Weekly Winners: Friars Dominate February
Four Friars Nab Weekly Big East Awards
by Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
The second week of February was a great one for Providence College athletics, as four Friars took home weekly awards for their outstanding play. Besides putting up great stats, Alpha Diallo ’20, Alyssa Geary ’22, Lauren DeBlois ’23, and Toby Burgdorf ’21 all played key roles in leading their respective teams to pivotal victories.
The Big East Player of the Week went to Diallo, who became the first PC Men’s Basketball Team player to receive the award since Rodney Bullock ’17 in 2016. The senior forward averaged 27 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while leading the Friars to a 1-1 record for the week.
Certainly contributing to his achievement is the fact that Diallo set single-game career highs in both points and rebounds during the week. On Feb. 13, Diallo grabbed an impressive 17 rebounds to go along with 19 points in a loss to St. John’s University. He followed that performance up by pouring in 35 points on 5-5 shooting from the three-point line in a statement win against tenth-ranked Seton Hall University.
Diallo’s outburst from downtown came as a bit of a surprise due to the fact that he attempted zero three-pointers in the previous game against St. John’s University. Even so, there was little hesitation in pulling the trigger against the Pirates. “I just tried to do whatever it took to help us get the win,” said Diallo after the game. “My teammates were finding me in open spots. I make those shots a lot in practice, so they knew to have confidence in me.”
Further sweetening Diallo’s triumphant week is the fact that his scoring outburst against Seton Hall pushed him past 1,500 career points. Diallo now sits as one of just 17 Friars in school history to pass the scoring milestone.
Meanwhile, on the women’s basketball team, Geary was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll. In a week that very much mirrored Diallo’s, Geary helped lead her team to a 1-1 record while posting a team high in points against Seton Hall.
“It felt pretty good to receive the weekly award,” said Geary when asked about the honor. “I did not expect it at all and was shocked that I was even considered, let alone picked as a recipient.”
Geary credited her teammates for allowing her to play at such a high level in recent weeks. “I owe it all to them. They have the confidence to constantly feed me the ball in the post or kick it out to me believing that I can knock that shot down.”
Geary played a crucial role in the Friars’ defeat of St. John’s on Feb. 16, posting 10 points, four rebounds, three assists, and one block to go along with a game-saving three pointer to tie the game with 1:36 left in regulation. “I knew I was feeling the three,” Geary said of the shot following the game. “I knew I was going to knock that down and my teammates gave me the confidence to do it.”
Geary would later add, “The three was a great play because of the way my teammates hustled down the floor and found me. Mary [Baskerville ’22] could have easily tried and scored as soon as she got the ball, but she gave me that extra pass we practice with one another and I was able to knock it down.”
Geary and the Friars would go on to seal the victory on a miraculous Earlette Scott ’22 and-one from the top of the key with four seconds remaining.
Representing the Providence College Women’s Hockey Team, DeBlois continued PC’s success by being named the Hockey East Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week. She and the rest of the squad took down third-ranked Northeastern University on Feb. 14 in a game that featured two goals from DeBlois.
Her first goal came off a Sara Hjalmarsson ’22 faceoff win that was flicked back to Whitney Dove ’20. Dove slid it over to DeBlois, who placed a perfect wrister through traffic into the back of the net at 16:04 in the second period.
DeBlois’ second goal just so happened to be a game-winner, as she sent the Huskies packing with a wrister from the point with 1:03 remaining in overtime. The goal would secure a 2-1 Friar victory and the second game-winner in Deblois’ young career.
Finally, Burgdorf wrapped up a phenomenal week for Friar athletics by being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week for men’s lacrosse. Burgdorf picked up a career-high in saves versus Bryant University in the Ocean State Cup, stifling 15 shots on a .625 save percentage. In the fourth quarter alone, he turned back seven shots compared to a measly two by the opposing goalie.
It was the second time this year that Burgdorf has been named Defensive Player of the Week, with both honors due in large part to the goalie’s impressive 3-0 record in his first three career starts for PC.
Diallo, Geary, and DeBlois look to continue their success as their respective teams make late-season pushes for the postseason. Burgdorf, on the other hand, looks to maintain his status as a defensive stalwart as the men’s lacrosse team continues to start the season strong. Regardless of the status of their season, all four athletes have shined so far this year for the Friars, and their long list of accolades is a testament to their hard work.
