By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
The 2010s produced a slew of immensely successful Providence College athletic teams, cementing the College’s status as a major player in the Big East conference and beyond. However, collegiate success is not the only thing that PC produced last decade, as the College also churned out a bevy of professional players who are currently finding success at the highest levels of their respective sports.
Three players that exemplify this wealth of Friar talent are Julian Gressel ’17, Noel Acciari ’15, and Kris Dunn ’16.
Gressel wrapped up his historic college career for the men’s soccer team in 2016, a season in which he scored a whopping 15 goals, placing him in the top four in scoring in the country. Following a two-goal performance against the top-seeded University of Maryland in the 2016 College Cup, Gressel was drafted by Atlanta United with the eighth pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
The sure-footed midfielder wasted little time adjusting to the big leagues, as he registered nine assists, third-most all time for a rookie, to go along with five goals in a first-year campaign that landed him the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year award. Since then, Gressel has only continued his success, tallying a total of 15 goals and 35 assists across three seasons for an Atlanta United team that he has helped turn into one of the best expansion teams in recent history.
Acciari, too, found collegiate success prior to entering the professional ranks. His final season with the Friars featured the first national championship in men’s hockey history, a season in which Acciari tied for most goals scored on the team with 15.
After spending four solid seasons with the NHL’s Boston Bruins to begin his pro career, Acciari signed a three-year, $5 million deal with the Florida Panthers this off-season. The deal has immediately paid dividends for both sides, as Acciari has already set a career high in goals with 17, a number boosted by a remarkable two-game stretch in December that featured back-to-back hat tricks.
Dunn, perhaps the most well-known recent PC alumni, also finished his PC career strong, leading the men’s basketball team to a NCAA tournament victory over the University of Southern California in the first round. The Big East player of the year for 2016, Dunn was drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2016 NBA draft.
Though shooting woes have marred the start of his promising career, Dunn has found his stride this season with the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end. The fourth-year point guard has locked down some of the best offensive players in the league, and trails only Philadelphia 76ers’ star Ben Simmons in total steals, all while playing almost 400 minutes less than Simmons.
‘‘I’ve been guarding my whole life,’’ said Dunn on his defensive prowess. ‘‘I know when somebody is kind of fearful. I can see it, I can smell it, and I just try and act on it.’’
Indeed, the past decade has shown that PC can produce world-class athletes, ones who can succeed against the toughest competition in their respective sports. Players like Gressel, Acciari, and Dunn will continue to serve as inspirations to the next generation of Friar athletes.
Already this year, Jack Dugan ’22, a Vegas Golden Knights 2017 draft pick, has shined for the men’s hockey team. In addition, a pair of men’s soccer players, Austin Aviza ’20RS and Danny Griffin ’20, were both taken in the second round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and will hope to follow in the footsteps of Gressel. The triumph of these players and many more bodes well for another decade of success beyond Friartown for PC athletes.