Sept. 22, 1997
Young Friars Ready To Test BIG EAST Waters....
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - So what does Pete Gillen do for an encore? Last year, the Friars headed into the 1996-97 season full of expectations and turned in an impressive 24-12 overall record. Blessed with a veteran team and a strong nucleus, the Friars survived a late season stumble to finish second in the BIG EAST 7 (10-8). With an NCAA bid on the line, the Black and White won a pair of BIG EAST Tournament games to get the chance to go dancing for the first time since 1994.
In the NCAA Tournament, the Friars became one of the Cinderella stories as they defeated Marquette in the opener for the school's first NCAA win since 1987. A major league upset of nationally-ranked Duke sent the Friars to the Sweet 16 where they defeated Tennessee-Chattanooga before falling in the Southeast Regional final to eventual champion, Arizona.
Whatever the Friars do this season, Pete Gillen is the right man for the coaching job. The consumate teacher, the Friars' veteran bench boss will have a team that features nine players who didn't play one minute last year for Providence.
He will have the unenviable task of replacing five key players from the Elite Eight team including four graduated seniors. The Friars lose 75.9% of their scoring from a year ago and 68.1% of their rebounding.
Gone to graduation are AUSTIN CROSHERE (17.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg) who led the Friars in scoring and developed himself into an NBA Lottery Selection of the Indiana Pacers.
Joining Croshere on the graduation list is PC's real unsung hero, DERRICK BROWN (17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg). Brown and Croshere were the team's Co-Most Valuable Players. "Flight" played just two seasons at Providence and scored over 1,000 points.
PC's rebounding machine, RUBEN GARCES (9.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and the team's sixth man, JASON MURDOCK (3.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) also graduated in May.
Rounding out the five departing players is sophomore point man, GOD SHAMMGOD (10.8 ppg, 6.4 asts.). "Shamm" opted for the NBA Draft and was selected by the Washington Wizards in the second round. The ball handling wizard ran the PC attack and made things happen. He set PC assist records as a freshman and sophomore and in two years was eighth on the school's all-time assist list. Despite the losses, Gillen and his staff look forward to the coming year.
Here's a look at the season ahead for the Friars:
The Friars' offense will be in the capable hands of returnee COREY WRIGHT (Jr., New York, NY). Wright served as the back up to good friend God Shammgod last season and saw plenty of playing time in the Friars' seven-man rotation. The 5-8, 160-pound Wright will be more of a true point guard. He looks to pass and move the ball to the open man. A skilled ball handler, Wright was second in assists with 103 (2.9 per game) a year ago. He also averaged 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds. Defensively, Wright usually sparked the Friars because of his quick hands and speed. A tenacious defender, Wright averaged just over two steals per game in his first season with the Friars.
Also set to see action at the point guard spot is transfer KENDRICK MOORE (Jr., Hartford, Conn.). The Connecticut native played the point at Missouri for two seasons and was very successful before deciding to return to the East Coast. MOORE will also see duty as PC's top shooting guard. An outstanding student of the game, the 6-3, 180-pound guard gives the Friars a coach on the floor. He will be counted on to give PC strong outside scoring early in the year until the younger players can get acclimated to the BIG EAST style of play.
If you like the way Corey Wright plays the game, then you'll love the way JOHN LINEHAN (Fr., Chester, Pa.) plays. The 5-9, 160-pound point guard comes to Providence after leading Winchendon School to the New England Prep School Championship. He scored 19 points with eight assists and five steals in the championship game to take tournament Most Valuable Player honors. He averaged 11 points and eight assists per game in his senior year. He will see plenty of playing time because of his ability to see the floor and find the open man. Linehan is blessed with great quickness and plays tough, hard-nosed defense. When paired with Wright there may be no quicker guard tandem in the BIG EAST.
The shooting guard spot will have the biggest logjam of players looking for playing time this season. KENDRICK MOORE (Jr., Hartford, Conn.) is the heir apparent going into the season with Jamel Thomas moving to the three-spot in PC's lineup. Moore will be a steadying force on the Friars' attack and will return to a spot that he hasn't played since high school. At Missouri, Moore averaged 6.5 and 4.7 points per game in his first two years before transferring to Providence. A career .435 shooter, Moore will look to improve on those numbers as PC's top gun.
