friartown.