In Memorium: Kobe Bryant
Laker Great Leaves Behind an Unparalleled Legacy
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
I was eleven years old as I sat on the couch, eyes glued to the TV on June 16, 2010. The Los Angeles Lakers were in the midst of a dramatic Game Seven against my beloved Boston Celtics, a game that was the perfect finale to a perfect series. Fresh off a victory over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals the previous year, Kobe Bryant was looking for his fifth championship overall. He was also firmly set on crushing my dreams.
I still remember the shot that ended it. No, it was not the game-winner, in fact there were still five minutes left on the clock, but for all intents and purposes the game was over.
Bryant took the ball at the top of the key, guarded by the Celtics’ Ray Allen. A quick jab to the left sent Allen reeling, allowing for Bryant to quickly take one dribble to the right. Somehow, almost immediately, the “Black Mamba,” true to his namesake, was in the air hoisting up his patented fade-away jumper.
The ball found nothing but net. As the Staples Center went berserk, I stormed off to my room, frustrated and angry because Bryant had the lead in the fourth quarter of a Game Seven, and there was no way he was going to give it up.
This particular moment perfectly encapsulates what everyone referred to as the “Mamba Mentality:” a mentality of hard-work, grit, and a smooth and unbreakable confidence. These traits, in addition to his basketball prowess, elevated his status to that of a living legend, one celebrated with a retirement tour unlike any other during his final season.
Truly, Bryant just seemed invincible. He had transcended the bounds between sports and pop culture. More than a basketball player, he was a cultural icon that showed that the NBA could thrive post-Michael Jordan.
That is why his death on Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with nine others, including his 13-year-old daughter and fellow basketball savant Gianna Bryant, is so difficult to come to terms with. Bryant was supposed to be around for decades to come, gracing playoff games and award shows much like the legendary Bill Russell does.
Instead, the world got a stark reminder of the fragility of life, an idea made all the more poignant by the passing of fellow passenger and former Cape Cod Baseball League coach John Altobelli. A man who, much like Bryant, devoted his life to the love of the game. Altobelli tragically perished alongside his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa.
In lieu of everything, it bears mentioning that Bryant did not lead a life without controversy. He was accused of sexual assault in Colorado in 2003, although the charges were dropped after his accuser refused to testify. On the court, he often got into spats with his teammates due to his lofty standards, most notably with fellow All-Star Shaquille O’Neal.
Nevertheless, he was the reason so many kids fell in love with the game. If the last generation wanted to be like Mike, then this generation wanted to be like Kobe: a 5-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and 1-time Academy Award winner.
Bryant was far from perfect, but his commitment to the sport of basketball was unparalleled. So too was his commitment to his children. Indeed, the ill-fated helicopter was en route to Gianna’s travel basketball game, where Bryant was set to coach and Gianna was set to play. Their intended destination makes the untimely passings all the more devastating.
Ten years ago, in Game Seven of the NBA Finals, Kobe broke my heart. On Sunday, my heart broke again: for the Bryant family and for all the lives lost in the tragic accident.
A Decade of Success: PC in the Pros
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.
PCI: Should NFL Athletes Have More Choice In What They Wear for Cleats?
Allow More Freedom
By Cam Smith ’21
Assistant Sports Editor
The NFL, often labeled the “No Fun League,” is notorious for restricting players’ freedom to wear cleats of their choosing. If the league wants to keep up with the times, that needs to change.
Recently, the cleat controversy has centered around Cleveland Browns wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. A week nine game against the Denver Broncos saw the pair sport unauthorized cleats in the first half of the game, before being forced to change at halftime by a league dress code official. If they refused to comply, the duo would have been banned from participating in the second half of the game and would likely have faced further league punishment.
The fact that this can occur is ridiculous on two fronts. The first being the hypocrisy it displays, as the league very much profits off of the individuality of its stars. In Beckham’s case, the league has gone to great lengths to promote him as one of the faces of the game, featuring him and his flashy play style in everything from commercials to award shows.
The league intentionally highlights Beckham as one of the great personalities in the game in an effort to draw viewers in. That is why it is so abhorrent that they then restrict him in the one area where he can creatively express himself on the field.
