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McGair: Banged-up PC Friars must band together to succeed

November 14, 2012

PC Friars head coach Ed Cooley. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.

Some Friar hoop musings as Providence College gets set for a serious workout down in Puerto Rico …

Standing in the hallway outside Joe Mullaney Gym late last week, Vincent Council touched upon the close-knit nature of this year’s PC basketball team.
It’s become a yearly occurrence for the program’s senior leader to begin his “State of the Friars” address by remarking that there’s no friction in place and how everyone gets along just swimmingly. Donnie McGrath uttered something similar prior to the start of his final season in 2005. Ditto Sharaud Curry in the fall of 2009.
In the cases of McGrath and Curry, both players made it clear that through thick and thin, the Friars under their leadership would not succumb to selfish play or poutiness. When Council started going down the “Good Ship Lollipop” road, he was reminded that he’s not the first PC senior to say everything is copacetic. To that end, he provided evidence why this particular Friar outfit figures to be cut from a different cloth as it relates to team chemistry.
“We spent a lot of time around each other during the summertime, whether it was workouts or hanging out at coach (Ed Cooley’s) house,” shared Council. “The personalities starting clicking more.”
Now more so than ever, this band of Friars can’t afford to let egos tear apart the foundation that Council mentioned. However long Council is sidelined with a strained left hamstring, PC must weather the storm and do so as a collective unit, understanding that the six scholarship players and one walk-on Cooley will have at his disposal for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off are all they’ve got.
Certainly the bonds forged over eating meals together and sweating together during grueling practice sessions will come in handy more than ever. Yes, Council will travel to Puerto Rico. He’ll do so not as a featured contributor, but as a spectator on a bench that as Cooley dubbed, “has 75 guys in CIA suits. It’s like we’re a modeling agency for one of the suit companies.”
However this preseason college hoops gathering plays out from a win-loss perspective, the Council-less Friars need to remember not to treat one another as relative strangers. If one player sees another player doing something on the court that needs to be addressed, he should voice it to his teammate and be prepared to offer tips on what can be done to correct the area in need.
By the same token, the teammate on the receiving end of the constructive remarks should take it as a compliment that someone took the time to pull you aside and offer tips.
In the eyes of one Friar, the fact that there is existing cohesiveness helps ease the sting of taking the court minus Council. Such words reaffirm Council’s message that PC truly believes in the power of one.
“I feel that we’re a very united group. With good chemistry, we can go as far as we want,” stressed Kadeem Batts following PC’s 81-49 thrashing of Bryant Monday.
Following the post-game media session, Batts expounded further about picking up the pieces and moving forward in unison.
“When we first heard the news (regarding Council), we all took a big gulp, rallied together and said that we’ve got to find a way to get it done,” offered the Providence junior. “That’s our motto – find a way. I feel that we can face any challenge.”
Cooley mentioned that he addressed the adversity that awaits his Friars in the days and weeks ahead. Losing a leader like Council can serve as a rallying cry that helps unite in such a way that suddenly everything is seen in a different light. Judging by Batts’ words, the Friars aren’t at the stage where they’re learning about the common good for the first time.
Even though he won’t be suiting up in Puerto Rico, Council will still play a pivotal role – that of helping Bryce Cotton better comprehend the fine line that exists between running the show and contributing from an individual standpoint.
“I’m helping him understand when to take shots and when to give the ball to a teammate when he’s rolling,” said Council about his new mentor role with Cotton. “I have to find ways to help my team when I’m not on the court.”
Added Cooley, “I want Vince to be a voice in Cotton’s ear because sometimes a player sees something that (the coaches) don’t.”
Cotton’s output against Bryant showed that he’s quickly adjusting to the many hats he wears now. The Friars made it a point to establish Batts down low on the block against the Bulldogs, a strategy that paid off handsomely and allowed the forward to get rolling in what amounted to a 27-point performance.
Not be outdone, Cotton finished with stellar numbers – 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists – while committing four turnovers in 40 minutes.
“Losing a Vincent Council is like losing the steering wheel to your car – it’s hard to drive when you don’t have the right wheel,” Cooley said, “but I like the wheel we have in Cotton.”
Another member of PC’s walking wounded, freshman Kris Dunn, will also travel, albeit not for the reason that Friar fans are hoping.
“We’re going to continue to develop him,” said Cooley. “Kris has to be in the huddle when we’re talking and when or if he gets healthy, we want to make sure he’s ready to go.”

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