JAMEL THOMAS (Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y.) averaged 14.0 points and 5.1 rebounds from this spot last year and could see time here again depending on game situations and who is on the floor. He will be counted on to add to the offense in his new role as PC's small forward.
A pair of freshmen will look to make their marks backing up Kendrick Moore. JAMAL CAMAH (Fr., Salem, Mass.) and ERRON MAXEY (Fr., Elsinore, Cal.) are a pair of tremendous athletes who will look right at home in the Friars' up-tempo style of play.
CAMAH checks in at 6-4, 195-pounds and can play either the guard or forward spot. Blessed with great leaping ability and tremendous speed, CAMAH is an outstanding defensive player who could be called on to stop the opposition's big scorers. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.4 rebounds during the 1995-96 season and will look to get back on the floor after missing last year.
MAXEY is 6-6 and 190 pounds and can also play the forward spot. A First Team All-State selection in California, MAXEY averaged 28.7 points and 14.1 rebounds on his way to being the Riverside County Player of the Year. A tremendous all-around athlete, Maxey's skills fit right in with PC's up-tempo, full-court style of play. He has great speed and skill on the floor and is a player who makes things happen. In the early part of the season, he will give PC great depth off the bench and will be counted on to contribute to the Providence attack.
A fifth player who could see action at the shooting guard spot is JUSTIN FARLEY (Jr., Indianapolis, Ind.). Farley is a 6-5, 205-pound transfer from the University of Evansville. He will be eligible to play at the start of the second semester in late December. At Evansville, Farley started the second half of his freshman year and averaged 11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds. As a sophomore he averaged 6.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in seven games before deciding to transfer to PC last December.
Farley is primarily an outside shooter who can drive to the hoop. He has excellent knowledge of the game and should supply offense off the bench.
Just like the shooting guard spot, there is also a logjam of talent at the small forward slot. JAMEL THOMAS (Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y.) looks like he'll succeed Derrick Brown at this spot to start the season. A multi-talented player, the 6-6, 215-pound THOMAS will be PC's go-to-guy early in the season. He can shoot from the outside, take the ball to the hoop, pass with the best of them and rebound. He will be in the running for BIG EAST post season honors and will have a chance to showcase his skills this year. He has scored 774 points in his first two seasons and averaged 14.0 points per game last year. THOMAS will be a key figure in the success of the 1997-98 Friars.
LLEWELLYN COLE (So., New York, N.Y.) returns to the lineup after redshirting last season. He has added weight to his frame and has improved his all around game. A tremendous leaper, COLE will also see action at the power forward spot where he will be counted on defensively and on the boards. At 6-7, 215 pounds, COLE's talents are starting to develop. One of PC's most athletic players, "Sweet Lou" will see plenty of playing time this season.
ERRON MAXEY and BEN PERKINS (Fr., Vinton, La.) will also see duty at small forward. MAXEY is a gifted scorer who can shoot from the outside and also take it to the hoop. His flexibility gives Pete Gillen several options depending on the situation during a game.
PERKINS checks in at 6-7, 200-pounds and brings a wide variety of skills to Providence College. A hard working, talented player, PERKINS has an excellent scoring touch and strong basketball skills. He averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game as he helped Vinton High School to a 28-8 record and a trip to the third round of the state playoffs. He could be the freshman with the biggest impact for this season because of his all-around game. Like the other freshmen, he needs to add weight and get game experience. The Friars' coaching staff expects big things from PERKINS this season and with so many young faces this year, he'll get a chance to do it.
JUSTIN FARLEY should also see playing time at this spot depending on where the team is when he is eligible to return to the lineup.
This was the Friars' strongest position last season. With Austin Croshere playing close to 35 minutes a game, there wasn't any playing time for the others. That will change this year. Gillen and his staff will be looking for points and rebounds from this spot and the race should be wide open.
LLEWELLYN COLE and KOFI POINTER (So., Baltimore, Md.) each has a year's playing experience and COLE has been with the team for two seasons. He most likely will start the season at this spot. As a freshman, he average just 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds per game in limited playing time. COLE worked hard during his redshirt year to add weight and develop his game. He had a strong summer and looks more confident in his play. With his tremendous work ethic he continues to get better every day. He could be the "sleeper" who comes through with a big season for the Friars.
KOFI POINTER saw limited playing time last year appearing in just 14 games but has worked hard in the off-season to improve his game. A solid summer in the Boston Pro Am summer league should help him get more playing time. At 6-8, 220 pounds, he should be able to help PC on the boards and add some points in the scoring column.
