Friday, October 10, 2008


October 11, 2008

The Keno Davis era kicks off in Providence this season. The new, young and energetic Friar head coach has brought a sense of optimism to the program that had not been able to find a consistent place in the top half of the conference under Tim Welsh. While Welsh’s teams had shown some glimpses of being primed to breakout, they never were able to build a consistent winner in the city where the Big East was founded.

Davis inherits a veteran ball club that many believe could very well be NCAA-caliber if it were not for the menacing Big East line-up that awaits them. With five seniors and three juniors all expected to be in the regular rotation, experience is not an issue for PC. Adjusting to a new system that is heavy on the three-point shot and spreading the floor might take some getting used to, especially for the big men, but there are some pieces on the perimeter that should flourish playing under Keno Davis this season.

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There was not much work for Keno Davis to do on the recruiting trail after being hired for the position due to a full roster. The only incoming recruit the Friars bring into the fold for this season is power forward Bilal Dixon, a sleeper out of New Jersey. The 6-foot-8, 220 lb Dixon will add depth to the front court. He showed the NBE Basketball Report in the Jordan Brand Regional Game last spring he can be a productive player when on the floor and should develop into a solid contributor.

Although not truly an incoming player, the Friars will get a HUGE boost with Sharaud Curry returning to health. Curry averaged 15 points and 4 assists as a sophomore for the Friars, however, a broken foot limited him to 8 minutes total in the season in ’07-08 and the Friars could not overcome his absence in Big East play.


The Friars do not really lose a whole lot either. Charles Burch, who had an injury riddled PC career graduated and Dwain Williams left the college. Williams filled in well for Curry last year as the team’s primary ball handler, averaging 12 points a game and hitting 40% of his three-point shots. His perimeter scoring ability would have been a nice luxury to have as depth this season, but PC has others to play a similar role.

Net Impact:

A straight up Dixon for Williams/Burch trade would not win any more games for the Friars in 2008-2009 compared to last season. However, the return to health of Sharaud Curry should allow everyone to move back into their true positions and roles and make this a better club from the get-go.

2008-2009 Backcourt Outlook:

As mentioned already, Sharaud Curry is the key to the team. The 5-foot-10 redshirt junior out of Georgia is a scoring lead guard that plays very confidently on the offensive end of the floor. As a sophomore Curry hardly ever left the court for coach Welsh and had the green light to shoot the basketball often. In the system that Keno Davis likes to run, Curry will again have the ball in his hands often and spacing of the floor will give him room to penetrate to the rim to score or find open shooters around the floor. Curry is a point guard that should help to ease the transition for the Friars under Davis.

Finding open space on the floor to shoot from three-point range is a key role in Davis’ offense and wing guards Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier will look to fill that role very well. McKenzie is a NYC native entering his junior season. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 11 points a game last year, shooting nearly 41% from the arc. Xavier is a transfer from Manhattan and led the Friars with 76 made three’s last season. The 6-foot-1 shooting guard led PC in scoring last year at 12.4 a game and showed he could light it up from the perimeter for PC. Both of these guards will find a comfortable role in the new system.

The wildcard for PC the last couple seasons has always seemed to be Weyinmi Efejuku. The 6-foot-5 senior originally from NYC and Brewster Academy has the physical tools to excel in the Big East, but often times last season found himself on the bench next to the coaches for inconsistent efforts and performances. Efejuku would score 23 points in 30 minutes against SHU in a game and then three days later be shutout at Syracuse, only playing 14 minutes. Or, February 12th in Pittsburgh Efejuku does not get off the bench and then six days later he scores 25 against Georgetown. Finding a reliable and consistent player in Efejuku in his senior season could make PC a very dangerous team. With three backcourt positions in Davis’ system, a healthy Curry, consistent Efejuku and two top shooters in Xavier and McKenzie could be a dangerous group. Sophomore Marshon Brooks also looks to add depth at multiple guard positions and got valuable experience as a freshman, showing skills necessary to contribute in the Big East.

