PROVIDENCE – Marshon Brooks isn’t sweating the details concerning his job description for Providence College this coming season. In fact, Brooks is on record as saying he’s been looking forward to the day he drops one knee to the ground Atlas-style, an act signifying that the brunt of the workload can be harnessed upon his lithe 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame.
“I just want to produce and have as good a year as possible,” Brooks said.
Should Friar fans wish to read beyond the tea leaves, Brooks’ response is a good place to start. PC will need Brooks, a senior in more ways than one, to be on point as a consistent inside-outside scorer who can carry a Friar team that feels it can fare much better than most experts predict. Seven members of this PC team have never played college ball before. That’s one of the main reasons why the Friars figure to be picked in the lower fourth of the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, slated for a Wednesday release.
Besides serving as the Friars’ go-to option on offense, Brooks will serve as a leader on and off the court (along with fellow senior Ray Hall and sophomores Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon). For someone who came of age under the tutelage of former Friars Geoff McDermott, Jonathan Kale, Weyinmi Efejuku and Jeff Xavier, Brooks is aware of what being a leader entails. Now the time has arrived for him to point out to newcomers like Gerard Coleman and Bryce Cotton the correct way to execute in practice and games.
On a whole the new Friars have been receptive to their elder statesman, Brooks says. “The good thing about a young team is that they don’t have a problem listening. The egos aren’t there and you can talk to anybody. Different players need different leadership. Some get mad and there’s some you need to scream at in order to get them going. Right now I’m trying to learn all of their personalities, but I’m going to be there for them because it’s going to get tough.
“I think we’ll be a lot better than people think, I really do,” Brooks added. “The young guys, they know nothing except to play very hard, which we’ll have to do at all times.”
Asked if any of the fresh faces have stood out, Brooks didn’t blink. He quickly named Coleman, hailed as a pure scorer coming out of New Hampshire’s Tilton Academy. The 6-foot-4 Coleman tips the scales at 180 pounds, 10 less than what Brooks weighed upon entering PC in 2007.
“One of my favorites is Gerard because he reminds me of myself. He’s more of a slasher who’s very quick and can get to the rack,” was the scouting report Brooks offered. “His body frame is skinny, just like I was when I arrived.”
Over Brooks’ prior three seasons, the only thing more prevalent than his nice assortment of offensive skills has been his maddening inconsistency. The Georgia native has proven he’s more than capable of big nights while other times disappearing all together. After doing his best Paul Pierce imitation in scoring 22 points in a road loss to Alabama last season, foul trouble plagued him in a season-tying low four points at Rhode Island. Strong efforts like 21 points against Louisville and 23 points against Syracuse would appear, but so too would games of four and five points in two games against Marquette and five points against Villanova.
Other facets of Brooks’ game also suffered. He finished the season with 44 assists, the same number he posted with roughly 100 fewer minutes played as a sophomore. As a plus he shot a better percentage from 3-point range, hitting at a 35 percent clip after connecting on 31 percent of his trey attempts his second year.
Knowing that this is his last hurrah, Brooks set out this summer to get in the best possible shape. He spent some time under the care of a personal trainer in New Jersey, running the beaches while adding 6 or 7 pounds of muscle, a move designed so that he can post up more this winter.
“Not only did I get better physically, but I got better mentally as well,” said Brooks, who also honed his skills in a pro-am league in Atlanta, the competition ranging from area college players to members of the NBA’s Hawks. “Right now my confidence is through the roof.”
That’s certainly good news to hear for someone who figures to have the ball placed in his hands at crunch time. Just call it another part of Brooks’ all-encompassing role for the Friars.
“It’s nice to know that the coaches have confidence in you,” Brooks said.
Said Davis, “If he can be one of the premier defensive players in the league, then he’ll make a lot of money in the game. That’s exciting to know that you’re a year away from being a pro. This is Marshon’s last opportunity and he’s going to make the most of it.”
If the Friars have any designs on evacuating the conference’s basement, better defense will be the road they need to travel. Providence has been a woeful defensive unit for the last several years, but the boiling point was reached last season when Davis’ club got torched for 82.2 points a game. Knowing the facts, Davis has made it a point to stress defense, hoping the days of opposing teams scoring at will – Providence surrendered 90 or more points on 10 occasions last year – is over.
It may only be preseason drills, but Davis likes the progress he’s seen to date. During last Friday’s practice session, Davis and his coaches put the players through a lengthy 3-on-3 workout where the focus is getting stops by any means necessary. Players were shuffled in and out, a sign that the defense was reacting accordingly to the instructions.
“I don’t think we have any weak links defensively,” said Davis, without a hint of exaggeration. “I know what we where like those last couple of years during that drill work.”
Davis is hopeful he can find a happy medium between the Friars playing man-to-man defense and zone.
“You are only going to be as a good as you are in a man-to-man, drop back defense,” Davis said. “I know we’ll utilize both (defenses) throughout the year, but even in zone you have to have man principles almost to the point that it doesn’t look like a zone. You’re trying to guard the ball and have better weakside help. For us though, to be a great defensive team, we’ve got to be a great man-to-man team. We’re not there yet, but we’re much improved.”
Davis was broached about what the realistic expectations are for Hall, the fifth-year senior. Is it anywhere in the range of 10-15 minutes for someone who has fought back from a painful leg injury and subsequent surgery that all but declared his college career over? Such a determination is forthcoming, but was encouraging to see Hall bound up and down the floor at Alumni Hall Friday, a sign that suggests more can be expected than the 11 games and 71 total minutes he logged last season.