What-If: Friar 2012-2013 Season

“Imagine the 2012 squad with full eligibility and a clean bill of health” – The Alternate Story of the 2012-2013 Providence Friars

In looking back on the Friars since I started following them in 2007, there have been countless what-if’s that have crossed my mind:

  • What if James Michael McAdoo missed those free throws
  • What if Kris Dunn didn’t have a season ending injury for Bryce’s senior year
  • What if we didn’t play Dayton as a 6 seed in Ohio
  • What if the Big East ref actually had his eyes open and didn’t call a foul on Bentil (I don’t even have to mention the opponent and every single Friars fan knows what game I’m referencing).

With all the above hypotheticals, the biggest “what if” for me is the following: What if the planets aligned and the series of injuries and ineligibilities that hit this 2012 squad never transpired? That thought crosses my mind at least once a month (sadly, 8 years later).

To refresh the memories of the readers (and potentially open up some wounds), I’ve listed some notable Friars on this team’s roster:

  • Kris Dunn – Freshman
  • Ricky Ledo – Freshman
  • Kadeem Batts – Junior
  • Bryce Cotton – Junior
  • LaDontae Henton – Sophomore
  • Vincent Council – Senior

College and Professional Accomplishments to date:

Kris Dunn – #5 overall pick in NBA Draft, 2 Time BE POY and DPOY

Ricky Ledo – Second Round Pick in NBA, brief stints with the Mavs and Knicks before playing internationally

Kadeem Batts– 2013 Co-Big East Most Improved, Second Team All Big East

Bryce Cotton – Two Time First Team All Big East, Big East Tournament MVP, 2 time MVP in Australian Basketball League (NBL) and will likely go down as the best player to ever play professionally in Australia.

LaDontae Henton – AP Honorable Mention All American, First Team All Big East

Vincent Council – All time assist leader in Big East, Third Team All Big East

Now, let me sadly remind you this team didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. They lost in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Let that sink in.

That roster above, littered with NBA and Overseas professionals, didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. This team contained 5 All Big East players and didn’t make The Dance.

How?!

Let’s first revisit what this team had returning and expectations heading into the season.

2011-2012 Outcome

Simply put, the Friars were just not all that good the year prior. The team finished an abysmal 15-17. The silver lining is that the Friars returned 72.9% of their minutes played and 74.1% of points scored heading into the 2012-2013 year. The only notable loss was a transfer from Gerald Coleman (how about that for a blast from the past?). Henton, Council, Cotton, and Batts headed into the 2012 season holding down 4 of the 5 starting positions. Regardless of the prior year record, it is always seen as a net positive when you can return both talent and experience. This team, even without any freshman additions, would likely have been seen as a fringe NCAA tournament team heading into 2012-2013.

When you look at the recruiting class brought in by Cooley to add to the above roster, you can see why expectations for this team were through the roof. Providence brought in a 3 man recruiting class of 5 star Kris Dunn, 5 star Ricardo Ledo, and 3 star sharpshooter Josh Fortune (who had key moments in his Friars career and started 19 games as a freshman).

All Friar fans can admit that we aren’t a North Carolina, Kentucky, or Duke that routinely land 5 star talents. Landing a 5 star is a once in a lifetime experience at Providence. Landing two?! Unheard of.

When you couple a veteran squad with a top 20 nationally ranked recruiting class, even the most pessimistic, glass half empty of fans realized something special was in the works in Friartown.

So, what the heck happened to derail the train?

Eligibility Issues – Thank You NCAA

First, let’s start with the peculiar case of Ricardo “Ricky” Ledo, a hometown hero who initially committed to the Friars on Christmas Day over a slew of blue blood programs. Ricky was a unanimous 5 star shooting guard who was destined for the NBA, regardless of where he played. The issue with Ricky was his eligibility, as he attended 4 high schools in 4 years. Thus, the commitment was a boon for Cooley, but I think we all knew his likelihood of playing was contingent on the NCAA. The NCAA did what the NCAA does and made a decision to make Ledo academically ineligible. Unfortunately, Ledo never got a chance to suit up for the Friars in his one year on campus and decided to leave for the pros after that one year. Ricky was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft and played for a handful of NBA teams throughout his career. He is now playing internationally.

Cooley was quoted at the time as saying he thought Ricky Ledo could lead the Big East in scoring his freshman year. Cooley is known for his hyperbole at times, sure, but I believe an eligible Ledo would slide into that starting 3 spot on this team. The aforementioned Josh Fortune, a 3 star freshman, started 19 of 34 games, averaging 5.5 PPG. With all due respect to Josh, I think Ledo would have taken those starts away from Josh and would likely have come close to doubling that point per game output. Even if he came off the bench, he would be a superb sixth man who would have provided instant offense. Thanks a lot, NCAA…

Injuries

Where do we begin? This team was hit with an insurmountable amount of injuries which ultimately was the decider on how far this team could (or couldn’t) go. Let’s start with Kris Dunn, the 5 star freshman point guard. Prior to him winning multiple BE POY and DPOY awards, he was working on getting his feet wet in college basketball. His career started off ominously, with him missing the first 9 games of the season with a shoulder injury. From there, he was able to contribute, but I always left myself wondering what a fully healthy Kris Dunn could have contributed to this Friars roster. Dunn averaged approximately 6ppg, 5rpg, and 3apg his freshman year, so the talent was always there, but getting hurt delayed Dunn reaching his true potential.

As if losing a 5 star point guard wasn’t enough, senior point guard Vincent Council went down with injury and missed 10 games. This forced Bryce Cotton, at this time an off-ball 2 guard, to be a full-time PG with Dunn and Council injures. Dunn and Council both returned this season, but it would have been great to have a completely healthy backcourt for the Friars.

Even Bryce Cotton missed two games, which may seem small, but not when you take into account the above.

In summation, the only starter to play all 34 games that season was Kadeem Batts. It just goes to show that even the most talented of rosters needs some luck when it comes to health and injuries.

Outcome of Season

The Friars finished the season 9-9 in Big East play and 19-15 overall, missing the NCAA tournament. With the aforementioned injuries and eligibility issues, it is natural to think about team chemistry. I still believe this team should have made the NCAA tournament, but you can’t fault the team and staff when all of the above transpires.

One other interesting historical stat here is that this was the last season of the “Old Big East”. All Providence fans can and should readily admit the Big East realignment significantly helped Providence elevate its program, as the historical Big East really contained some juggernaut programs that don’t fit the current DNA of the existing Big East (read- basketball first schools). Just look at some of the names who finished on the All Big East squad in 2012:

⁃ Otto Porter

⁃ Shabazz Napier

⁃ Gorgui Deng

⁃ Jerian Grant

⁃ Michael Carter Williams

⁃ Steven Adams

Clearly, the Big East had some serious talent this year, and the teams certainly showed it in the postseason. Louisville won the National Championship that year, Syracuse lost in the final four and Marquette lost in the elite eight. That is an amazing showing by the Big East.

Conclusion

Although the Friars fell short of expectations in 2012, the squad used this year to springboard into 5 consecutive NCAA tournaments, with the 2013 year being the first of five.

Cotton’s trial by fire as point guard paid off in spades, as he led the Friars to a Big East Tournament Championship with his senior year heroics.

At the end of the day, it’s a fun exercise to reflect on historical teams, and I can’t stop but ponder what a fully healthy team with Ricky Ledo eligible would look like. Think about how much damage the below team would have done in the regular season and NCAA tournament.

⁃ Council

⁃ Cotton

⁃ Ledo

⁃ Henton

⁃ Batts

⁃ Dunn first off bench

As always, go Friars!

-BOC

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