By Liam Tormey ’22
Last season, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team finished with an overall record of 18-16, tying for eighth in the Big East with a 7-11 record. The Friars missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. Instead, the postseason for Head Coach Ed Cooley consisted of playing in the National Invitational Tournament as the fourth seed. The Friars were a first round exit, losing 84-72 to the University of Arkansas.
This season, the Friars are hoping for a lot more. And there is a lot to be excited about.
Isaiah Jackson ’19 and Makai Ashton-Langford ’21 both left from Coach Cooley’s team this offseason. Jackson graduated last spring, and Ashton-Langford transferred to Boston College to continue his career.
On the bright side, the core group of players are returning for the Friars, including their top scorers.
After Alpha Diallo ’20 withdrew from the NBA Draft this past summer, he returns for his senior year and is looking to be more productive than last year. Diallo finished last season averaging 16 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists.
Nate Watson ’21 will be back after a great season last year (averaging 11.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 0.4 assists). He hopes to show why he is one of the best centers in the Big East this season.
A.J. Reeves ’22 will be looking to stay healthy after suffering a foot injury which hindered what looked like a huge year for the sophomore. Reeves averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.6 assists last season.
David Duke Jr. ’22 is also hoping to have a big year after averaging 7.1 points and 2.1 assists for PC last season. Expect Duke to have a lot of playing time on the court.
Even more exciting for the Friars is they will get back Emmitt Holt ’19GS who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by a medical redshirt waiver. In the Friars’ first exhibition game this season against Stonehill College, Holt finished with a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The team hopes Holt can give them more statlines like this thoughout the year.
There were some key additions over the offseason who will likely have a major impact on the way this season goes for Coach Cooley’s team. One of the big additions is Luwane Pipkins ’20GS, a graduate transfer from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The 5’11’’ guard from Chicago, IL averaged 15.7 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in his career at UMass. He hopes to add another offensive spark to the Friars’ game.
Another key addition to the team this offseason was Greg Gantt ’23. The 6’8’’, 205 pound-freshman was the number three recruit in the state of North Carolina according to ESPN. There is a lot of anticipation in what Gantt can bring to the team.
The Friars have been suffering from injuries in the past several weeks leading into the season. Watson has been unable to play due to a knee injury, although Coach Cooley hopes to see him return in the first couple weeks of November.
Gantt has been dealing with an Achilles tendon injury and will likely miss the opener against Sacred Heart University.
Pipkins has been battling a hamstring injury, but this past Sunday the Friars traveled to Indianapolis to play in a closed scrimmage against Purdue University, and Pipkins played 17 minutes for the Friars, scoring five points.
Providence won 60-53 against the Boilermakers. Diallo led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Fans can expect to see these types of numbers from Diallo most of the season.
The Friars open up regular season play next Tuesday, November 5 against Sacred Heart University at 7 p.m.
Prior to conference play in the Big East, the Friars have several games to note. In late November, Coach Cooley’s team will travel out to Anaheim, CA to compete in the Wooden Legacy Tournament, which is a combination of schools from all across the country. The Friars will open up that tournament against Long Beach State University. The annual rivalry game against the University of Rhode Island will take place on Dec. 6 at URI.
Just before the start of the Big East, Providence will be tested against two tough teams: Florida University and the University of Texas at Austin. These games will be great indicators of where the Friars are before starting conference play.
Big East conference play will begin Dec. 31 with the Friars’ home game against Georgetown University.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the team this season. Coach Cooley hopes to get his team back into the NCAA Tournament come March. With many key members returning, anything can happen in Friartown, as long as the team can avoid the injury bug.