The Recruiting Struggles of the Friars, Part 2: My Theory

The Crier earlier in the week wrote an article that claimed our lack of recruiting success this year is due to opposing coaches emphasizing Cooley’s dalliance with Michigan last year and how it potentially shows that Cooley isn’t loyal to the Friars (

I don’t buy into that at all. If anything, I think this can easily be turned into a positive. If I’m Cooley, you simply respond by stating, “Many programs want to hire me away from Providence. I’m good at my job. Would you want a coach who never gets calls from other programs? In the end, I always choose the Friars for I believe this is one of the premiere coaching spots in America.”

I will always respect The Crier for his “unique” views, but I personally believe our recruiting shortcomings over the past few years have been due to a tactical error by Cooley and Staff to prioritize the Carolinas and DMV area rather than having somebody on staff who has ties to high school and AAU programs in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas (for simplicity, we’ll just label this as Northeast or Greater Tri-State area).

DMV and Carolinas: Home of the ACC

In theory, this strategy of going into this territory and landing recruits makes sense. And let me be clear – at times, it has worked in our favor. Just look at the roster now. We have Greg Gantt, Jyare Davis, Kris Monroe, Jimmy Nichols, and Nate Watson who were recruited by our staff out of high school from this geographic footprint. That is a solid core of players that, in varying capacities, contribute to the team.

In many ways, it reminds me of Greg Schiano’s recruiting strategy from the 2000’s when he made his initial run with Rutgers. Schiano would heavily recruit the Florida high school players who weren’t being offered by the big 3 in Florida (UF, FSU, Miami). These kids wouldn’t get offers from those schools and would jump at the Rutgers offer. Disclaimer: At this time UCF and USF weren’t the football programs they are today, so it made things a bit easier.

I think Cooley and Staff probably approached the Mid-Atlantic with a similar strategy, thinking they can land those players ranked in the 51-150 range that are high caliber players, but won’t be offered by Duke or UNC. The issue with this approach is those same players are being offered by other ACC programs like a Louisville or NCState or Miami, and these kids decide to stay closer to home. It’s an uphill battle for the Friars, in my opinion.

We have lost far more than we have won when entering into recruiting battles for players in this territory, and I believe it is because the messaging of playing in Providence and the Big East doesn’t resonate as much down there as it would for recruits in the Northeast. These kids all grew up dreaming of playing in the ACC, so the allure of playing in the Big East isn’t significant enough to land these quality of players on a frequent basis. Kids want to play close to home, and New England may as well be a different country for kids who grew up in the Carolinas.

Just think about all the recruits we have lost out on over the past two years where we were clearly recruiting them far longer than other programs only to see us lose out when an ACC program comes into the fold with an offer:

Bobby Pettiford Jr

Gabe Wiznitzer

EVDH (making a decision this Friday)

Earl Timberlake

Shakeel Moore

Jaylon Gibson

There is simply a misallocation of time and resources to players down there. Once they receive a “big time” ACC offer, they often jump on that offer despite the loyalty the Providence staff has shown. It may be time to adjust this recruiting approach.

The other negative effect to this approach is we may be overlooking local recruits and not recruiting them as easily and heavily as we should be because our focus is on these Mid-Atlantic recruits. There’s no reason recruits like Jordan Geronimo and Gianni Thompson should be going elsewhere, and it’s been noted that we weren’t on them from Day 1 of their recruitments? Why not land these recruits as the foundation of the class and THEN try to swing for the fences with these lower probability recruits in the Mid-Atlantic?

Now that I’ve established what I believe to be one of the fundamental issues, here is what I think we should do to get back to having recruiting success:

Have an Assistant Coach Exclusively Cover the Tri-State Region

Simply put, there is absolutely no reason a small, private school located in New England playing in the Big East should have two assistants on staff who cover essentially the same recruiting territory that is 500 plus miles from campus. That logistically makes no sense. It is a flawed approach.

Ivan Thomas and Jeff Battle both cover the Mid-Atlantic. If you want to take that approach, that is ultimately the decision of the head coach, but we better see resounding success when there is talent that is closer to campus. Even the most ardent of fans would say that we haven’t had a ton of success, objectively speaking. We haven’t landed a “Plan A” recruit since Greg Gantt in 2 years. That shouldn’t be happening.

What I’d like to do is have Jeff Battle continue to cover this territory, as he is a well respected assistant in terms of recruiting and X’s and O’s. The change needs to come from having another assistant cover that same territory. I’m surprised that Cooley hasn’t told Ivan Thomas to reallocate his time and resources to getting his foot in the door with programs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. There is far too much high end talent for us to be passively recruiting this area. It is, quite frankly, a huge miss.

By having Thomas cover this area, you now have assistants equally covering the East Coast in the following manner:

Blaney – New England

Thomas – Tri-State

Battle – DMV/Carolinas

Abundance of Talent in Tri-State and New England

The likely counter to my argument is that there isn’t enough talent in New England and Tri-State for PC to make this territory the primary focus. With the rise of prep schools, that just isn’t the case.

I took a look at the Rivals 150 rankings over the past 3 years. The number of players in this geography in the Top 150 is eye opening and illustrates we should have absolutely no problem landing a minimum of 2 players a year from the Northeast. Please note I didn’t include players from Pennsylvania, as I don’t necessarily consider this a hot bed for PC recruiting either. If I did include, the numbers below would drastically increase.

⁃ 19 TriState and New England Players in 2019 Rivals 150

⁃ 20 TriState and New England Players in 2020 Rivals 150

⁃ 11 TriState and New England Players in 2021 Rivals 150

I’m not expecting PC to outright just land Top 150 recruits year in, year out. That’s not realistic for where our program is currently at. The above statistics show there is a large supply of talent in our backyard, and we are selling ourselves short by not taking advantage of it.

I’m certain that a shift in recruiting strategy would lead to us getting more recruits in a fertile recruiting ground in the Northeast. These players, schools, and AAU programs are extremely receptive to the Big East basketball brand.

Once we make this change, I believe our recruiting outlook will significantly improve, and we’ll start reeling in more local, Top 150 players on a consistent basis.

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