Recruiting Insider: Forecasting the Future of PC and URI Basketball
Thursday, January 23, 2014
This is Part 2 of a 3 part series on the latest college basketball recruiting news in the Rhode Island area. A huge thank you to Brian Flinn of Future150.com for providing some invaluable recruiting updates and expertise and helping GoLocalProv deliver premier recruiting information to basketball fans throughout the state. Part 2 of this series focuses on the successes and failures of Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley in recruiting, an outlook on the upcoming 2014 recruiting classes for both PC and URI, and some insight into players down the road that both schools are already pushing hard to sign.
The success that Friars' Head Coach Ed Cooley has had on the recruiting trail has caught the eye of many national scouts. Brian Flinn of Future150.com told me the Providence program changed the moment Cooley was hired.
“Ed Cooley has changed the culture at Providence,” Flinn said. “Now they’re pursuing more elite players than they used to, and they’re really upgrading their talent.”
In particular, Flinn called Ricky Ledo, Kris Dunn, and Brandon Austin “big gets” for the Friars. Both players were consensus 5 star recruits (players are graded on a 1-5 star scale) and among the top players in the 2012 class.
Obviously Ledo never suited up for the Friars, sitting out his freshman year after being ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA, then declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft. Dunn’s career has been marred by injuries. Austin and fellow Class of 2013 freshman Rodney Bullock were suspended for the entire season for an unspecified violation of team rules, and Austin has since transferred out of PC.
Still, Flinn says that type of disappointment and unfulfilled promise is going to happen when you recruit guys at the highest level. Even the best home run hitters strike out. The key to building and sustaining a successful program comes in minimizing the strikeouts.
Looking ahead, Friars fans should be optimistic. The Class of 2014 has already netted Cooley 3 signings, all of whom are 4 star players and widely ranked in the Top 100 in the class.
Ben Bentil is a 6’8” 225 pound forward from St. Andrew’s (in Delaware, not the St. Andrew’s in Barrington) possessing great physical strength and athleticism. While Bentil is far from a finished product (especially offensively), he’s a grown man physically and should have no trouble holding up in the Big East in that regard. Providence beat out UConn, Georgetown, Vilanova, and St. John’s among other schools to land him.
Paschal Chukwu (Fairfied, CT) is another raw player coming to Providence next Fall, but at 7’2” tall he’s got the athleticism and the aggressiveness that has college coaches drooling. Flinn describes Chukwu as “a late bloomer who’s going to be a really good rim protector for them the next 4 years.” PC beat out UConn, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, and a handful of other schools for Chukwu.
Jalen Lindsey (Huntington Prep, WV) is a 6’6” wing player with a smooth shooting stroke and a high athletic ceiling. PC beat out a ton of schools for Lindsey, but suffice to say he had offers from Memphis and Louisville.
“They’ve shown they can recruit on a national level,” said Flinn of PC landing Lindsey. “And he’s [Chuckwu] a kid coming out of Connecticut, so they’re still recruiting regionally as well.”
As for the Friars’ top targets beyond the Class of 2014? One name generating buzz on the recruiting circuit is Brewster Academy (NH) guard Donovan Mitchell. ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein said last week at the Spalding Hoophall Classic that Mitchell was being courted heavily by the Friars.
If no one is working harder for Jalen Adams than UConn, you could definitely say same thing about Donovan Mitchell & Providence #hoophall— Adam Finkelstein (@AdamFinkelstein) January 20, 2014
Mitchell is another great athlete and a terrific on-ball defender. He has the ability to slash to the basket and finish in traffic above the rim. He’s a little undersized for a shooting guard, but Mitchell has the hops to make up for it. He’s widely viewed as a 3 star prospect but he’ll likely pick up an additional star next season due to the breakout year he’s had on the court for Brewster.
In addition to his ability to land elite prospects, Flinn has been impressed with Cooley’s ability to find transfer players that fit his program. It’s hard to imagine this year’s team being anywhere near as successful as they have been without the additions of junior Carson Desrosiers (a terrific shot blocker and nimble 7-footer from Wake Forest) and sophomore Tyler Harris (a do-everything forward from North Carolina State).
Bottom line, recruiting analysts are impressed with the work Ed Cooley has put in with the Friars, and if some of the swings and misses in recruiting can turn into hits, look out.
“I think Hurley’s got that program going in the right direction.”
