Sit-down with Friars Head Coach Ed Cooley
A Reload for Next Season
Liam Tormey ’22
We are now into the month of May, and it has been over a month since the Providence College men’s basketball team had their historic year come to an end against the eventual champions, Kansas University.
It ended with the first Big East regular season title in program history, the first Sweet Sixteen in 25 years, a couple of shots and stops away from an Elite Eight, and head coach Ed Cooley winning the Naismith Coach of the Year.
The 2022-23 season will be Ed Cooley’s 29th in coaching. He began at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as an assistant in 1994, then made his way to Stonehill College, University of Rhode Island, and Boston College before grabbing his first head coaching job at Fairfield University in 2006. Since 2011, Ed Cooley has had the chance to coach the team he grew up rooting for as a kid from South Providence.
Last season was a dream for Ed Cooley and the Friars. He spoke about what it meant for him and his program: “Any time you have team success, it starts at the top. Coaches win games, administration wins championships. Everyone was aligned, the stars were aligned with our personnel.”
All Friar fans know the additions of Al Durham ’22GS and Justin Minaya ’22GS propelled this group to the next level this year. Cooley commented, “I thought our staff did a great job of identifying players that fit our style of play. I thought everything fell in place at the right time.”
A 13-1 start to the season for the Friars made it feel like everything was in the right place at the right time.
“The players were hungry and eager. We never had one issue on or off the floor. It was just one of those special seasons that came together at the right time.”
Cooley and the program will now say goodbye to Durham, Minaya, Nate Watson ’22GS, Noah Horchler ’22GS, and A.J. Reeves ’22 – the entire starting lineup from last year. This particular starting five left a legacy for a lifetime.
“When you’re in the locker room with us this season, we always used to write on the white board before the game, ‘Leave Your Mark.’ I think that’s something they did. Not many times can you hang a banner, wear a ring. This group left a mark. This group left a legacy. This group left an impression on all of Providence College. What a special season and what a special group that will be talked about for years to come.”
The Friar fanatics made the special season what it was. Every game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was loud, energetic, and everything the program wished for before going 16-1 at home. Cooley knew how important the fans were: “What it did for Providence College, not just for the city, but the state–how it was just energized at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Everywhere you would go in our area, they knew about Providence College men’s basketball. As the coach, from someone who’s from here, I can’t be more proud to represent Providence College at that stage.”
From the iconic sing along to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” late in the second half to the court storming after defeating Creighton University to win the first regular season Big East title, the Dunk’ was at a different level, “I go back years of being a Friar basketball fan and seeing the crowd there and all the things that have happened as a head coach, but the energy this year was a different level.” Cooley went on to say, “The fan participation from our students, thank them a million times over. They created an atmosphere, and thankfully it’s for years to come, and it was set by the 2022 class.”
Cooley also added: “It was amazing — the energy that our students brought. They were the identity of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. There was a total shift this year in energy and I hope it continues into next season.”
When looking at the season to come, the Friar fans are not going to be expecting a down year. With the transfer portal having over 1,400 college basketball players in it, Cooley and his staff were all over bringing in the right personnel, and quickly. The Friars have already added Noah Locke ’23GS, Corey Floyd, Jr. ’26, Clifton Moore ’23GS, Devin Carter ’25, and Bryce Hopkins ’25, the definition of a reload.
Just like last year, Cooley admitted he wanted to add players who were going to be good fits for his program, but also fit for representing Providence College. He said, “We hope whoever we bring in they understand it’s about the team, it’s about representing Providence College at the highest level. We want whoever follows moving forward, and I think we’ve had some continuity and consistency, we want whoever we bring in to have those values which last team’s year set.”
Many within college sports have the belief the transfer portal is way out of control. Cooley says it has been “disruptive” and has taken away from those in high school, and although he doesn’t have the answers to the problem, what he does know is “We’re doing the best we can to adjust. No matter what my opinions are, and I don’t know what I can do about it as a single coach, and we will make the adjustments necessary to be competitive in the Big East and on the national scene.”
