PROVIDENCE — There are games against more noteworthy opponents on the horizon, yet it’s probably a safe bet to assume that Providence College basketball fans have been eyeing Tuesday’s game against Colgate for quite some time.
The night will feature the long-anticipated debuts of two Friars. In freshman Kris Dunn, PC is hitching its wagon to a point guard, a critical position that suffered a major hit when Vincent Council went down in a heap in the season opener. In sophomore Sidiki Johnson, the Friars are receiving a rugged 6-foot-10 sort who’s expected shore up the low post.
In-season reinforcements of this magnitude don’t come along too often, particularly at the collegiate level. Yet following the first-semester portion of the schedule, one that as Cooley saw his crew “limp to the finish line,” there’s a Christmas morning-esque vibe surrounding these Friars.
The gifts have been placed under the tree, waiting for the right moment to be unwrapped. Fortunately for Cooley and the Friars, they won’t have to wait until Dec. 25 to see what exists beneath the paper exterior.
“They’re both making a lot of mistakes right now, but their athleticism and size is going to give us a totally different look than we’ve seen to date,” said Cooley when broached about fresh faces Dunn and Johnson. “Our team is taking on a personnel change. It’s all moving pieces, so you’ve got to be patient and let it develop as it does.”
Nearly 6 1/2 months after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, Dunn will take the floor with hardly any limitations and the same as far as health concerns go. The New London, Conn. product has been working up a lather for several weeks now, practicing on a regular basis with no reoccurring signs of an injury that was first sustained as Dunn closed out his career at New London High School.
Prior to lacing up the sneakers, there was therapy. For Dunn, his specific exercise was to catch a medicine ball. Originally, the first-year Friar said that the original target date for him to return was Jan. 2 at Louisville. Thanks to adhering to the training staff’s wishes, Dunn was able to progress to the point that suiting up at the dawn of the second semester become more of a possibility.
“We’ve been working on it,” said Dunn when asked about how his shooting stroke is progressing following the long layoff. “I haven’t been getting a lot of shots up in practice as far as game situations go, but in drills, things have been going well.”
What figures to allow Dunn to make a seamless transition is that he’s the only pure floor general Cooley has at his disposal at this moment in time. Staying on topic, PC’s second-year head coach noted that Council (hamstring) could be back in the fold at some point over the next couple of weeks.
“Kris hasn’t played in college yet, so I’m going to have to live with a lot of his mistakes he had in high school in order for him to learn what he has to do,” Cooley noted. “His natural talent; he’s a God-gifted athlete and that’s what I’m going to coach – his strengths versus his weaknesses.”
In essence, Johnson is in the same boat as Dunn as far as college-playing experience goes. The forward logged a grand total of nine minutes in four games with Arizona in 2011 before transferring, a paltry sum that suggests that there’s some rust in need of knocking off. The opportunity to do just that figures to come right away as Cooley plans to play Johnson and fellow big man Kadeem Batts simultaneously, the hope being that the two of them can shore up the rebounding deficiencies that Cooley saw sprout from time-to-time during the season’s first nine contests.
“Sidiki is really imposing around the basket. Hopefully we become a better rebounding team, especially in our zone when we’re not buffaloed on the backside,” said Cooley. “Sidiki and Kadeem are two big behemoths that we’re going to need.”
While change is in the air at Providence, it also should be noted that the roles of several other players are about to change. Don’t expect to see freshman Josh Fortune come close to logging the 39.1 minutes he averaged during PC’s 7-2 start. Reality it appears has also set in for walk-on Ted Bancroft, who during Sunday’s practice was grouped with transfers Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris along with Ricky Ledo. Brice Kofane and Lee Goldsbrough could also be subjected to less court time.
“Now I don’t have to play somebody for 40 minutes,” said Cooley, referencing the seven-player rotation that he was forced to deal with during the pilot-light portion of 2012-13. “Some guys have been fortunate to play extended minutes, but it’s only a matter of time before you lose their focus and energy. Physically we were tired heading into exams, but hopefully we don’t get to that point in the second half and have a good run.”