Secondly, the absurd nature of the rule is amplified by another American sports league’s recent update on its footwear policy. The NBA changed its dress code rule to allow for sneakers of any color, with designs of the player’s choice. This season, players have already flaunted everything from SpongeBob SquarePants to Minnie Mouse on their basketball sneakers.
“You can learn a little bit more about a guy when you see what he’s putting on his shoe, whether it’s a social campaign or his love for a movie or character or something like that,” said Colleen Garrity, the Vice President of basketball marketing at Excel Sports Management, an agency which represents multiple NBA stars.
Indeed, this increased knowledge of players’ interests has already allowed for greater fan interaction, as fans can now better connect with players they know share similar interests. So too has it added some much needed personality to games sometimes filled with boring and monotonous uniform colors. The NFL has no reason not to follow suit.
Finally, with the advent of items such as social media, players have been given more substance to their public personas beyond simply the uniform and team they play for. Gone are the days of football being just about football, and the cleats the players wear should reflect this.
The NFL must catch up with the changing times.
Keep The Rule
By Scott Jarosz ’21
Many controversies have risen as of late relating to the National Football League’s strict policies about the gear its players can wear during games, and specifically the cleats the players can wear. The league’s strict policies have earned it the nickname the “No Fun League” in recent years, as players have little freedom in terms of wearing customized cleats during games.
In some cases, players have donned customized cleats that are designed to support good causes, such as when Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sported cleats that raised awareness for cancer research back in 2016.
However, for the most part, giving players freedom to wear whatever they choose welcomes the possibility that players could wear cleats that contain imagery that is inconsistent with the league’s values. These types of unwanted situations would negatively affect the league’s image. This is why the NFL should continue to enforce its relatively strict policies surrounding custom cleats, as doing so helps maintain leaguewide consistency and also prevents players from wearing controversial gear that harms the perception of the league.
Back in 2017, the NFL updated its footwear policy to allow players more freedom in wearing cleats with custom designs. The new policy allowed for players to wear approved cleats with custom designs during team warmups as well as pregame activities.
However, during games, players would be required to wear cleats that are black, white, or team colors. This policy allowed players to show their true colors during warmups, but also maintain consistency with their uniforms during games. This policy returned to the spotlight on November 3, 2019 when Odell Beckham Jr. wore “The Joker”-themed cleats and Jarvis Landry wore flashy gold cleats during a game. The league informed the players that they would have to change their footwear to adhere to league standards at halftime or else they would be prohibited from participating in the second half. The league’s enforcement of its rules during this situation was fully justified, as the players knowingly acted against the footwear policy.
The NFL, just like any other work environment, has a dress code that its “employees” must follow or else they will be asked to change. If the league were to make exceptions to this rule, it would face even more criticism. By enforcing its footwear policy, the NFL ensures that it produces a consistent on-field product that is organized and prevents further controversies from arising.
Club Volleyball Ready to Defend Title
by Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Coeditor
Often overlooked on a campus bursting with varsity sports is the presence of some very successful club sports teams. One of these teams, the Providence College Women’s Club Volleyball Team, just so happens to be a league champion.
Indeed, the team, which competes in the Northeast Women’s Volleyball Club League (NWVCL), secured its first-ever league championship last season with a win over Columbia University in the blue division finals. The championship capped off an absurdly successful season for the Friars, who won five out of the seven tournaments they competed in.
The team has already started strong this year, securing a second-place tournament finish while competing against some of the best teams in the Northeast. The finish came at the Friars’ home tournament, as they fell in the third set to the University of Connecticut by a final tally of 13-15.
Despite all of their recent success, the team has their sights set on even loftier goals. Last season, the squad appeared in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation’s Championships for the first time in program history. The tournament, which pulls the best teams from all the club leagues in the country, did not go the way the team intended it to, as they bowed out in the early rounds. However, this year, the Friars plan to make a deep run.
“Our end goal is to go to Nationals and advance further than last year,” said club co-president Elizabeth Donnellan ’20. “Last season we were not able to get past our pool. It was quite upsetting because we were a really strong team. We are looking foward to using that experience to grow and improve upon our result this year.”
That same strong team returns this season, as the Friars had no seniors last year. Returning veterans include co-president Charlotte Stivala ’21 and secretary Izzy Flaherty ’21. Both fill the roles of the outside hitters on the team and are dominant forces on offense. Joining them is, of course, Donnellan herself, who patrols the right side and is the de facto leader on the court with her ability to visualize the play and make adjustments on the fly.