With five players coming in through the portal, a few left the Friars as well. Matteus Case ’25, Brycen Goodine ’23, and Legend Geeter ’25 all entered the transfer portal to find a new home.
But with Jared Bynum ’23 and Ed Croswell ’22 returning for another season, Cooley is going to lean on them to help in the transition of the newcomers.
He says, “We need those guys to be leaders. We need them to be demanding. We need them to do the right thing, say the right thing, carry themselves the right way. I want them to talk to our players who are not here yet and have them be engaged in our community, in the dorms, in Ray dining hall, in Alumni hall, have visibility, be approachable, say please, say thank you, appreciate the people you’re in school with because one day you never know, you may work with that person, you may marry your person you just never know where relationships build.”
The Friars will also have two freshmen, Quante Berry ’26 and Jayden Pierre ’26, coming into a team with expectations for next year. Breaking into the rotation with the addition of transfers is tough these days in college basketball, but Cooley commented that, “Whether it’s Quante, or Jayden, or any player coming through the portal, we have to have guys who are totally bought in to having a common goal of success for the group. If we do that, we’ll find ourselves with a good shot at success.”
He added, “The biggest expectation I have for any player, regardless of class [year], is to hold them to the standard. They have to meet the standard and exceed it if they can. Buy in. You have to buy into success. You have to buy into your role, buy into the team, buy into the community, buy into preparation.” It will take some meshing with the addition of seven new players to the Friars program, but this is what college basketball has become in today’s age.
As he should be, Cooley is excited about the upcoming season, but he also expressed some of his own personal goals for the future. Providence College will remain in his DNA forever, and he wants to give back.
“I still want to see Providence College grow. I want to be connected to Providence College as long as I can. I want to give men and women, regardless of religion, ethnicity, the belief that you can be special, you can do it. There are so many times people dwell on the negative and the past, but I want them to look at the present and look to the future because there’s something bright ahead of you, you just have to be chugging along. There’s going to be disappointments and failures, but the more I can have a presence and inspire young men and women to take care of the present and look at opportunity, I want to stay connected to Providence College as long as I can in whatever capacity that may be.”
He knows it is a grind, but he still loves what he’s doing as the head coach of the Friars. “I’m starting my 29th season in coaching next year and you do get burned out, you do get tired. I’m not there yet, but just like anything else, there comes a time and a place where it’s hard to say goodbye, yet, you’re going to say hello to something different.”
Providence College men’s basketball is what it is at the moment because of Ed Cooley and his staff. He is the man that lives and breathes Providence College, and everyone on campus and beyond knows who he is. With the most successful season in 25 years for the Friars program, Cooley and the rest of the Friar family will hope this is just the start of a long run of success.
Friars Locked in During NCAA Tournament
Kansas University and the First Sweet Sixteen in 25 Years is Ahead
Joseph Quirk ’23
The month of March is synonymous with two things: luck and madness. Despite all the chaos and craziness the other 11 months of the year can offer, few have a case to match up against the month of St. Patrick’s Day, the day of the year most associated with luck and chaos, and of course, March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
There are 64 teams invited to the tournament, any of whom can win on a given day. If you are a college basketball fan, this is the best time of the year. And with all the luck that comes with St. Patrick’s Day and all the luck needed to win in March, the “luckiest team in the country” needs all the luck they can heading into the big dance.
The Providence College Friars Men’s Basketball team headed into this weekend excited. Fresh off their first Big East regular season title in school history, the Friars would own the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament.
The Big East tournament itself was celebrating its 40th anniversary of being hosted by Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena. The biggest stage, in the biggest city, the Friar fans came out in force. Descending on MSG and New York City, head coach Ed Cooley was quick to tab MSG as “the Dunk South” as during the Friars first game against Butler University, loud cheers in support of the Friars were heard all afternoon.
The Butler Bulldogs were coming off an overtime thriller of a win the night before over Xavier University. However, in a start like far too many this season, the Friars started off slow. They had trouble scoring and playing defense.
