The Dagger - NCAAB

The next time you bemoan an important recruit who escaped the clutches of your favorite program, just remember Providence fans almost certainly have a more painful story of the one who got away.

In the fall of 1992, then-Providence coach Rick Barnes only had one vacant scholarship yet he secured a pair of commitments, one from top target Eric Williams and the other from a little-known center from St. Croix named Tim Duncan. When Barnes sought permission to sign both players, the response wasn't what he expected.

"I knew we had a guy that was going to transfer, maybe two," Barnes told ESPN.com for a piece on noteworthy recruiting hits and misses. "I went to our athletic director and we went to the president, who was a priest at the time. I told him I wanted to sign Tim and he said, 'But you don't have a scholarship.' I said, 'I will.' He wouldn't let me sign him."

Making it worse for Barnes is that two other Providence players did indeed transfer just as he'd promised. Guards Matt Alosa and Ira Bowman both left Providence, but it was too late because Duncan had signed with Wake Forest by then.

It's scary to think how different the Friars' program might have been in the mid-'90s had it added a future Hall of Fame big man to its frontcourt.

The 1994 team won the Big East tournament and made the NCAA tournament behind a frontline of Williams, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith, paving the way for Barnes to bolt for Clemson. Had Duncan been at Providence, perhaps Barnes stays and the Friars field a 1995 team featuring Duncan and Williams in the frontcourt, and promising future NBA guards Jason Williams and Greg Buckner in the backcourt.

Instead, Duncan became an All-American at Wake Forest, Buckner followed Barnes to Clemson and Williams backed out of his letter of intent and signed with Florida. What might have been, Friars, what might have been.

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