Siobhan Tierney ’21 and Megan Borrell ’22 also return to the squad. Tierney, a setter, runs the team’s offense while controlling the pace of the game. Borrell, a libero, joins Tierney in the role of setter this year, filling a key void for the Friars.
Joining the returning veterans is Isabelle Heron ’23, a player who excels in her ability to block, often picking up “three or four power blocks in a set,” according to Donnellan.
Certainly, another successful season seems to be in the works for the Friars. However, it was not too long ago when Donnellan herself would have found it difficult to believe they could be playing at this high of a level.
“My freshman year we were good but just not that serious about it,” she said. “My next year we really got a lot more serious as a bunch of new juniors came in, in addition to a really good executive board and then also a new coach. It was a whole new mindset. We won our first tournament in the entire history of the club.”
The Friars have come a long way since winning their first tournament and will now look to continue their recent success as they make a push to return to Nationals. The road to get there continues on Nov. 9, as PC travels to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to compete in their fourth tournament of the young season.
Editor’s Corner: Money Talks: The NBA & China
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
For months, pro-democracy protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to the Chinese in 1997. Although taking place on the opposite side of the globe, the effects of the protests are being felt on the American world of basketball.
To understand the unrest, one must understand that since 1997, China and Hong Kong have operated under a “one country, two systems” policy. The policy grants the citizens of Hong Kong far greater access to rights, including the right to free speech and free assembly, than those living on the Communist party-controlled mainland.
The catalyst for the protests was a bill that would make it easy for Beijing officials, including President Xi Jinping, to accuse Hong Kong citizens of fallacious crimes, and then process them through courts controlled by the Communist Party. Although the bill was recently withdrawn by the Hong Kong legislature, the protests have continued as they have evolved into a broader fight against the increasing encroachment of Beijing into everyday life.
It is in this context that on Oct. 4, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted out his support for the protesters, posting an image that read, “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” This simple gesture of support created countless consequences.
Subsequently forced to apologize for his tweet, Morey was denounced by the Chinese consulate in Houston and was even on the hotseat as the Rockets reportedly considered firing him in an effort to appease the Chinese. His own star player, James Harden, took it upon himself to apologize for Morey, saying, “We apologize… we love China. We love playing there.”
Fellow NBA star, Lebron James, whose team was in China at the time for a pair of preseason games, also weighed in, saying that, “So many people could have been harmed [by the tweet], not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually… Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, there can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”
Since then, Chinese broadcasters have ignored key games in the opening week of NBA action, including the Rockets opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. Chinese sponsors for the NBA have also been pulled, and those games that did make it to television in China were devoid of audio for fear of mentioning the controversy.
It was only recently that the NBA forged a $1.5 billion agreement to stream games online with Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings. Prior to the deal, what the league labels as “NBA China,” already held an estimated value of $4 billion to the league. Unquestionably, China represents an enormous market for basketball itself.
However, this does not excuse the NBA from turning its back on a people fighting for freedom. The squashing of support for Hong Kong by the league, along with other American corporations including Apple and Blizzard Entertainment, is deeply disturbing. Furthermore, it is a complete betrayal of the American values that we hold dear as a country, values that have allowed the NBA and its players to thrive. The expansion of capitalism must not result in the sacrifice of democracy.
PC Athletics: A Golden Age
A Sit-Down with Athletic Director Bob Driscoll
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
As Vice President and Director of Athletics at Providence College, Bob Driscoll has overseen some of the brightest moments in Providence College history in his now 19-year tenure. So, when he says that things have never been better in Friartown, it is a good idea to believe him.
The Cowl got a chance to sit down with the affable athletic director following Homecoming Weekend to get his thoughts on the state of Friar athletics. The result: a fascinating conversation which delved into not only the present condition of the department, but its promising future as well.
It is hard to imagine how things can get much better for Driscoll and the Friars. Since 2013, PC has achieved an absurd amount of success under the AD’s watch, highlighted by national championships from both the women’s cross country team and the men’s ice hockey team.
Coupled with a string of seven consecutive postseason appearances by Ed Cooley and the men’s basketball team, in addition to the stunning facility upgrades on campus, it is safe to say that life is good as a Friar. Driscoll would have to agree.
