Don't be surprised if the Providence offense is directed by sophomore Josh Fortune (4) at different points. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
PROVIDENCE â Now that the sobering news regarding Kris Dunnâs unavailability for the seasonâs duration has sunk in, the question becomes just how exactly Providence College plans to cope for the long haul.
If thereâs a way to somehow cushion the loss of the only tried-and-true point guard at Ed Cooleyâs disposal, itâs that the Friars have been down this road before. Spread over four games, Dunn logged 106 painful minutes. PC registered 405 minutes in the 10 games leading up to the exam break, the bulk of those minutes featuring Bryce Cotton as the on-floor maestro.
The sight of Cotton dribbling up the court and waving the conductorâs wand will once again be on full display Tuesday night when the Friars resume their season. All that stands between Providence and the dawn of the Big East slate is a trio of nonconference games with Yale first up; that will precede matchups with Maine on Saturday and nationally-ranked UMass on Dec. 28.
Itâs not a stretch to say that the two weeks leading up to the Dec. 31 league opener against Seton Hall is an important period for PC. Cooley isnât ready to cast a line toward the Pirates or any other Big East foe just yet, which is totally understandable. The head coach knows that duplicating what his shorthanded squad accomplished prior to its 12-day break will require some tinkering and rearranging.
With the exam period at PC concluding Tuesday, Cooley will be free to practice as long as heâd like.
The primary focus of this respite from the world of academia should be to unearth one or two possible ball-handling options so that not everything is heaped on Cottonâs slight shoulders. What happens in the event Cotton is saddled with foul trouble? Who could Cooley turn to in a pinch?
While the prospect of a foul-plagued Cotton may cause squeamish feelings on the part of Friar fans, the bottom line is that without Dunn, Providence is left with little choice but to work within the given parameters. If that means seeing Josh Fortune bringing the ball up from time-to-time, or having LaDontae Henton or Tyler Harris stationed at midcourt just in case teams apply backcourt pressure, so be it.
âThis is the team weâve got. Weâre dealing with the present and dealing with the reality that, âHey, this is the team weâve got to coach,ââ said Cooley. âStrategically, we want to make sure we coach our guys and put them in a position that if we do feel some pressure, we can relieve it with our personnel. Weâll get guys off the ball and itâll be by committee.â
Added Henton, âIâm one of the top ballhandlers since a lot of guys went out. Thatâs a role that coach has put on me, and Iâm willing to take part in it.â
âI feel that players naturally will be able to grow up and mature into new roles because thatâs what is expected of them,â said Cotton about the prospect of having additional ballhandling support.
Given that Cotton and Fortune are the only listed guards, Cooley says that he isnât surprised that PCâs opponents have by and large resisted the urge to press. A quick check reveals that the Friars are eighth in the 10-team Big East in assists per game (12.8) and fourth in turnovers (11.9).
âWe feel if teams press us, theyâre going to get hurt,â Cooley explained. âWe have guys who have unbelievable offensive ability.â
Said Henton: âWe know our strengths and weaknesses. Guys are prepared just in case in the next game they come out and trap us. Weâll be ready.â
Cooley mentioned that the decision to place Dunn on the season-ending injured list was made around Thanksgiving. The promising sophomore wound up suffering a right-shoulder relapse during the early stages of the championship game of the Paradise Jam against Maryland. Surgery, not rest, was deemed the only remedy.
âThe players have realized it for a long time,â said Cooley in response to officially taking the guesswork out of Dunnâs status.
Echoed Cotton: âWe knew Kris was going through a lot of pain. Obviously we were hoping for the best, and that he would be able to pull through, but once we found out the news, we were like, âHow do we roll from here?â This is the team we have and weâre going to be fine.â
âWeâre not worried about whoâs coming in for the next game or whoâs not playing,â stated Henton. âThis is our unit and weâve got to work hard.â
âStatus quoâ remains the term PC officials are using when it comes to suspended freshmen Rodney Bullock and Brandon Austin. The two first-year Friars continue to practice as they await word on whether theyâll be allowed to suit up this season.
âHopefully soon. Weâre going through the process with them right now,â said Cooley about when he can expect a final resolution. âI think our players have handled it well. I think kids are resilient and Iâm looking forward to trying to get them back on the floor.â
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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