That’s what Flinn said when asked about URI Head Coach Dan Hurley’s ability to recruit talent and coach it up at URI, and this season has been a good start towards rebuilding the program. That’s because the 2013 freshman class has flourished in their first season in Kingston, led by southpaw guard E.C. Matthews (second on the team in scoring) and shot blocking protégé Hassan Martin.
Both Matthews and Martin have contributed immediately, and the 3rd member of the Class of 2013 (guard Matthew Butler) has flashed the shooting touch that made him so appealing to the Rams as a developmental player. Flinn thinks it’s no coincidence that all 3 players are finding roles on the team as freshmen.
“I think they do a great job of evaluating what they’re looking for in players, because they’re in that next tier of programs not being so caught up in recruiting guys who are highly coveted or highly sought after,” he said.
Flinn is describing the recruiting process that doesn’t make national headlines or get the attention of a blue chip recruit picking between hats representing schools on ESPN. And yet that’s the way recruiting works for all but the select few programs that can pick and choose between All-Americans the same way people pick through apples at a grocery store.
That’s what Hurley and URI are doing. They’re identifying what they need and finding players to fill those needs. With so many holes on the team that Hurley took over in 2012, the Rams acted fast and scooped up a slew of transfer players to help fill immediate voids this season. But they also found a diamond in the rough in Martin, who nobody (not even Hurley) expected to be in a starting role and commanding 25-30 minutes a game as a 18 year-old freshman.
Matthews is a different story. A Michigan native, he’s next in a pipeline of recruits from the state brought into URI through assistant coach Preston Murphy. Like Jordan Hare in 2012, Matthews was a major coup for URI last season.
“E.C. was an interesting thing really because he was considering playing with James Young, who’s at Kentucky,” said Flinn. “There was talk of both of them ending up at Syracuse.”
Beating out Syracuse for a player is unheard of at URI, but that’s where the program is headed. With Hurley’s powerful name value in the New Jersey/tri-state area, Murphy’s Michigan pipeline, and other staff connections in the Philadelphia area, the Rams of the future are not going to look like the Rams of the past. And if NCAA tournament appearances are the standard, that’s probably a good thing.
As for the incoming class, URI has another transfer on the way in the former of Junior College player Earl Watson, who GoLocalProv reported had verbally committed to URI in November.
Watson is a physical athlete in the post and should add some much needed bulk and depth to the Rhody frontcourt.
URI hasn’t signed any incoming freshmen for next Fall, but with only 2 open scholarships at the moment (created by Mike Powell’s transfer and Xavier Munford’s graduation) the Rams aren’t in any rush. Their main target is Notre Dame Prep (MA) guard Jarvis Garrett, according to Flinn. Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports linked Rhody to Rokas Gustys.
Heard that Rhode Island, UAB and Georgia are hot on the trail of Rokas Gustys.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) January 20, 2014
Garrett is a 5’11” point guard who is more of a facilitator than a scorer. He has good ball handling ability and makes smart passes, and when called upon he can knock down jump shots from the outside. Flinn is impressed that URI has put themselves in range to land Garrett.
“I know Jarvis is very interested in them as well because they’ve kind of been on him ever since he moved into the area, and right now pound for pound Jarvis is one of the best available point guards out there, so for URI to be at the forefront of that recruitment is a big win for them,” Flinn said.
Gustys is a muscular 6’9” 245 pound center prospect from the prestigious Oak Hill Academy (VA) A native of Lithuania, he isn’t the most coveted player at Oak Hill right now but he’s widely considered one of the top big men left unsigned in the Class of 2014.
As for targets beyond 2014, Flinn has a name for Rhody fans to learn.
“I know they’re starting to hit the Philly area, I keep hearing URI being named, especially with a kid named Ahmad Gilbert who’s only a junior and pretty much a Hassan Martin clone,” he said. “I found it really interesting that URI was one of the first schools to come out of his mouth.”
The times they are a-changing. Hurley’s aggressiveness in recruiting is paying dividends, and URI is stockpiling talent that might previously be out of reach. The rebuild won’t be easy, but Flinn believes it’s on track, and Hurley is the man for the task.
“I know Hurley, with his family’s reputation and his reputation; I think that that program’s only going to continue to rise through the ranks of the A-10,” he said.
Follow Jack on Twitter @RealJackAndrade
9 Local Basketball Players to Watch
Hometown: Barrington, RI
School: St. Andrew’s
In a Nutshell: The top ranked player in Rhode Island in the class of 2016, Brown is a Top 50 national recruit that Flinn estimates could finish up as a Top 25 player in the class.
“Right now the name of the game for him is potential,” Flinn says.