2008-2009 Frontcourt Outlook:

Under Tim Welsh the Friars were often beaten up inside for easy baskets and second chance points, not the way to help you college basketball odds of winning in the Big East. The Friars were usually out-toughed and the label of soft often followed Welsh’s teams. The make-up of this year’s team has the same players that were exposed previously in the Big East, but there are some players that should be able to provide a little more toughness in the Big East, led by senior Geoff McDermott. Unfortunately, fans have not really been able to see a fully healthy McDermott for a couple years as various injuries has slowed the 6-foot-6, 235 pound bruiser who can handle and pass like a guard, but rebound like a power forward. McDermott averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists last year, one year after being among the league leaders in rebounds and assists and had a chance to pull off a rare double, leading the Big East in rebounds and assists, but injuries slowed him down considerably as the season passed the halfway mark. McDermott is a player you love to have on your team as he plays both ends of the floor equally as hard and is an excellent rebounder and passer. If the Friars can find some consistent scoring from the perimeter, McDermott’s passing and rebounding becomes an even more important factor in his team’s success.

Another enigma within the Providence program has been Randall Hanke, who seems to epitomize the soft label of the Friars. In his three year career, Hanke (who also redshirted one season) has scored 800 career points and made an impressive 67% of his field goals. Last season, after starting slowly recovering from injury, Hanke finished the season strong averaging 12 points a game in the last 11, shooting 58% from the floor, however, he only averaged about 4 rebounds a game, way below the necessary levels for a 6-foot-11, 240 pound player in the Big East. Hanke should find the Davis offense to his liking with his ability to score efficiently offensively, but his defense and rebounding will still come into question as teams will go right after him.

Adding bulk to the mix will be junior Ray Hall, who, even at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, failed to block a shot last season (huh?) in 124 minutes of action over 18 games. Hall also went 2-14 from the foul line on the season and has yet to add any other contribution to the squad other than his size to this point. Hall might find himself being a tough fit in Davis’ system that requires big men to run the court and look for Bilal Dixon to possibly take his minutes.

Another player that seems to keep missing his opportunity is Jonathan Kale, a well built 6-foot-8 power forward out of the New England prep school ranks. Kale seemed to epitomize the bruising forward when he came to PC, but his lack of basketball skills away from the basket always seemed to handcuff his success and chance to take a bigger role with the Friars. As a senior, it is his last go-round and, again, his preferred style might not be the fit that Davis is looking for, however, he does have the ability to run the floor and could make himself more of a need of Hanke struggles in the physical Big East again.

Rounding out the roster is a pair of sophomores, Alex Kellogg and Jamine ‘Greedy’ Peterson. Kellogg is the son of former college star and current CBS college basketball personality Clark Kellogg. The skilled 6-foot-7 forward has the tools to play in this system, but needs to add strength to compete in the Big East. Peterson has the strength, and then some, in a powerful and athletic 6-foot-5 body. Peterson can attack and punish the rim with the best of them in he conference, but his game is more of an undersized power forward than a perimeter player as his size might suggest. Still, in the past, players like Stevie Thompson (Syracuse) and Perry McDonald (Georgetown) had productive careers playing a similar game, but the talent around them made it possible. It remains to be seen if Peterson can have similar success, but a wide open system could help him be very productive, even if undersized for the position his skill set is suited for.

2008-2009 Team Outlook:

The Friars are a tough team to project. You look at them on paper and you like the pieces they have and the past production their players have achieved on the floor. However, you then look back at their track record and realize that they just have not been able to put it together when it counts the most in Big East league play. Now they need to adjust to a different system and coaching staff. I expect more life out of the Friars playing for Keno Davis, but I do not think they have the front line to play his style of basketball at its best. Their backcourt definitely has potential and pieces to fit the new style, but I can see them going smaller, and in the Big East, such gimmicks are tough to be successful at. Looking around the conference and putting PC’s talent up against the teams rated ahead of them, and they come up just a bit short. Hoping they crack the top half of the standings is a reasonable goal, but there are nine teams ahead of them that will start out the season better, albeit on paper, the onus will be on the Friars to take a spot or two away from the others ahead of them to put themselves in the mix for an NCAA bid.

Having Sharaud Curry back and healthy with shooters like Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier flanking him with the versatile Geoff McDermott and athletic Weyinmi Efejuku in the mix does have an exciting sound to it. Finding defense, rebounding and interior scoring will be the key to this team moving higher in the rankings. As much as one might like the make-up and experience of this team, you still have the fact they have not won in the Big East against the big boys to question if they will win this year. Tread cautiously with the Friars, but there is reason to be optimistic if something clicks with their interior players as the season unfolds and they could be in the middle of March Madness Betting when that wonderful time of the year arrives.

2008-2009 Big East Prediction: 8-10



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