The only Friar who really showed up was big man Nate Watson ’22, who finished the game leading the Friars with 26 points, added seven rebounds, and a block. Redshirt junior guard Jared Bynum ’23 also had a solid afternoon with 16 points. But once again, the Friars came back and gritted out a win, a common theme for the “luckiest team in the country” this season.
When asked on Friday about his team’s performance, Coach Cooley referenced Thursday’s matchup saying, “Quite frankly I didn’t think we played well yesterday, and we just found a way to win.” This has been the theme of the Friars entire dream season, gutting out ways to win.
Prior to Friday’s matchup against Creighton University, the Friars were 18-20 in games decided by 10-points or less and 12-14 in games decided by five points or less. Both of the losses were to Villanova University, who won both games by a total margin of victory of seven points.
The Friars’ total record was 25-4, meaning close to half of their wins were decided by fewer than five points and just over half were decided by 10 points. That is a scary thin margin of victory; even though it can be said that this is a veteran savvy team that finds ways to win, which is invaluable in March, it still is a dangerously fine line.
The other two losses the Friars had suffered this season to a team not named Villanova University were by 32 points in an away game to Marquette University and by 18 points to the University of Virginia. Safe to say that when it rains, it pours on the Friars.
On Friday the Friars played the Creighton Blue Jays, the No. 4 seed in the tournament coming off a thriller against Marquette. And Creighton dominated.
The Friars struggled once they let Creighton get on a big run in the first half and could never regain any momentum. Their defense fell apart. They couldn’t score either inside or outside and Creighton big man Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Big East defensive player of the year, dominated to the tune of 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. This, added with Alex O’Connell’s team leading 18 points, Arthur Kaluma’s 17 points and Trey Alexander’s 15 points led Creighton to an easy 42-27 victory.
After the game coach Cooley spoke on trying to keep his squad motivated, saying, “When you play a game like this you know A) your ego can get shattered and B) your confidence can get shattered, and I just want them to understand that it is only one game. Obviously, it’s a really big stage, great arena, great support, great crowd, that’s what the Big East tournament is about.”
Coach Cooley also noted that he thought that the team’s best basketball was ahead of them and that they had earned the right to play in the coming NCAA tournament. He remained firm in his belief that whomever the Friars face next, they can beat.
The concern, however, must be the slow starts. Cooley’s team can pull comebacks against Depaul and Butler any day, but when facing some of the top competition from the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC, that may be a much taller task.
Plus, it needs to be remembered that the 18-point loss to Virginia, the Friar’s first of the season, came on a neutral court, to a worse team on the second day of a back-to-back. That was the exact same scenario that the Friars faced when they were blown out by Creighton. When the tournament arrives, the Friars’ are going to need to be able to play consistently regardless of their schedule or location. .
Of course, the Friars’ success in the tourney will in large part be due to their seeding. Coach Cooley said that it was “something I can’t control” and that “our body of work, I just don’t want our seeding to be determined by one game.”
In terms of using this game as a humbling experience and one to rally around, Cooley said he reminded his team about their first Big East loss of the season, a 32-point loss to Marquette, after which his squad won 8 straight. However, he noted that “we don’t need to win 8.”
Since that embarrassment in the Big East tournament however, the Friars are 2-0. On Sunday, the Friars returned to a roaring crowd after a big weekend in Buffalo to kick off the March Madness tournament.
The Friars started by knocking off 13 seed South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits were a popular pick to upset the Friars in the first round, with an electric offense that was one of the top in the nation and a hot streak of 21 straight wins.
But the Friars took care of business and punched their ticket to the round of 32, where they met a hot University of Richmond team, fresh off winning their own conference tournament and beating the Big 10 champion Iowa State Hawkeyes in the first round.
Still doubted, having the second consecutive game against a double digit seed and second consecutive game where they were favored by as little as under three points, the Friars routed the Spiders 79-51, in what looked like their best and most well-rounded game of the season.
Now the Friars head to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, where they will take on the University of Kansas, a blue-blood program and number one-seed in the Midwest region.
The Friars can handle the Jayhawks, assuming they can lock down guards Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin. The Jayhawks are a good team, coached by legendary coach Bill Self.