BEN PERKINS will likely see playing time at the power forward spot to take advantage of his all-around playing skills. This talented athlete is versatile enough that he can play both forward spots and fill a key role with the team.
WALEED DRISCOLL (Jr., Philadelphia, Pa.) comes to Providence after two strong seasons at Lackawanna Junior College where he helped that school to high national rankings during his freshman and sophomore years. At 6-8, 245 pounds, DRISCOLL was brought to Providence for his rebounding skills. His appearance in a Providence jersey will be put on hold as he tore the ACL in his right knee during the summer and underwent surgery. He will likely miss the entire season but will still have two years of eligibility left. Last year he averaged 12.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots per game. He shot a sizzling 68.6% from the floor as he helped Lackawanna to a 22-6 record and a number four national ranking.
The center spot will be a source of concern for Pete Gillen and his coaching staff as two young players will see most of the playing time.
NDONGO N'DIAYE (So., Dakar, Senegal) saw playing time as a freshman averaging 0.7 points and 1.0 rebound while playing six minutes per game. At 7-1, 225 pounds, N'DIAYE (pronounced Dongo En-jeye) continues to add weight to his frame while working hard to improve his game. "Junior" likes to play a physical game and is always a threat to block shots. He must cut down on his fouls or he could be in foul trouble most of the season. His rebounding will be a key for the Friars this season.
T.J. McKENZIE (Fr., Trumbull, Conn.) will see plenty of playing time at center as he brings strong credentials to the Friars' lineup. A First Team All-Stater at St. Joseph's High School, McKenzie averaged 23.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game in helping St. Joseph's advance to the Connecticut State semi-finals. McKENZIE has all the tools to be an outstanding collegiate post player. He runs the floor well, passes and can shoot both inside and out. McKENZIE and N'DIAYE both need playing time and game experience. Both continue to add weight for the physical wars that occur under the basket in the BIG EAST. The two big men are loaded with potential. It will just take time and patience before they can become forces for the Friars.
The 1997-98 Friars will be a new look team for Providence College basketball fans. Six newcomers (five freshmen and one junior) join the roster along with three players (two transfers and one redshirt ) who didn't play at all last season.
Gone are four starters from the Elite Eight team which came 3.9 seconds from the Final Four last March.
This year's Friars will be young and eager to prove that they can play at the same level as last year's team. Gillen's Gang will be very athletic and deep - something PC teams haven't been in the coach's first three seasons.
Providence College will again play the exciting up-tempo, full-court pressing style that should keep them in every game. The returning players will be counted on heavily since there will be just one senior on this team (walk-on Mark Adams).
Youth will be the biggest question mark on this team. How fast the younger players adapt to the BIG EAST and the Gillen-style of play will hold the key to the season's successes.
This Friars' team will count on Jamel Thomas to provide much of the offense especially early in the season. Look for Thomas to blossom into one of the premier players in the BIG EAST. The multi-talented forward can do it all on the court and this will be his year to step forward and be a team leader.
Corey Wright and Kendrick Moore give Providence two solid junior guards to run the Friars' offense. Wright will take over as the playmaker with Moore as the shooting guard. Freshmen Jamal Camah, Erron Maxey and John Linehan will all see playing time at guard. Camah and Maxey will be looked to for defense and scoring. Linehan is a lightning-quick point guard who will see playing time with Wright.
Up front, the Friars will be looking for scoring and rebounding to replace Derrick Brown, Ruben Garces and Austin Croshere. Most of the talent is unproven except for Thomas so everyone will have a chance to show what they can do.
Early on, look for Llewellyn Cole and Ndongo N'Diaye to join Thomas. Both have limited game experience, but this is Cole's third year at PC and N'Diaye's second and they know the system. Both have improved over the past summer. Kofi Pointer also had a strong summer and will see playing time up front. T.J. McKenzie and Ben Perkins figure to be two of the younger players who will be counted on for scoring and rebounding early in the year.
PC has plenty of talent. It will be up to the coaching staff to find the right combinations for the various game situations they will face from opponent to opponent.
Where the Friars will finish in 1997-98 is anyone's guess. How fast the younger players adapt to their roles will be the key. One thing is for sure, the Friars will be fun and exciting to watch.
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