Assessing the Providence Recruiting Strategy in the Mid-Atlantic

After Breon Pass committed to NC State over the weekend, it got me thinking about a topic I’ve discussed with fellow Friar fans: the restructuring of our recruiting strategy. I think we may be putting too much of an emphasis in recruiting the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic and not enough focus on landing recruits from New England and the Tri-State area.

The past two recruiting cycles have been extremely difficult for the Friars when it comes to landing talent in the Carolinas region. Here are some names we’ve invested a significant amount of time in recruiting, only to see us lose out to an ACC program: Shakeel Moore, Breon Pass, EVDH, Bobby Pettiford Jr., etc.

Take into account the Mid-Atlantic as a whole and you can throw in Earl Timberlake and Gabe Wiznitzer to the mix. We’ve come in second place far too many times here to think this is a mere coincidence. The messaging of the Friar staff and appeal to playing for Providence does not seem to be resonating with these recruits from this area.

Anybody who disagrees with this premise will point to current players on the roster from this area that we landed out of high school: Greg Gantt, Nate Watson, Kris Monroe, and Jimmy Nichols. We are still in wait and see mode with Gantt, Monroe, and Nichols (although I’m quite high on Gantt and think he is going to be an All-League type player). Watson is an established starter in the Big East. So, it isn’t as if the recruiting of this area has been an abject failure.

To be clear, I’m not asking the staff to pack up and stop recruiting this area. Far from it. I think we should stop putting the majority of our eggs in one basket with us having two assistants overlapping on this same geographic recruiting area. It doesn’t make too much sense.

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that players from this geographic footprint want to play in the ACC. Cooley and Staff can build relationships with recruits, make significant progress on getting their commitment, but then lose out once an ACC school offers. It’s not as if we are losing players to the cream of the crop in the ACC in Duke and UNC, which would be understandable. A lot of times, we are losing out to schools in the ACC simply because they are in the ACC. Staying close to home and playing in the ACC are important to the majority of these kids. PC offers neither of those things, so I’m often left scratching my head as to why we focus so heavily in this area.

I’m also well aware that this is where Jeff Battle has strong relationships at the AAU and High School level. That is great, and I want him to keep recruiting the Gantts and Watson’s of the mid-Atlantic. He clearly has an eye for talent, exemplified by us often being first to the table for many of these Carolinas recruits.

Where I ultimately want to see changes is Cooley hiring an assistant that has similar ties to AAU programs in New Jersey and New York. This assistant can be the Jeff Battle of the Northeast. These type of kids want to play in the Big East. They understand the appeal of playing our Big East foes far more than a traditional recruit from the Carolinas would. Additionally, playing in New England doesn’t seem as daunting as it would for a kid hailing from North Carolina, for instance.

It is obviously much easier said than done, but I don’t think it is any surprise that our top two players (Reeves and Duke) hail from New England. It’s an easier transition from high school to college when you are relatively familiar with your college settings. If we make this recruiting change, I believe it will pay off in both the short and long term.

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