Building the Providence 2021 Recruiting Class

With the unfortunate loss of Pettiford Jr. to Louisville, I began an exercise to analyze, as of June 2020, what a realistic recruiting class can be for the Friars.

Scholarship Availability

As of today, there will definitely be 3 scholarships available for the 2021 recruiting class. Nate Watson and Noah Horchler will be out of eligibility, along with us not using the last open scholarship in the 2020 class.

I am of the belief this class will be a 4 person class. At first glance, you may ask how that’s possible given scholarship restraints, but so much can happen in a given year.

Here are some hypothetical scenarios to open up more scholarships:

1. David Duke declares for the draft – I would love for Duke to stay his senior year, but I’m of the belief he has a massive junior year and declares for the NBA. It would be more of a surprise to me (due to my expectations for him) if Duke were to return for a senior season rather than declaring for the NBA. The talent and athletic ability are there, and he will be the face of Providence this upcoming season. The stars are aligning for him to have a first team all Big East type season.

2. AJ Reeves declares for the draft – I think this is far less likely than Duke leaving for the draft, but crazier things have happened. Anybody who watches PC knows that Reeves is probably the best pure scorer on the roster. With his prototypical NBA size and 3 point ability, the opportunity is right in front of him. If he can improve his defense and ability to drive to the lane, the NBA could come calling.

3. Transfers out of the Program – I am by no means advocating for this, but it is the nature of college basketball these days. Cooley has done a good job building this roster, and certain players may want more minutes than they will attain at Providence. Nichols and Monroe will have both been in the program for 3 years this upcoming season and have little to show for it from a production standpoint. This will be a vital year for their career. If their production doesn’t improve, they may seek to transfer closer to home to a smaller school to get more minutes. They will likely also have their degree and be eligible as grad transfers.

With all of the potential scenarios above, that is why I think Cooley & Staff can realistically target a 4 man recruiting class.

It will be interesting to see if Cooley breaks that up with a transfer or two to provide some balance in regards to roster composition. Additionally, this tactic will help the Friars “stay old”, a quote taken from Mike Brey who highlights the importance of having older players in your program if you aren’t consistently landing the one-and-done players.

Recruiting Class by Position

If I had to guess what positions will fill out this recruiting class, my gut tells me we will definitively target a true point guard to succeed Bynum and then two front court players. The last spot can go to a 2 or 3 to balance out the class.

Losing Watson and Horchler hurts the front court, as it is likely both players will start at the 4/5 spots. As of today, the only front court depth we will have going into 2021-2022 is La Salle transfer Ed Croswell. In a pinch, Greg Gantt and Jimmy Nichols can play the 4/5 spot, but Providence will desperately needs more bodies there. I don’t think you want those two spending the majority of their time playing in those spots.

A point guard is a necessity as well. I’ve had some folks push back on me when I make this claim, but the majority of our players in the backcourt outside of Bynum are combo guards. Nobody else on the roster can play the point at a Big East level, and we saw two years ago with the Makai Ashton-Langford fiasco how detrimental not having a true point guard can be to the season.

Mock 2021 Recruiting Class

With all that said, here is who I think will realistically end up committing to the Friars:

PG: Bensley Joseph

4/5: Gabe Wiznitzer

3/4: Gianni Thompson

Potential additional spot goes to one of the following recruits (we’ll likely see more names added of players currently not on the radar): Lucas Taylor, Kuluel Mading, Sam Ayomide, Casey Simmons, Rafael Castro

I chose those three players because I think that is the most realistic mock class at this present moment. All three fill a need on the Friars future roster with each being high on Providence at the present moment.

The last spot is contingent on an extra spot opening up, and it will be interesting to see how Cooley and Staff will handle potential verbal commits (do they have a clear pecking order or will it simply be first come, first serve?).

Below is a breakdown of how each of those players would fit with the 2021 Friar roster

Bensley Joseph – I’ve written about the PG spot and Bensley in particular plenty already (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2020/06/10/whos-next-targeting-the-next-pg-recruit-for-providence/#more-2107). Joseph can walk into Providence as a freshman with a guarantee of 10-15 minutes as a back-up point guard. He will become the starting lead guard, at worst, by his junior year. That has to be welcoming for any PG recruit.

Gabe Wiznitzer – Gabe decided to stay in the 2021 class, as opposed to reclassifying into the 2020 class and taking the last Providence scholarship. I think this speaks to Cooley’s desire to shore up the front court depth and also what they think of Gabe as a player. If Gabe decides to play for the Friars, it is realistic to expect he gets 15-20 minutes from the onset as a rotational piece in the front court. There is also the chance he could be a starter as a freshman.

Of the three players I chose to land with the Friars, I’m least confident in this one. I get the vibe that Gabe’s recruitment is going to blow up over the next year, and he will land an offer from a few blue blood programs. I’m hopeful that the loyalty the Providence staff has shown throughout the years wins out, but call me skeptical. I’ve seen this happen to the Friars too many times before.

Gianni Thompson – The 2 and 3 spots at Providence are actually pretty loaded. I chose Gianni to be part of this class because he hails from a PC friendly AAU program in Mass Rivals and has already included PC in his Top 7. He is more of a 3 than a 2 and could likely play some small ball 4 if needed. The player and program just seem like a natural fit.

The last scholarship spot will likely come down to roster need. It is too early to tell. With Pettiford going elsewhere, I am not as high on Lucas Taylor and Mading coming our way. If Pettiford did commit to us, I think we could have seen an all North Carolina recruiting class of Pettiford, Taylor, and Mading, but that clearly won’t be happening. Just recently, Lucas Taylor received some interest from Louisville. It is going to sting if they swoop in last second and steal both Pettiford and Taylor from us, but I think that may happen, unfortunately.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think Providence fans are eager to see the first shoe to drop for a 2021 commitment. If I had to guess, it will be Gianni Thompson first, followed by Bensley Joseph. I think Wiznitzer’s recruitment goes well into the upcoming school year, and I again fear him staying in the 2021 class was a means to get other offers.

With all things recruiting, anything can change in a moment’s notice, so we’ll hang tight and continue to monitor the recruiting efforts of the PC coaching staff. With a potential for such a large recruiting class, it is going to be exciting to monitor how this 2021 class comes to fruition.

– BOC

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