“I am really proud of the entire campus,” said Driscoll. “When we bring people on it, they’re just blown away… It did not look like this 15, 18 years ago, but now when I bring my friends who worked at the University of California and a lot of the Big East schools they go, ‘Wow, I did not realize what a beautiful place this is.’”
One of the recent additions to contribute to the revitalization of the campus is the extraordinary Ruane Friar Development Center. The 30 million-dollar, 58,218 square-foot building opened in August of 2018, and has already played a significant role in the success of all 350 plus student-athletes.
Not only has it helped out those Friars currently in uniform, but it has already assisted in attracting some of the most skilled recruits in the country. “I have said this before, you get one chance to make a first impression,” commented Driscoll. “If you look at all of our athletic facilities, they have all either been renovated or built brand new because if you are going to attract the best student-athletes you have to have big time facilities.”
It is easy to see the appeal that the Friar Development Center has to recruits when it boasts equipment such as sleep pods, cryogenic machines, and meditative tanks. However, the top-notch equipment is far from the only draw for prospective athletes, as Driscoll and the department also utilize a talented team of sports psychologists and nutritionists. The recent partnership with the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, aimed at practicing healthy lifestyles, showcases the level of attention to personal wellness that the department displays.
“It is almost like an Olympic training village if you will… it really has had an impact on recruiting and the morale of our present student-athletes because they feel like they are being taken care of,” said Driscoll.
The on-the-field product certainly speaks to the athletic director’s point, as the Friars are off to a solid start in both the fall and winter sport seasons. “We are off to a good start,” said Driscoll. “Field hockey is in the mix with a chance to compete for a championship… I think [cross country] will be competitive, they will certainly get back to the NCAA’s. I’m not sure they will have a shot to win the whole thing, but we’ll have to see.”
Driscoll spoke to the start of hockey season as well, admitting that, “Hockey has gotten off to a good start too. The men beating Maine 7-0 with a really young team and then the women splitting with Quinnipiac with a really young team as well. So, I think things are going really well so far.”
Things may get even better in the future as the resources of the Friar Development Center take further effect, and as the plans for the second phase of the Friar Development Center come to fruition. Indeed, Driscoll and his fellow college leadership members have launched an ambitious effort to take the Alumni Hall area of the campus to a whole new, previously unimaginable, level.
While phase one of the Friar Development Center may seem more athlete-oriented, phase two will create a resource geared toward every student and visitor on campus: Friartown Way.
The forthcoming phase will erect a connecting concourse between the Slavin Center and Alumni Hall, and will feature an expansion of both the Career Development Center as well as ’64 Hall. The effect will be the creation of an indoor street, one that very likely will serve as the new heart of campus.
“… It is going to be almost like a shopping mall area,” said Driscoll, as he gazed out upon the site from his office window. “This [area] is going to be expanded with a big dome over the top. We are hoping to have the designs and approvals this year and then start construction.”
The new area will be just the latest addition to a campus that has seen a remarkable number of jaw-dropping projects completed over the past few years. For Driscoll, the possibilities for this particular project are endless: “You can imagine just looking down on this great big open spot with perhaps a Dunkin Donuts in there, study areas, tables where people can hang out with the sunshine shining through. That would complete this entire project, it is going to be special.”
Driscoll has been more than a little busy lately, in addition to the announcement of phase two of the Friar Development Center, the Athletic Director also just recently completed a new, five-year strategic plan for the athletic department. The plan centers around five key goals, which aim to sustain the success of the department while enriching the experience of the student-athlete.
“We are trying to play a bigger game here,” said Driscoll. “Our new mission is to build champion citizens, scholars, and athletes who positively impact the world around them. I want our student- athletes to learn through playing sports that they have the ability to go out and hopefully change the world.”
With a new mission statement, a flourishing fall season underway, and more facilities set to arrive on campus, the condition of PC athletics has never been better. And, with Bob Driscoll and his talented staff of coaches at the helm, the continued success of the department seems guaranteed for decades to come.
Club Basketball Ready for Redemption
Friars Look to Continue Hot-Streak From Last Season
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
Late Night Madness whipped up a fervor of excitement for the start of the varsity basketball season last Saturday night. Yet, the varsity teams will be far from the only squads gracing the Providence College basketball courts this fall.