While this is true, this is not Self’s best squad he has ever had. If the Friars can shoot the way they have been the last couple of games, they have a legitimate shot to be in the Elite Eight.
If they can manage to pull off a upset, as Kansas is currently favored by over 7 points, then they will secure a date with another team in the double-digit seeds, either a cinderella University of Miami (FL) team or a hot Iowa State University team with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
All eyes will be on the Friars this Friday at 7:15 p.m. as the Friars tip-off against Kansas at the United Center in Chicago.
Men’s Basketball Continues to Shine
Friars Complete Strong Winter Break
Liam Tormey ’22
Winter break came in the middle of December for the students of Providence College, but the Men’s Basketball Team continued their hot start to the season.
The Friars started Big East conference play on Dec. 18, the last day of finals, against the No. 20-ranked University of Connecticut. Before conference play began, coach Ed Cooley’s team was 10-1 and looking to start off conference play on the right foot.
The Harry A. Gampel Pavilion would host old rivals in the Huskies and Friars to kick off conference play. PC was looking to win their sixth consecutive game and, thanks to the help of AJ Reeves ’22 and his 16 points, the Friars were victorious in a 57-53 game.
Reeves, a senior, went 4-8 from three-point territory and was crucial in opening up their biggest lead of the first half where they led 31-22 after 20 minutes of play, and Reeves was responsible for 12 of them.
Ed Croswell ’22 would add 11 points and four rebounds, while the other big man Nate Watson ’22GS had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Jared Bynum ’23 returned to play after missing four games with a leg injury, and he would be a spark off the bench adding nine points and six rebounds.
After the game, Ed Cooley said, “We knew coming on the road would be a challenge for us. I couldn’t be more proud of our men.” This would be the best start to PC’s season under Cooley since the 2015-16 season, a year the Friars reached No. 8 in the polls and won an NCAA Tournament game.
After a statement win against a ranked opponent, the Friars were looking to extend their six-game winning streak 11 days later when they would host No. 15-ranked Seton Hall University Pirates.
In between the games, the Friars would be ranked No. 21 in the national polls, the first time since February of 2016. Since this week, the team has kept their Top 25 standing.
The Pirates came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center following the Christmas period and a time when they were dealing with several players in COVID-19 protocols. Seton Hall would be without Ike Obiago and Tyrese Samuel, and the Friars took advantage.
Noah Horchler ’22GS recorded his fifth double-double of the season, dropping home game-highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds in the 70-65 victory.
Nate Watson tallied 14 points and became just the 18th player in Providence College history to record 1,500 or more career points.
The Friars have five graduates this season and two seniors, and after the game, Cooley said, “We have a veteran group… You can go into every game expecting to win when you have an older group.”
A few days later, the Friars would travel to Chicago for a contest with DePaul University. From the very beginning, Cooley’s squad was ready to play and controlled every aspect of the game. At halftime, the Friars were up 42-17 after scoring 22 unanswered points. The Blue Demons were unable to overcome the deficit and the Friars defeated DePaul, 70-53.
Another game and another contribution for the veteran team. It was contributions from two transfers that helped the Friars to their eighth consecutive victory. Indiana University transfer Al Durham ’22GS and University of South Carolina transfer Justin Minaya ’22GS both had double-digit scoring numbers.
Minaya has been great defensively for the Friars and continues to guard every opponent’s best player.
Durham would end the game with 17 points while Minaya finished with a double-double, 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
After the game, Cooley said, “We were able to set the tone early. I thought we played a really good game today.” The Friars were now 13-1 and 3-0 in Big East play.
Then, the Friars traveled to play a desperate Marquette Golden Eagles team, and it was one everyone wanted to forget.
PC committed two turnovers on their first three possessions and the Golden Eagles were up to a 6-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, the Friars closed a double-digit deficit down to four, but then Marquette went on a 20-0 run and never looked back. At halftime, the Friars were down by 20 and then lost the game by 32, with a final score of 88-56.
