How important is family to Ed Cooley? It’s part of the core mantra he developed for the Providence College men’s basketball team: “Us, We, Together, Family, Friars.”
It was the aspect of family that Cooley touched upon when talking to Janai Crooms, the Cranston native who was seeking her third stop on the women’s college basketball circuit. When Cooley spoke with Crooms, he was conversing with a family member – an actual blood relative.
Last week, Crooms committed to join the PC women’s basketball program. As part of the press release, it stated that she and Cooley are cousins. Turns out that Cooley and Crooms’ mother Lisa are first cousins.
“When Janai said she was coming to Providence, I thought of my [late] grandmother immediately,” said Cooley. “I know it’s a proud moment as she’s smiling upon us.”
To clarify, Cooley’s grandmother would be Crooms’ great grandmother.
Cooley follows the PC women’s games closely already. Now, he has even more of an incentive to closely monitor a program that features a relative on the roster.
“Honestly, I would keep tabs on her through our staff. How’s Janai’s doing? They would keep me informed,” said Cooley. “When they said she was in the [NCAA transfer] portal again, I asked what the chances were that we could get her.”
A guard who’s listed at 5-foot-10, Crooms sought a change after playing two seasons at Ohio State (2018-20) and one season at Michigan State (2020-21). She admitted the chance to take the court with family members in the stands – something that happened all the time during her high school days at St. Andrew’s – motivated her to think long and hard about joining the Friars with two years of eligibility in her back pocket.
“Going to St. Andrew’s for four years and having that foundation of a support system, it was amazing,” said Crooms. “Coming back home and doing it in a bigger environment and on a bigger stage, it’s something I can’t put into words. I’m really excited.”
From the sound of it, Cooley struck a chord when he brought up the concept of family to Crooms.
“Being able to be in front of your family, you don’t understand that feeling until you live it in that moment. That made me change my perspective after [Cooley] said that to me,” said Crooms. ““With the family that we have, it motivated me to come back home and finish it out in front of them as well as my friends. It’s fun knowing your family is out there in the stands watching you.”
“I told her that it’s something that I live every day. I see the excitement in my family members and the camaraderie that it brings to our community. I consider our community our family as well as our blood family,” said Cooley, a Providence native.
There were other aspects that Cooley stressed during the period when Crooms was contemplating her next move.
“I had a couple of conversations with her not so much about playing at Providence College, but the impact Providence College could have on her life,” said Cooley. “People are going to be excited to see Janai. She’s going to be a role model for other young ladies in our city and state, showing that it’s okay to come to Providence College if you play that level of basketball. In the end, she’ll reap the rewards.”
One reward that Cooley can’t wait to reap stems from the opportunity to interact with Crooms on a daily basis.
“I’m looking forward to being there for her … spending time, having lunch, shooting,” said Cooley. “Just being an advocate for her at Providence College.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03