The club basketball season started earlier this week on the men’s side as tryouts were held to fill out the roster for the 2019-2020 season. The Providence College Men’s Club Basketball Team is looking to build on a successful year last season that saw the squad go 12-6 in the National Club Basketball Association’s (NCBBA) New England South conference and 13-7 overall.
The Friars finished the season on a strong note, pulling off an incredible ten-game winning streak that saw them come up just short of the at-large bid for a berth in the Regional tournament. “It took a little while to get used to each other and mesh at the start of last year,” said club co-president Joe Gill ’21. “But, by the half-way point of the season we really knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and it showed in our record. We started winning more and more games.”
There is reason to be excited about this year as well, as the team lost only a couple players from last year’s squad that ended the season scorching hot.
Returning veterans include Nick Mahar ’22, a dominant post presence with a deadly right-shoulder hook shot from the block. He will be joined by the dynamic twin-brother duo of Matt and Chris Lautato ’21, who dictate the flow of the game from the point guard position.
Club co-president Cam Shelmire ’21 joins Gill in a leadership role and is a multi-talented wing presence with the ability to slash down low. The co-president’s skill sets complement each other well, as Gill himself is a mobile big man that can play out of the post or out behind the three-point line.
“We’re excited for this year because we only lost a few guys from last year, our core group is returning,” said Gill. “We should be pretty good. We’re hoping to make a run in regionals and then maybe even nationals.”
Two more players rejoining the team for their much-anticipated season are Spencer Butterfield ’20 and Will Martin ’22. Butterfield is another dynamic slasher who is a tremendous finisher around the rim. Martin, an all-around offensive threat, is a skilled isolation player that can easily slip by a defender off the dribble.
The team will begin practices next week and will then host a preseason tournament at PC on Sunday, October 20 where Brown University, Bryant University, and Merrimack College will get a tough early season test in the Friars.
“We ended the year really strong,” reflected Gill. “We played really well, and when everyone’s on their game we are really, really good. We’re excited for this season.”
The quest to Regionals begins in November for PC. On the weekend of Nov. 16 they travel to Worcester to take on the College of the Holy Cross in their first regular season matchup.
Editor’s Corner: International Basketball
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
The United States, long the dominant force in basketball, saw its empire come crashing down earlier this month when its delegation of players placed seventh at the 2019 Basketball World Cup. The loss was a source of embarrassment nationwide, as millions ridiculed the U.S. players for failing to live up to the lofty standards set by the teams that had preceded them.
Team USA was not without excuses, as nearly all of its premiere stars were absent for the tournament, including studs like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and James Harden. They cited the tournament’s proximity to the start of National Basketball Association training camp and their subsequent desire to pursue an NBA championship as the reasons for their no-shows.
Nevertheless, Team USA entered the World Cup with high expectations. The team was still ranked number one in the world and was headed by two all-stars in Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton. So too did the roster boast an abundance of young talent in players like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Myles Turner, and Jaylen Brown.
As promising as the team may have seemed, something never quite clicked chemistry-wise, and the squad struggled to remain undefeated in the group stages. Their entrance into the quarterfinals was immediately met with defeat, as the French National Team controlled all facets of the match en route to an 89-79 victory. The disappointment was immeasurable, and the uproar back in the states was thunderous.
Yet, perhaps this result is not so much a commentary on the failures of USA basketball, but a reflection of the newfound success of basketball internationally. In the 1991–92 NBA season, the league featured just 26 players born outside of the United States. In comparison, the 2018–19 NBA season saw a whopping 118 foreign-born players participate, which was nearly a quarter of the league’s player population.
These international players were not only playing in the league but dominating in it as well. Four of the five major NBA 2018 – 2019 awards went to international players, including the MVP award, received by the Greece-born Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Defensive Player of the Year award went to the Frenchman Rudy Gobert, the very same player that stonewalled the U.S. in their quarterfinal loss.
The NBA is partially responsible for this international influx of talent, as the league’s global outreach programs have brought basketball to locations never before frequented by the sport. This expansion has afforded young kids in various countries exposure to a sport once considered strictly American.
So before one mourns the apparent sudden death of U.S. basketball, they must come to terms with the fact that Team USA is not falling behind—the world is simply catching up.
PCI: Are More Home Runs God for Baseball?