The only positive light from the game was Nate Watson setting the record for the most games in program history with 137.
Cooley was still upbeat about his team after the blowout and before Saturday’s game against St. John’s University, he said, “I’ll have my team ready to play.”
The Red Storm came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center that weekend and although the Friars trailed at halftime by three, an explosive second half thanks to Watson’s 18 of final 22 points, the Friars got back to winning ways with an 83-73 victory.
This win was Ed Cooley’s 300th career victory. He was emotional after the game saying, “When you do something that you love, you’re at a place that you love, and you work with people that give you the opportunity to do this, it’s amazing.”
The Friars were feeling good heading into a big stretch of games, but COVID-19 ran rampant in the team before the matchup with Creighton University.
Three straight games would be canceled for the Friars due to COVID-19 within the program, and Coach Cooley admitted he tested positive along with some players and staff. The Friars would be off for 12 days before playing again on Jan. 20 against Georgetown University, a game which was rescheduled from earlier in the season after the Hoyas had COVID-19 within their program.
It was the first week of the second semester and the first game back for the Friars after the mini-hiatus. The Friars were the No. 21-ranked team, and the Hoyas gave them everything they had.
Ed Croswell recorded a season-high 15 points, going perfect from the field with seven shots taken. Al Durham had 15 second half points, and Noah Horchler added 14 points. The Friars won 83-75.
With different players stepping up every game, Coach Cooley has said, “Our team is very close and connected. This team has really bought into their roles.”
A noon tip-off against Butler University last Sunday saw the Friars at the top of the Big East standings. The team was 15-2 and 5-1 in Big East play for the first time since 2003-04 and had won 10 out of their last 11 games. They also went into the contest against the Bulldogs 11-0 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
A back-and-forth game is the tale of almost every Big East game, and this one was no different. After the Friars were up six at the half, the Bulldogs clawed their way back and took the lead in the second.
Once again, thanks to the force of Ed Croswell and Nate Watson who continue to get better, the Friars remained perfect at home with a 69-62 victory. The Friars improved to 16-2 for the first time since the 1977-78 season and 6-1 in conference play for the first time ever.
This win was Cooley’s 210th, and he surpassed the great Dave Gavitt for second place in all-time wins as Friar head coach.
There is a lot to be excited for with this team, but this is just the start, and Cooley knows it: “We’ve still got a long way to go, but where we are today is a credit to the players.”
Who is the PC Men’s Basketball X-Factor?
Providence College Investigates
Justin Bishop ’24
The best player for the Providence College Men’s Basketball team is clearly 6’10” Center, Nate Watson ’22GS. He is dominant in the paint and constantly comes down with rebounds. However, the X–Factor for this season’s team is the new guy-transfer guard Al Durham ’22GS.
Head coach Ed Cooley knew Durham would be great for the PC culture. He said, “I know that as good as a basketball player as Al is, he is even a better person and for that reason we believe he will fit into our culture as we welcome him into the Friar family.”
Durham transferred to Providence this past off-season from the University of Indiana where he averaged 8.6 points per game (PPG) and 2.0 assists per game (APG) across 123 games during his tenure.
The 6’4” playmaker transferred to Providence looking for a bigger role and better leadership than where he left.
He is a confident shooter the team can rely on to keep his composure during crucial moments.
The veteran guard has started out on a hot streak, putting up at least 10 points in every game this year and is currently averaging 13.4 PPG and 3.6 APG, well above his averages during his time at Indiana.
Durham has adjusted well to playing with a new group of guys, but having veteran players like Watson, Noah Horchler ’22GS, and A.J. Reeves ’22 on the starting lineup helps. Durham is expected to be the clutch guy and make the big shot late in a close game.
The question of whether Durham can adapt to the Big East style of play compared to the Big 10 remains.
The Big 10 Conference is similar to the Big East, where it is dominated by big Centers in the paint as the first scoring option, with the second scoring option in the corner, ready to shoot a three.
