It was one thing for Justin Minaya to hear the sales pitches from coach Ed Cooley and his staff about why Minaya would represent a good fit for the Providence Friars. It’s a different ball of wax when seeking out opinions from players who can speak firsthand about life in Cooley’s system.
For a few summers, Minaya trained with former PC hoopster Alpha Diallo while the former was attending high school in New Jersey. Diallo is a New York City native. In applying context related to Minaya, Diallo is a Friar of recent vintage (2016-20).
“We have a pretty good relationship. He’s kind of a big brother to me,” said Minaya. “If I had a question, I would hit him up. Getting his insight … a player can relate to you and understand how it is.”
Monday night, Minaya posted on his personal Instagram page that he would be joining the Friars started with the 2021-22 season. Among those to like the post was Diallo.
Score one for the former Friar, who may have a future in alumni relations once Diallo’s pro career overseas is over.
A 6-foot-6 guard who spent the past four seasons at the University of South Carolina, Minaya technically has two seasons to suit up for Providence. He heard from Cooley a week after entering the NCAA’s transfer portal as a graduate transfer on April 6. At the same exact time, Minaya also chose to enter the NBA Draft.
“Coach Cooley definitely stood out,” said Minaya when reached Tuesday. “I definitely wanted to keep my options open whether it’s playing pro or going back to college as a grad transfer. Doing the grad transfer year would probably be the best option for me.”
In doing his homework on the Friars, Minaya kept coming back to the opportunity to play with multiple seasoned veterans. With Nate Watson, A.J. Reeves, Noah Horchler, and fellow offseason addition Al Durham in the fold, next year’s PC squad will be the furthest thing from a pack of greenhorns.
“There’s a lot of talent. A.J. can shoot the ball and Nate is dominant in the paint. I really liked the pieces and think we can be a successful team,” said Minaya. “I thought it was a really good fit for me. It’s an older, mature team … guys who have been in a college for a while.
“I’ve never played [in the NCAA Tournament] and that’s one of my goals,” Minaya added. “Judging from a personnel standpoint, I think we have a pretty good chance of making it.”
The chance to play with a pass-first point guard in Friar junior-to-be Jared Bynum was another enticing proposition.
“I can tell from the film that [Bynum] has a very high IQ,” said Minaya. “He’s a good player as well.”
Minaya started 75 out of a possible 79 games during his Gamecock career. He’s used to logging heavy minutes – 28.4 per contest.
“I’ve played in a lot of big games, but being from New Jersey, I always wanted to play in the Big East,” he said. “It’s nice to be closer to home and have the chance to play [inside Madison Square Garden] and play in front of my family and friends. That was a key thing when I entered the transfer portal.”
Minaya has a good amount of baseball blood inside him. He’s the son of former Montreal Expos and New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya.
“He made it to a few games, but it’s going to be nice to have my mom [Rachael] around to attend the games,” said Minaya.
His offensive numbers may not jump off the page – Minaya averaged 7.6 ppg on 29 percent shooting from three-point territory during his four years at the SEC school – but there were a few on-court setbacks along the way. Most notably, Minaya was limited to just five games during the 2018-19 season due to a knee injury.
“There were a few injuries, but I also wasn’t playing at where I thought I was capable of,” said Minaya. “It helps to have a new start where I hopefully have a better season.”
Officially, Minaya made up his mind regarging the Friars on Sunday. He’s scheduled to receive a degree in psychology from South Carolina this spring.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03