PROVIDENCE – For every NBA team that Alpha Diallo worked out for last spring, Ed Cooley was right there along for the ride.
“It’s our job to get as much intel for our players once they declare for the draft under the new rules,” said Cooley. “You’ve got to get as much information from the team that’s bringing him in and just be transparent with your players in terms of where they are.”
“Before workouts or right afterwards, I would touch base with coach,” said Diallo. “He was also getting his own feedback and telling me what he had heard.”
In terms of items of tangible benefits that benefit the player and the team in wake of Diallo’s NBA flirtation, it will be interesting to see how his senior year shakes down. One thing is certain, Diallo will be a marked player after the Big East coaches tabbed the 6-foot-7 swingman as one of five players for the conference’s preseason first team.
“It’s an honor to be recognized, but it just puts a bigger chip on my shoulder to go out and prove it,” said Diallo inside Madison Square Garden, site of Big East Media Day.
Diallo’s output as a junior last season was solid (16 ppg, 8.1 rebounds) but could have been even better had not turned the ball over nearly three times a game. Cutting back on the mistakes shouldn’t be an issue providing that newcomer Luwane Pipkins is healthy and can lock down the point guard spot. Diallo also knows that he needs to become much more efficient from beyond the arc in order to bridge the gap between NBA hopeful and NBA future contributor. Last year, he shot 33 percent from three-point territory.
“It’s about putting the time in and I think we did that over the summer,” said Diallo, who was part of the Big East-centric group of players who helped Team USA capture the bronze medal at the Pan-Am Games. “My shot has been improving but now it’s time to take a big jump.”
Say a Rhode Island-based car dealership approaches three of Cooley’s players to come over for an autograph session where monetary compensation is provided. It’s something to keep in mind after a signature was applied to California’s Fair Pay To Play law that would allow NCAA student-athletes in the state to profit from their name, image and likeness.
“I think it’s a very complex situation that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the coaches. When you look at some of the bigger brand schools, there’s already a ‘Us versus Them’ where they’re going to get more publicity. Does that include better recruiting for them down the road?” said Cooley.
Instead of focusing on what student-athletes don’t have, Cooley used Thursday’s media day platform as a prime chance to set the record straight in terms of the many amenities that are presently afforded to today’s college players.
“Right out of the gate, I feel we do a really good job in putting young men in situations where their needs are met,” said Cooley. “The narrative isn’t being painted on what colleges do for student-athletes … paying for room and board, paying for tuition, paying for summer school, paying for counselors, paying nutritionists, paying for rehab along with books and travel.”
The other hot-button topic at Thursday’s media gathering at MSG had to do with next season’s return of UConn into the Big East fold. Once again, Cooley didn’t hold back.
“I think we gave Connecticut new life. I think we gave their fanbase new life. I think they finally came to the conclusion that they are a basketball-centric school,” said Cooley. “They poured all their money into football and in my opinion, it was going into a hole. A lot of people will be (ticked) at me for saying that, but when you become a national brand in one sport and parlay it into something that it isn’t, shame on you for making the decision.”
Recruiting-wise, Cooley feels that matching the Huskies on the recruiting trail “will be a bear to deal with. Dan (Hurley, UConn’s head coach) is one of the best coaches in the country. Regionally when you’re talking Providence College and Seton Hall in particular with a little bit of St. John’s, we’re going to have our hands full.”
Added Villanova head coach Jay Wright, “I think everything checks out as a positive. I don’t think we would have unanimously supported their entrance if that wasn’t the case.”
RIM RATTLERS: PC and Marquette tied for fourth in the Big East coach’s preseason poll. Coming off an 18-win, NCAA Tournament-less season, Cooley admitted he was surprised to be picked that high. “When you look at preseason polls, I think any one of the 10 teams can come to this floor and hoist the trophy,” said Cooley. “I think there will be way more closer games just because of how old the league is.” … Seton Hall, Villanova and Xavier form the top three picks in the preseason poll while DePaul was picked last. “I can tell you the Friars didn’t pick them there,” said Cooley. … Seton Hall’s Myles Powell was the preseason player-of-the-year pick while Villanova’s Jermiah Robinson-Earl was tabbed preseason freshman of the year. … Injuries continue to dog the Friars as Pipkins (hamstring), Nate Watson (right knee) and Greg Gantt (Achilles injury) remain out of practice. Watson did undergo an MRI with the results offering hope that he could be back by mid-November. Kalif Young (abdominal pull) recently returned to practice. … PC’s first exhibition game is set for a week from this Saturday against Division II Stonehill, which is where Cooley went to college. He’s going into the Skyhawks’ Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2019.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03