The way Ed Cooley has recruited at Providence, it seems like only a matter of time before the Friars enjoy a long-awaited resurgence.
Trouble is most of Cooley's top signees haven't spent much time on the floor.
The latest blow came Wednesday when Providence announced former McDonald's All-American point guard Kris Dunn will undergo season-ending surgery this week on his right shoulder. Dunn had only played four games since suffering the injury during an exhibition and was clearly not himself, averaging just 3.8 points and shooting only 31.6 percent from the floor.
The season-ending injury to Dunn continues the trend of misfortune derailing the careers of Cooley's top recruits and delaying Providence's rise from Big East also-ran to contender.
Dunn missed most of his freshman season last year with a torn labrum in the same shoulder he hurt last month. Fellow elite recruit Ricardo Ledo failed to qualify academically as a freshman and then turned pro last spring without ever playing a game for the Friars. This season's heralded freshmen, forwards Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, both have yet to play as a result of indefinite suspensions for undisclosed team rules violations.
It's easy to call Providence snake-bitten – and certainly with Dunn that's the case – but some of the bad luck also is a product of the risks Cooley has to take on the recruiting trail. He has to be more willing to take risks to land elite talent than coaches at perennial national powers like Duke, Syracuse or Kansas, for example.
Providence was a trendy dark horse pick to finish in the upper half of the Big East and make the NCAA tournament this season, but it's difficult to see the Friars achieving that goal with Dunn sidelined. Even though Providence is 8-2 with losses coming only to Maryland and Kentucky, the Friars lack either a true point guard or sufficient depth with Dunn, Austin and Bullock not playing.
Bryce Cotton, Providence's leading scorer, will continue to assume point guard duties even though he is far more of a natural scorer than a distributor. It's likely the Friars will have to play Cotton 35 to 38 minutes per game and the rest of the starters 30-plus minutes to make up for the lack of bench options.
Though Cotton and forward Kadeem Batts are both seniors, the good news for the Friars is Dunn will be back, Austin and Bullock could return and another strong recruiting class is set to arrive.
Perhaps then Cooley will finally get to coach the roster that he recruited.
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