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BIG EAST: 2006-07

College Preview Big East Message Board

By Eric Silver

September 1st, 2006


Big East Basketball Preview: Providence

The Friars had only eight scholarship players last year, seven of whom return. The only one who graduated was Donnie McGrath, the career leader in three-pointers for Providence. Still, last season he shot a pedestrian 35% from behind the arc, and he wasn't much of a rebounder - only 2.0 rpg.  Despite being the teamís leading scorer at 15.1 ppg, he wonít be as hard to replace as some Friar fans seem to think.

At center, Providence has as good a combination as any other team in the conference, except for Pittsburgh.  Randall Hanke averaged 13.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg in only 21.6 mpg, while Herbert Hill averaged 9.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 18.4 mpg.  Combined, the two averaged 22.0 ppg and 9.8 rpg.  Plus, Hanke shot 68% from the field and Hill 59%. Itís somewhat of a mystery why Coach Tim Welsh didn't play the two of them together at times.

At the 4, Geoff McDermott did a solid job as a freshman, averaging 8.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg in conference play.  Despite being only 6'6", he was a beast inside.  He's not a very good shooter, however, as he made only 41% of his shots, most of which were from short-range. He needs to develop a decent mid-range game. If he does, he can be as prolific a scorer as he is a rebounder.

The other freshman who started regularly was point guard Sharaud Curry.  Listed at 5'10", he's probably closer to 5'8".  Still, he averaged 11.9 ppg and 3.5 apg.  He is extremely quick, and he is an excellent ball handler.  He should have even better stats next season and could push for all-conference honors before his career is over.

Another member of the Class of 2005, 6'5" Weyinmi Efejuku, averaged 7.8 ppg in 22.4 mpg as a part-time starter. He was among the conference leaders in steals despite his relatively limited minutes. He'll start at one of the wings this year despite being a 34% shooter from the field.

The other wing could be Charles Burch, a junior who averaged 4.8 ppg in 20.4 mpg. Like Efejuku, he's not a particularly good shooter - only 37%.  However, he's a decent athlete and will provide experience and solid effort.

Ironically, the highest-ranked member of last year's freshmen class - Jonathan Kale - contributed the least. He averaged slightly less than 11 mpg, which isn't much given the fact that there were only eight scholarship players.  If McDermott has to move to the 3 at times this year, Kale could earn a few more minutes though heís pretty much limited to playing the 4.

The Friars bring in four recruits.  Ray Hall, a 6'9"/6'10" center from Colorado, was ranked as the #40 center in the country by Scout, not exactly a glowing assessment. Given the fact that Hanke and Hill play the same position, heíll see limited minutes in his rookie season..

Three guards join the team.  Jamal Barney, from Baltimore, who is 6'3", might get time at the 2.  Scout ranked him as the #29 point guard in the class, a few notches higher than Curry was ranked a year earlier. Brian McKenzie, a shooting guard, will probably see little time barring injuries to starters, though if he can  knock down some treys, he might get some minutes as a zone-buster.

The most intriguing newcomer is Dwain Williams, a late addition to the program.  He earned a reputation as a prolific scorer in high school and early in his high school career was viewed as a Top 50 player nationally.  Originally a member of the Class of 2005, he didnít play last year because he had used up his four years of eligibility.  He can play either guard spot, so he could back up Curry or play alongside him at times.  If he can score as well as advertised, he could work his way into the starting lineup by mid-year.

The biggest problem for Providence will be outside shooting.  There's not a single reliable deep threat among their returning players, which will put pressure on the freshmen to make their shots. Teams will likely zone the Friars and clog the lane to take away Curry's driving ability as well as make it more difficult to get the ball inside to Hanke or Hill.  If the Friars canít hit the perimeter shot, they could be in trouble.

Still, Providence should be better than last season because of added experience. They should make the conference tournament and the NIT this year.  If Williams or Barney can provide some offensive punch, the Friars could battle St. John's and De Paul for eighth in the conference; if not theyíre looking at holding off Rutgers and Notre Dame for 10th.  The latter is the more likely scenario.

- Predicted Finish: 10 of 16

#1 Pittsburgh

#2 Georgetown

#3 Syracuse

#4 Louisville #5 Marquette #6 Villanova #7 Connecticut #8 St. John's

#9 DePaul

#10 Providence #11 Rutgers #12 Notre Dame #13 Cincinnati #14 Seton Hall #15 WVU #16 S. Florida




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