WARWICK — With his own special and unique brand of tough love, Ed Cooley consistently relays to suspended forward Kadeem Batts that he let the entire Providence College basketball program down.
“I let him know about it every single day by saying ‘Thanks Kadeem, thanks,’” said the PC coach on Thursday at the Radisson Hotel, site of the first Cox Sports R.I. Basketball Media Luncheon of the season. “We don’t hide anything.”
All signs point to Cooley lifting to what has amounted to an 11-game ban, meaning Batts would be cleared for Providence’s first game post-exam period. There still remains one final hurdle – call it a test of character – that Cooley feels Batts must pass in order for Friar fans to see the redshirt sophomore in action next Tuesday against New Hampshire.
“I’m going to have my last sit-down with him (Friday night),” Cooley said. “If he says the right things, then we’ll move forward. If not, he’ll still be suspended.”
Batts was saddled with said punishment on Nov. 5 in what was dubbed as “failing to meet the obligations of a student-athlete.” It should be noted that Cooley was the one who signed off on teaching Batts a hard lesson. The 6-foot-9, 250-pounder was able to recoup some dignity with Cooley allowing him to practice. On game nights is when it hurts the most with Batts back in his dorm room while the Friars forge on without him.
“I think it’s been an eye-opener about accountability. You are going to be held accountable for your actions,” Cooley said when asked what Batts took away from the isolation of his own doing. “The positive thing is that we’ll work with him. He’s excited to get back with the team and we’re excited to have him back with us.”
The re-entry of Batts figures to serve as a major boost to a PC frontcourt that to date has provided next to nothing in terms of production. Last season saw Batts start all 32 games as a freshman, averaging seven points and six rebounds.
“Bringing Kadeem back means we have to work on our half-court execution,” Cooley noted. “A lot of games are close in the Big East so we want to make sure we run our stuff at the end of games that accentuates our strengths.”
On the subject of Kiwi Gardner, the freshman guard who earlier this month was ruled a nonqualifier by the NCAA, Cooley stated, “He’s struggling with it. He’s still around. We’re going to send him home for the (winter) break and bring him back. The only thing he can do is go to school. We’re mentoring and monitoring him.”
He’s got the touch
Mike Akinrola’s offensive game is so polished and well-rounded that teams can’t afford to lose sight of the Woonsocket native whenever he tees up a shot beyond the 3-point stripe. Last Saturday saw Akinrola, a senior, bury two 3-pointers for coach Bob Walsh’s Rhode Island College squad, which in turn yielded looks of bewilderment from the Eastern Connecticut bench.
“They were just looking at each other wondering ‘How are we going to guard this guy?’ It’s like a dagger when he hits one,” was the anecdote Walsh shared. “The touch is natural.”
Through 10 games, Akinrola has stroked 7-of-18 shots from downtown, good for 39 percent. His junior year saw him connect at a 29-percent clip (11-for-38) from deep, meaning it’s clear that Akinrola set out in the off-season to shed the label that he’s solely a back-to-the-basket player.
“I don’t think he wants to get beat up on every possession,” said Walsh about his leading scorer (17.7 ppg) and rebounder (5.9). “He’s one of those guys that when he shoots threes, you’re surprised when it doesn’t go in.”
Back on the scene
Five years removed from graduating and competing on some very entertaining Central Falls squads, Roger Livramento has resurfaced on the hardwood at CCRI.
“After high school he went to Mitchell College, where it didn’t work out,” said Rick Harris, head coach of the Knights. “He went to live with his sister in West Virginia for a few years before enrolling at CCRI part time. Last year, he could have become eligible in January, but we wanted to have him for the full year.”
Down on the blocks is where Harris prefers to showcase the 6-foot-6 Livramento, something the coach admits took some getting used to on the sophomore’s part. On the season Livramento is averaging around 10 points and eight rebounds.
“He’s used to playing in men’s leagues where he’s a guard or small forward,” Harris said. “Our goal is to get the ball inside to him. With his size and skill level, he’s unstoppable.”
Harris went on to explain what lies ahead for Livramento from a basketball prospective upon receiving his diploma come spring.
“I don’t think he qualifies for Division I [due to the lapse in years following high school]. There was a rule the NCAA put in last year that once you finish high school, your window starts with Div. I,” Harris said. “If he goes Div. II, that would be a great fit. So far UMass-Lowell and Assumption have expressed interest in him.”