For Providence, Watson is the first scoring option down low in the post, and Durham is expected to slide in as the second scoring option ready to hit that clutch three or short jumper. Watson is currently averaging 17.7 PPG, the most on the team, while Durham is second with 13.4 PPG, proving that this model is working. If the Friars want to reach the next level, Durham is going to have to step up in big ways.
Stephen Foster ’22
When looking at the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team’s roster for the 2021-2022 season, there is a group of talented players ready to prove their worth to the team.
However, one player stands out as the X-Factor for the Friars this season: center Nate Watson ’22GS. Watson is returning to the Friars for his graduate year, which will be his fifth season with the team.
He has made substantial improvements throughout his collegiate career, and this season seems to be no different.
Watson was named the Providence College Male Team Athlete of the Year last year for his impressive season, during which he recorded a team high 16.9 points per game (PPG), 6.7 rebounds per game (RPG), and 26 total blocks. David Duke ’22, who finished second on the team in points per game (16.8 PPG) and rebounds per game (6.3 RPG), chose to leave PC after last season to play professional basketball in the NBA. Watson is expected to step up and become a pure star player for the Friars in order to fill the gap left by Duke.
So far this year, Watson is leading the team with 17.7 PPG and 10 blocks. He is also second on the team with 5.9 RPG, including a team-high of 13 offensive rebounds. Watson controls the paint both offensively and defensively for the Friars. He is their best option when they look to score inside and is their number-one rim protector. He also grabs the most rebounds for the Friars, which limits the opposing team’s shot attempts and ensures that Providence gets as many possessions as they can on the offensive end. It is essential in D1 College Basketball to have a force like Watson playing the center position.
If Watson can hold down the key for the Friars, then the rest of the team will step up from deep and capitalize on their three-point shot attempts (3PTA). Having Watson’s strong interior presence opens up the court for guard Al Durham ’21 (13.4 PPG, 31 3PTA, 25.8 3PT%), forward Noah Horchler ’21 (11.9 PPG, 25 3PTA, 48.0 3PT%), and guard AJ Reeves ’22 (7.9 PPG, 32 3PTA, 31.3 3PT%) to provide consistently from beyond the arc.
If Watson can continue to perform at this level for the remainder of the season, the Friars should rise to the top of the Big East Conference in 2021-2022.
Two Battle Testing Games for the Friars
PC Goes 2-0 in Emotional Week
By Justin Bishop ’24
The Providence College Men’s Basketball team has been on a tear in the early season, posting a record of 8-1 as of Sunday, Dec. 5.
The Friars won their first five games of the season for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. After dropping a game to the University of Virginia in the Roman Legends Classic Championship game 58-40, the leading scorer for the Friars was Noah Horchler ’22GS with 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Friars won their next three games against St. Peter’s University 85-71 where Horchler again was the leading scorer with 25 points and seven rebounds. The team won a nail-biter against Texas Tech University where the Friars came out on top 72-68, and Al Durham ’22 was the leading scorer with 23 points. Most recently the Friars took down ocean state rival University of Rhode Island, beating the Rams 66–52, and Horchler was once again the leader in points with 16.
Durham scored 23 points against Texas Tech, including clutch shots and a tough left-side jumper to put PC up 67-65 with just under two minutes left to play; that sealed the game for the Friars.
This prompted Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams to remark, “If we could trade for Durham, we would. ”Durham, who is averaging 14 points, three assists, and three rebounds, has proved himself to be the primary ball-handler for the Friars offense.
The former Big Ten Conference point guard is averaging his highest PPG in his career and credits the culture around Providence Basketball as his reason for transferring.
He said, “Friar fans are everything I estimated when I decided to come here.” Durham and all five on the court at the time waved their arms up and down to incite the crowd with 2:00 to go against Texas Tech.
The team was definitely thankful the 10,000 fans at the game were on their side, and Cooley noted that the crowd was a big factor in PC’s win, saying, “The crowd willed us to four or five additional baskets and helped us win the game.”
The Friars are dominating their opponents in the paint thanks to the new “one-two combo” of Nate Watson ’22GS and Ed Croswell ’22.
