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Cooley, PC Friars ready for Italian sojourn

August 11, 2014

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 men’s basketball team are boarded a plane for Italy. PHOTO BY JILLIAN SOUZA

PROVIDENCE – For a different and perhaps refreshing change of pace, Ed Cooley won’t have to worry about juggling timeouts, what instructions to bark out or rack his brain in hopes of recalling the vivid details of the opposition’s scouting report.

As Cooley and his Providence College Friars embark on a 10-day, three-game exhibition swing through Europe’s sunny peninsula, the head coach does so with somewhat of a lightened load. During PC’s three exhibition contests against Italian competition, Cooley will let his assistant coaches run the show while he sits and observes.

“They can go through the headaches I go through, but I’ll be really proud to watch them do what they have to do,” Cooley smiled. “This will give me a chance to evaluate, which should be great.”

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.

“We’re just trying to give our guys an identity and see who we are, where we are and how we’re going to get there,” 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 won’t have the services of three members of the program’s 2014 recruiting haul – Jalen Lindsey, Ben Bentil and Pascal Chukwu. Kris Dunn won’t see any time on the court either as Cooley and his staff continue to exude caution with the young point guard who’s undergone two shoulder surgeries in less than two year’s time.

Cooley feels that the dynamic doesn’t change all that much just because the Friars won’t be featuring a complete cast.

“It’s 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,” said the head coach who’s heading into his fourth season at Providence. “We’re not down. We’re excited and can’t wait to get over there. I don’t know anything about the teams we’re playing, but I want it to be spontaneous.”

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 – Junior Lomomba, Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright – figures to serve as PC’s 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.

“He’s learning a lot,” said Cooley about Cartwright, who attended the Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Classic softball game at McCoy Stadium Sunday night. “I’m impressed with his speed and communication skills. He’s a natural leader and that’s what you want out of a point guard. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s come a long way at the same time.”

Taking a deep and hard look at Lomomba and Bullock – two players who sat out last season – will also be on Cooley’s itinerary.

“Rodney is going to be a real good player for us. I can’t wait to coach him up,” 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.

“It 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,” Bancroft explained. “The following week after Josh (Fortune) transferred, we were in our grad assistant meeting and coach said, ‘You know what, why don’t you play? Josh transferred and a scholarship opened up.’

“I was like, ‘How was I not going to pass up a fifth year?’” Bancroft continued.

How Bancroft became eligible for a post-graduate year stems from the following: “My 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 ‘Why bother?’ Now we’re going to send all that paperwork in.”

***

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 Orlando’s Oak Ridge High, meaning he will be eligible to sign his National Letter of Intent this November.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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