The Providence College Friars basketball program went through some major changes this offseason. The type of changes that set back programs years, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The Friars are gearing up for an exciting season. In the midst of this past year’s March Madness tournament, news broke that former Providence head coach Ed Cooley had accepted an offer to take the reins of the Georgetown Bulldogs. This decision left some Providence fans feeling betrayed, while others worried about the future of the program.
Only about 48 hours later, Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo completed his search in finding his new leader and decided Kim English was worthy of the job. English’s first mission was retaining every player that Cooley had originally recruited to Friartown, which he seemed to do with ease. This speaks volumes about his ability to connect with the younger generation of hoopers. While still unproven as a head coach, English is no stranger to high level basketball. He starred at Missouri and even earned the right to be drafted 44th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 2012. A short stint in the NBA led to him pursuing a career in coaching where he shined as an assistant under former Providence head coach, Rick Barnes, at Tennessee. This earned him his first head coaching gig with George Mason. After manning the Patriots for the past two years and impressively achieving a 20-13 overall record, the Friar faithful are optimistic about this team’s ‘MINDSET’ for this upcoming season. Here are some of the guys that are going to help lead the way.
Firstly, you can’t talk about Providence basketball without the conversation being centered around All-Big East forward, Bryce Hopkins. He thrived as being the number one option under Ed Cooley’s offense and I think the sky is the absolute limit for him under Kim English. English has said publicly that he plans to run a faster tempo offensively and wants his guys shooting threes. He has also instilled his confidence in Hopkins by letting him go to work in open space, something that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to opposing coaches. Do not be surprised if he’s averaging 18 PPG and 8 RPG on 40% shooting from deep. He’s got great size for his position, and he plays with a tenacious level of speed and physicality. He can rebound, shoot, and dish the rock exceptionally well which is why he is in the early running for Big East Player of the Year. (And no, I am not the only one pushing this narrative. He is that good.) Hop is the type of player that creates for his teammates simply because the defense can ill afford to take their eyes off him, or he’ll make them pay.
On that note, let’s talk about his wingman two-guard, Devin Carter. DC was born with a basketball in his hand, being the son of former NBA player and current Miami Heat assistant, Anthony Carter. Carter is the type of bruiser guard that belongs in the Big East. Not much can be said other than the fact that he makes winning plays. When watching him you can tell by his intensity that he wants to win by any means necessary. There were times last season when I wished we had five Devin Carter’s on the court. He is a disruptive defender that is not afraid to jump into passing lanes and turn defensive into offense in transition. He averaged 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest last season. Carter’s efforts were good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Big East Honorable Mention alongside fellow returnees Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman. Just as Kim English is a player’s coach, Carter is a coach’s player. He’s the type of guy where you show your kids his highlight reel because he plays the way the game is meant to be played. He always gives 110% and yet never seems to run out of gas. Super excited to see what he brings back to the table.
Finally, the player that I’m most excited to see: Jayden Pierre. He hails from Elizabeth, New Jersey and graduated from Long Island Lutheran High School. This is the guy that I expect to make the biggest leap out of anyone on this team (you can surely take into account my New York bias if you please). Pierre will serve as the primary ball-handler, a position he is most certainly built for and will not shy away from. While playing a limited number of minutes last season, he made something out of nothing time and time again. While he did score in double figures on only three occasions, he stood out in an 11
assist, ZERO turnover game against Albany. It gets better. Pierre achieved those numbers in only 22 minutes. As gifted as he is at finding teammates, he is also a natural at using his athletic ability to create for himself. The sophomore possesses a silky-smooth mid-range pullup that puzzles defenders. He also showed off some bounce on a handful of breakaways last year. This offseason, Pierre spent about a week in the transfer portal before Kim English’s viral Instagram Live clip where he boasted a one-on-one victory that evidently brought his point guard back to Friartown. Well done, Kim. (Before you ask why I chose a random picture from Pierre's instagram. Firstly, the idiot to the left of his hip with the blue backwards hat is me. Secondly, this was the craziest atmosphere I've ever experienced at a sporting event.)
I could go on and on about every single player on this team and what they’ll bring to the table, but for out of conference fans, you’ll hear those three names very often in correlation with the Big East. While the Big East looks to be the strongest conference in college basketball this season, I think Kim has an incredible combination of veterans and young talent to make his first season as a young, power conference head coach a one Friar fans won’t forget.