However, after the URI game, Cooley stated, “Croswell is currently out playing a Big East All-First Team Center in Nate Watson.” This is evident in the most recent games facing Texas Tech and URI, where he posted an 11-point and four-assist game and followed it up by posting a double-double, collecting 13 points and a career high of 15 rebounds, while also shooting 5-5 from the field (FGM).
On the other hand, Watson had seven points on 3-7 FGM against URI and only had five points and five rebounds against Texas Tech.
Clearly Coach Cooley is right when he says that Croswell is outplaying him. After the URI game, Coach Cooley said, “We call him Croswell Cleaners because of how he cleans up rebounds on both ends of the court.”
This got a rise out of Croswell, who did not deny that he is a rebound machine. The head coach of the URI Rams had played against Croswell when he played in the Atlantic-10 Conference during his time at Lasalle University.
Joking around after the game, he mentioned, “I am sure glad that I do not have to play against him twice a year.”
The praise from other coaches on the way they play can be attributed back to how Coach Cooley teaches his players. Cooley could not praise Croswell enough; finishing up the press conference, he said, “If we did not have Ed, we would’ve lost the past two games.”
It is hard for anyone to deny this claim, but Providence could not have won the past two games, along with many others this season, without Indiana University transfer Al Durham.
Cooley likes the way the team is playing as one and not obsessed with trying to be the leading scorer or making highlight reel plays when an open pass is there.
This is evident after a tweet put out by Watson, after the Texas Tech win, saying, ”I love when teams think I’m the only threat, I gotta whole squad #gofriars #urinext.” The tweet is referring to teams locking down Watson, which allows other players, like Croswell, Noah Horchler ’21, and Durham open space. This just proves how close together the team is and that a Pre-Season All Conference forward can take a backseat if needed when someone else is on a role.
The team struggled against Virginia because they could not keep their composure when the Cavaliers went on scoring runs.
After the past three games since Virginia, Coach Cooley commented, “The mental maturity of all our guys is unbelievable… we are battle-tested playing against seven footers that are on Virginia, the University of Northwestern, and the University of Wisconsin. We are ready for conference play.” The confidence of a head coach like Cooley makes his players tough to compete against.
In each game so far, Coach Cooley has praised the crowd as the first thing he says in the post-game press conference. After the URI game, he said, “Defense won the battle on the court, but the crowd won us the game.” The final attendance taken during the game against the Rams was a whopping 12,945 people, the largest crowd so far this season.
The Friars picked up a big win on Dec. 8 against Vermont University Catamounts where they controlled the whole game and came out victorious 68-58.
Big East Conference play will begin on Saturday, Dec. 18 against rival and currently No. 17-ranked University of Connecticut.
Men’s Basketball Season Preview
PC Hoops Looks to Silence Critics
Joseph Quirk ’23
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team had a disappointing last season, finishing 12-14 and failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament, let alone make it past the first round of the Big East tournament. The Friars entered last season with high expectations, considering how they nearly made the NCAA tournament in the 2019-2020 season.
Much has changed in the past two years, particularly the loss of some crucial players. Star guard David Duke Jr., for example, left the Friars after last season to pursue the NBA. Duke went undrafted before making the Brooklyn Nets summer league team and earning himself a two-way contract with the championship favorites.
Some things remain the same, though. Two players that stayed to play are center Nate Watson ’22 and guard AJ Reeves ’22. The returners expect to feature prominent roles in the offense with Watson working down low in the post and Reeves creating spacing on the floor.
At this past Big East Media Day, Watson was chosen as a Big East All-Conference first team selection. The preseason polls, however, had the Friars as the seventh team in the conference. Reeves said, “I think Nate is one of the most consistent bigs in the country.” Head coach Ed Cooley said, “I feel like my wife gave birth to Nate, he’s been with us so long.”
This is a big year, particularly for Reeves, as the former four-star recruit looks to have his most prominent role in the offense since arriving in Friartown. He has been inconsistent his first three seasons, flashing a brilliant shot in some games and becoming ice-cold in others. With the departure of Duke and Watson, consistency beyond the arch from Reeves will be a necessity. He will have some help with moving the offense as point guards Alyn Breed ’24 and Jared Bynum ’22 return, as well as graduate student forward Noah Horchler ’21GS and senior big man Ed Croswell ’22.
