On Sunday night, Ed Cooley was taking swings as part of the Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Classic softball game. Come Tuesday morning, he and the rest of the Providence College menâs basketball team are boarded a plane for Italy. PHOTO BY JILLIAN SOUZA
PROVIDENCE â For a different and perhaps refreshing change of pace, Ed Cooley wonât have to worry about juggling timeouts, what instructions to bark out or rack his brain in hopes of recalling the vivid details of the oppositionâs scouting report.
As Cooley and his Providence College Friars embark on a 10-day, three-game exhibition swing through Europeâs sunny peninsula, the head coach does so with somewhat of a lightened load. During PCâs three exhibition contests against Italian competition, Cooley will let his assistant coaches run the show while he sits and observes.
âThey can go through the headaches I go through, but Iâll be really proud to watch them do what they have to do,â Cooley smiled. âThis will give me a chance to evaluate, which should be great.â
A summertime tour/business trip that has been in the planning stages for the last year or so has finally arrived. The Friars depart for Italy on Tuesday morning with games on the docket for this Thursday in Milan and next Monday and Tuesday in Rome. The sojourn will mark the third time the basketball program has visited Italy since 2000. The squad also went to the European country in 2002 and 2007.
âWeâre just trying to give our guys an identity and see who we are, where we are and how weâre going to get there,â Cooley said.
The premise for such excursions is to allow the players and coaches a chance to get a leg up on the pending season. That said, the Providence squad that takes the floor on Italian hardwood will be far from the complete unit that Cooley envisions having at his disposal for 2014-15.
From varying reasons stretching from feeling under the weather to still awaiting word regarding eligibility, the Friars wonât have the services of three members of the programâs 2014 recruiting haul â Jalen Lindsey, Ben Bentil and Pascal Chukwu. Kris Dunn wonât see any time on the court either as Cooley and his staff continue to exude caution with the young point guard whoâs undergone two shoulder surgeries in less than two yearâs time.
Cooley feels that the dynamic doesnât change all that much just because the Friars wonât be featuring a complete cast.
âItâs an opportunity for us to play some guys more significant minutes and a chance for them to expand their roles a little bit. We can tinker with some things,â said the head coach whoâs heading into his fourth season at Providence. âWeâre not down. Weâre excited and canât wait to get over there. I donât know anything about the teams weâre playing, but I want it to be spontaneous.â
Taking the floor with limited numbers from a depth perspective is nothing new for Cooley and PC. The coaching staff is already well aware what holdovers LaDontae Henton, Tyler Harris, Carson Desrosiers and Ted Bancroft can bring to the table, yet all their previous on-court experiences were done in conjunction with departed players such as Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts.
How Henton, Harris and the rest of the holdovers mesh with three new Friar pieces â Junior Lomomba, Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright â figures to serve as PCâs main storyline over the next week-plus. With Dunn out, all eyes will be fixated on Cartwright to see if the 5-foot-11 freshman is on the fast track to earn valuable point-guard minutes.
âHeâs learning a lot,â said Cooley about Cartwright, who attended the Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Classic softball game at McCoy Stadium Sunday night. âIâm impressed with his speed and communication skills. Heâs a natural leader and thatâs what you want out of a point guard. Heâs got a long way to go, but heâs come a long way at the same time.â
Taking a deep and hard look at Lomomba and Bullock â two players who sat out last season â will also be on Cooleyâs itinerary.
âRodney is going to be a real good player for us. I canât wait to coach him up,â said the PC mentor.
Earlier this summer, Bancroft talked about returning to the Friars for a fifth season of eligibility. The East Providence native has served as a valuable role player during the past two years and figures to once again have plenty of chances to contribute this year.
âIt had always been in the back of my head. After the Big East Championship, I began thinking about getting a job. I went to talk to (Cooley) about becoming a grad assistant on the team and get into coaching,â Bancroft explained. âThe following week after Josh (Fortune) transferred, we were in our grad assistant meeting and coach said, âYou know what, why donât you play? Josh transferred and a scholarship opened up.â
âI was like, âHow was I not going to pass up a fifth year?ââ Bancroft continued.
How Bancroft became eligible for a post-graduate year stems from the following: âMy freshman year, I dislocated my kneecap during practice. (Then-PC coach Keno Davis) wanted to include me in future plans so I applied for red-shirt status. I filled out all the paperwork and then he got fired. I never sent it in thinking âWhy bother?â Now weâre going to send all that paperwork in.â
Cooley received a pre-trip present Monday with the verbal commitment of 6-foot-8 forward Alex Owens. A native of Orlando, Fla. who comes regarded as a rebounding force, Owens announced his intentions via Twitter. Owens is heading into his senior year at Orlandoâs Oak Ridge High, meaning he will be eligible to sign his National Letter of Intent this November.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
View more articles in: