PROVIDENCE — In a perfect world, Ed Cooley would have the luxury of bringing along Josh Fortune at a pace suitable for a freshman.
Instead of dipping his toe in the water and feeling his way around, Fortune has been tossed head first into the deep end of the pool. There would be no easing the 6-foot-5 guard into his new world, no spoon-feeding on a Providence College team where contributions these days are mandated, not expected.
Through six games for PC, Fortune has managed to hold his own under atypical circumstances. The 38.7 minutes of floor time he’s averaging ranks second among Big East participants, trailing only teammate Bryce Cotton (39.6). Right behind Fortune is fellow Friar LaDontae Henton at 38.5 mpg. Another heavy workload figures to await all three when Providence welcomes Holy Cross to The Dunk Tuesday night.
“I love him to death, but it’s too much for him right now,” expressed Cooley about Fortune joining the fray sooner rather than later. “Sometimes kids say that they can’t wait to play and want to play every minute, but be careful what you ask for. Accountability is a must.”
The fact that Fortune hardly ever comes out of the game – the Hampton, Va. native logged a season-low 32 minutes against NJIT and has played 39 or more minutes on four occasions – has allowed him to emerge from the cocoon at a time when Cooley would like nothing better than to pull back the reins. Conversely, Providence’s second-year head coach is fully aware that every healthy and available body is fair game – even if one of those bodies is a precocious first-year player undergoing a baptism by fire.
“It’s definitely been a lot to handle, but my teammates have been helping me out with everything,” Fortune pointed out. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so other than this being a different level, it’s still the same sport.”
Fortune ranks fourth on the Friars in scoring (9.5 ppg) while second in assists (17) and turnovers (22). The latter figure is one that perplexed Cooley to the point that after PC’s season opener, he noted that Fortune spent some of the game helping out the opposition before coming over to the correct side of the fence. Call it a case of freshman growing pains.
Taking an even deeper look at Fortune’s development, he’s made 43 percent of his field goals while connecting at a 32-percent clip on 3-pointers. According to hoop-math.com, Fortune’s true shooting percentage is 0.497 percent. The figure takes into account “the different values of two- and three-point shots, as well as including the value added by made free throws” and that “generally, a number of about 0.55 or greater is pretty good.”
For comparison’s sake, fellow PC workaholic Henton’s total shooting percentage is 0.488 while Cotton stands at 0.605.
“I just have to roll with the punches and play,” said a confident Fortune.
While Cotton has handled the bulk of the distributing duties in Vincent Council’s absence, there have been times when Fortune has been called upon to run the point in order to let Cotton take over as a scorer. His single-game high in assists is six, achieved Nov. 12 against Bryant.
“I have to keep working on my ball handling in order to get Cotton off the ball and give him a little break,” Fortune acknowledged. “I’m not considered just a scorer, so whatever coach wants me to do, I’m game.”
Fortune’s arrival on PC’s campus did not match the acclaim that was saved for more celebrated classmates Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo. A month into his college career, the perceived third wheel has been the one thrust into the spotlight, a development that should bode well for the novice Fortune not just this season, but beyond.
RIM RATTLERS: Perhaps the most interesting stat in PC’s season to date is that through six games, the short-handed Friars have yet to see a player foul out. … Cotton presently leads the Big East in scoring (23.8) and eighth in the country. … PC has won seven of the last 10 matchups against Holy Cross.