Breed looks to build off a very promising freshman season in which he averaged five points-per-game along with one assist and two rebounds. He has flashed potential to be a solid scorer who can move the ball well, and now having a full offseason and the experience of Big East basketball last season, it is reasonable to expect a good jump in production from him this season.
Bynum is a lot more experienced than Breed, and is a key piece in this offense. The redshirt junior was a massive part of last year’s offense as he played the main distributor and set up his teammates well. The point guard who can distribute the ball smartly is key, and that was never more apparent than last season. Last year, Bynum was a newcomer but made an instant impact. However, a mid-season injury took him out of action for a couple weeks and the offense looked drastically different.
Croswell was also a newcomer last season, and he had some struggles. The transfer from La Salle University was advertised as one of the best rebounders in the country, but his 1.9 rebounds-per-game last year showed he may have struggled to translate his game to the tougher Big East conference.
If the Friars are going to be good this year, they are going to need him to step up. Having an anchor that can come in off the bench and allow Watson to rest is going to be very important.
Another player the Friars will need this year is returner Horchler. The grad student forward adds a different fold to the offense with his ability to stretch the floor.
One thing this offense has clearly lacked the last few seasons is consistent three-point shooting, and towards the end of last year, Horchler flashed the ability to be a good catch and shoot perimeter player. An athletic forward at 6’8” and 220 pounds, he also has some size to him. With the way the game has evolved, having big men who can shoot is becoming increasingly important.
While all these returners are going to be very important to the success of this team, the newcomers are going to be very important as well.
The rest of this roster is brand new, composed of freshmen and transfers. As mentioned earlier, star guard Duke left to pursue an NBA opportunity. But Cooley and the Friars also lost Greg Gantt ’23, Kris Monroe ’23, Jimmy Nichols Jr. ’23, and Jyare Davis ’24, who all left through the transfer portal this offseason.
The transfer portal did not just take, however. Justin Minaya ’22 came from the portal via the University of South Carolina. In his previous two seasons at USC, Minaya he was about a seven point-per-game scorer, adding about six rebounds and one block per game to his per-game totals. He looks to have had pretty solid production for a power-five team and should be a nice piece to add.
Their other transfer is graduate guard Al Durham ’22. In Durham’s senior season at the University of Indiana, he averaged 11.3 points, 2.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and .5 steals per game.
He was a leader there and the Friars got a good look at him when he went off and helped lead the Hoosiers to an early season out-of-conference win against the Friars at the Maui Jim Invitational.
The Friars also brought in a ton of young talent to help rebuild this roster.
Freshman guard Matteus Case ’25 is a two-star recruit from Canada and appears to be able to shoot the ball decently from a distance. Freshman guard Luke Fonts ’25 is the brother of graduate walk-on Andrew Fonts ’22GS. Legend Geeter ’25 is a big freshman forward, standing at 6’7” and 220 pounds. He likely will be buried on the depth chart early in his career with all the experienced power forwards in this team, but the former three-star recruit should be a big piece of this team’s future.
Former three-star forward Rafael Castro ’25 and freshman Kieran O’Haire ’25 round out the recruiting victories Cooley claimed this offseason.
Cooley expects a competitive year in college basketball, especially with this extra year of eligibility. He said at Big East Media Day, “College basketball will be in a good place this year. It should be as competitive as any.”
Cooley hopes the Friars will be competing on the highest stage too, considering it has been about three years since their last appearance in the NCAA tournament. But he is not discouraged by the early hate the Friars are getting.
“It’s what they think. How true is it? Who knows? I think it will all balance out. As a coach, if you’re worried about where you’re picked early, you’re in it for the wrong reasons,” said Cooley.
He continued, “You balance your team with confidence, inspire them to be better than people think and kind of go from there. Don’t look at it as a negative. It’s just somebody else’s opinion.”