Yes, Home Runs Make Games Exciting
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
A decade after the messy death of the steroid era in Major League Baseball, a new controversy has shaken the baseball world: the juiced ball era. The league has seen an astronomical rise in home run totals that put to shame even the numbers put up by steroid-enhanced players of the turn of the century. This dramatic increase in home runs will prove to be the jolt of energy necessary to revive the sport.
Indeed, it is no secret that baseball has seen a steady decline in popularity. In 2018, the league saw a harsh 4% drop in ballpark attendance, the largest slip in a decade.
Fewer people are also watching the game at home. The 2018 World Series drew only 14 million views per game. In comparison, the 1991 World Series brought in approximately 36 million viewers per game, a startling difference of 22 million.
The MLB has taken steps to remedy these troubling trends, mostly centered around increasing the pace of play. In 2019, the league shortened inning breaks, capped the number of mound visits per game at six, and experimented with a pitch clock during spring training.
Over the past few years, the league has also taken another subtle yet substantial step: remodeling the baseball itself.
The new ball is characterized by a less dense and better-centered core, smoother leather, and significantly lower seams. As a result, the ball has less drag and a smoother flight pattern when hit, causing the ball to travel further. And travel further the ball has.
On Sept. 11, the MLB surpassed the previous record of 6,105 total homeruns hit in a season, with nearly three weeks still left to play.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has denied that the league is intentionally juicing baseballs, yet he has made comments recently that suggest the league would be looking at the specifications of the ball. This is seen as a likely attempt to increase drag and decrease flight distance.
It is justified for the commissioner to want to take a look at the ball specifications, but instead of making the baseball less aerodynamic, he should aim to make it even more aerodynamic. Baseball desperately needs the long ball to add some much-needed excitement to the sport. Indeed, there is a reason All-Star Weekend features the Home Run Derby as its main attraction.
No fan goes to the stadium hoping their favorite player will lay down a spectacular bunt. It is the homerun ball baseball fans want, and it is the homerun ball the league needs in order to survive.
To stave off the plague of falling ratings and shrinking crowds, Manfred and the MLB must emphasize home runs as much as they can, as it may very well be baseball’s best chance to regain popularity.
No, It Takes Away From the Roots of the Game
By Scott Jarosz ’21
As of Sept. 24, there have been 6,550 home runs hit this season in Major League Baseball. This figure comes with one week remaining in the regular season, as the last games are to be played on Sept. 29. This number has become a significant talking point throughout the baseball community, as home run production this season is the highest it has ever been by a staggering amount.
As a point of comparison, in the 2018 season, there were a total of 5,585 home runs hit. Going back further, in the 2015 MLB season, there were 4,909 total home runs hit. This increase in home run production in Major League Baseball raises the question: are more home runs good for baseball?
The rapid increase in the overall home run production throughout MLB history can be interpreted in several different ways. For one, some have argued that the increase in home runs is a result of the usage of new and improved technology by MLB teams. When watching any given MLB game from the 2019 season, batters can frequently be seen before or after at bats watching footage on tablets in order to prepare for upcoming at bats or review past at bats.
However, this theory fails to completely explain the shocking increase of 890 runs since the 2018 season.
A more common explanation of the significantly higher home run total this season is the possibility that the league is “juicing” the baseballs used in its games. Although this speculation has been going around for quite some time, it gained attention in July when Houston Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander gave his view on the issue, questioning MLB’s recent purchase of baseball-manufacturer Rawlings and accusing the commissioner of using juiced baseballs.
If the increase in home runs can truly be attributed to juiced balls as many players and fans believe, it is bad for the sport. Not only is it unfair to pitchers who are judged on their in-game performance, but it also takes the game away from its roots. If the MLB purchased Rawlings so it could alter the composition of baseballs, it would be problematic on many levels.
One of the most common explanations for the league wanting to juice baseballs is to increase the fan base, as home runs are considered among the most exciting plays in baseball. If this is true, the MLB is failing to understand that a significant portion of its fans watch the game because of its tradition and would oftentimes prefer to see a pitching duel that results in a 2-1 final score as opposed to a 12-10 slugfest.
Overall, it seems that the increase in home runs in the MLB is not beneficial for the sport, as it takes away from baseball’s roots and also can lead to longer games, which is an issue that the MLB has recently made a substantial effort to try to resolve.