Advertisement

There are lots of RI connections in the Atlantic 10 this season

NEW YORK — Player movement being what it is these days in college basketball, it’s worth at least a cursory look at every conference media day for some old friends.

The Atlantic 10 men featured multiple hits in that category on Tuesday morning. Barclays Center was a small world of old connections renewed, including University of Rhode Island coach Archie Miller catching up with his former colleagues at Dayton.

Let’s touch on a few other story lines involving past ties to the state or its four men’s programs.

Robert Morris guard Enoch Cheeks, the former Mount Pleasant star, looks for a shot during a game last season against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Cheeks transferred in the offseason and is with Dayton this year.
Robert Morris guard Enoch Cheeks, the former Mount Pleasant star, looks for a shot during a game last season against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Cheeks transferred in the offseason and is with Dayton this year.

New beginnings for Enoch Cheeks

Enoch Cheeks is preparing for the biggest stage of his career.

The former star at Mount Pleasant is entering his first year with the Flyers, who were tabbed as the league favorites. Cheeks left Robert Morris despite being a two-year starter and all-conference selection in the Horizon League in 2022-23.

“He’s done a fabulous job fitting into our culture and our team,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I think he fits our identity really well.

“He comes in with a wealth of experience with the time he had at Robert Morris. He’s new to our system, but he’s not new to college basketball. I think he’s come in and he’s earned the respect of all of his teammates and all of his coaches.

“We’re excited to have him.”

Cheeks had prep stops at Kimball Union, Putnam Science and Springfield Commonwealth before committing to the Colonials. The 6-foot-3-inch guard hasn’t stopped improving, totaling 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last season. Cheeks excelled during what was something of a live audition for Dayton in November, as he collected 15 points in a 60-51 loss at UD Arena.

Charles Pride was a key member of the Bryant team the last few seasons. This year, the graduate transfer will play for St. Bonaventure.
Charles Pride was a key member of the Bryant team the last few seasons. This year, the graduate transfer will play for St. Bonaventure.

Charles Pride now a Bonnie

Charles Pride will finish his college career in his home region.

St. Bonaventure added the graduate transfer from Bryant to what is expected to be a league contender in 2023-24. The Bonnies were selected third in the conference behind Dayton and VCU, picking up a single first-place vote.

Pride helped power the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021-22. He teamed with Peter Kiss to form one of the most lethal 1-2 scoring duos in the nation. Pride left Smithfield with 1,528 career points, 750 rebounds, 250 assists and 144 steals in 112 games.

“He understands what it’s like to be a Division I player — a successful Division I player,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “We’re not bringing in players from the portal to sit on the bench. He’s going to be an integral part of what we’re trying to do.”

Pride graduated high school in the Syracuse area before taking a prep year at Putnam Science. Two of Schmidt’s best recent recruits played for the Mustangs — Osun Osunniyi and Kyle Lofton helped drive St. Bonaventure to a March Madness bid in 2020-21. Pride initially selected the Bulldogs ahead of offers from the likes of Saint Peter’s, Canisius, Iona, Siena and Weber State.

“When his name came into the portal, we knew of him and his success at Bryant,” Schmidt said. “He was one of the first kids we called.”

Ex-Friars commit Essandoko lands with Saint Joseph's

Jayden Pierre is the lone remaining member of his recruiting class still at Providence College.

Quante Berry transferred to Temple after redshirting in 2022-23. A third player never made it to campus with the Friars and is now a Big 5 rival of Berry’s in Philadelphia.

Christ Essandoko will make his debut for Saint Joseph’s in 2023-24. He spent last season practicing with the Hawks and ironing out his academics. The 7-footer is a Paris native who prepped at Winston-Salem Christian and claimed offers from the likes of Georgetown, Maryland, Illinois, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and others.

“I’m not tricked by the excitement, enthusiasm and expectancy of maybe a fan base or maybe the media,” Saint Joseph’s coach Billy Lange said. “He warrants that because of his talent, because of the level he was recruited at. But I still know we can’t skip a step.

“He’ll have to go over a little bit of refinement here, particularly in the first month or two.”

Essandoko decommitted from Providence in April 2022 and reopened his recruitment. The possibility of him sitting out a year didn’t deter Lange, a former assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. He was with the franchise when it drafted center Joel Embiid, last season’s NBA Most Valuable Player winner who sat out his first two years due to foot injuries.

“He hasn’t played a game in two years,” Lange said. “We went through this one time in my career with this guy named Joel Embiid, and he was pretty good. But there was rust that you had to allow.”

Ivy League representatives

The league welcomed three transfers from the Ivy League — two of them, Cornell guard Greg Dolan and Dartmouth big man Dame Adelekun, will suit up for Loyola Chicago in 2023-24.

Garrett Johnson will jump from Princeton to George Washington after a storybook run with the Tigers to the Sweet 16. NCAA waivers for a fifth year of eligibility due to COVID-19 have allowed players to graduate from those top academic instructions and pursue an extra season on the floor.

“When you’re around a top-10 league in the country and you have a team that made it to the Sweet 16 like Princeton did, if you can get one all-league player from that league, you do it,” Ramblers coach Drew Valentine said. “The fact that we were able to get two of them, I think that says a lot about the talent we have coming in with those two guys.”

Dolan averaged 13.3 points and shot 42.5% from 3-point range with the Big Red last season. Adelekun totaled 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds while connecting at 56.3% from the field. They join some high-profile names who moved on like former Brown guard Paxson Wojcik (North Carolina), former Penn guard Jordan Dingle (St. John’s) and former Harvard forward Chris Ledlum (St. John’s).

bkoch@providencejournal.com 

On X: @BillKoch25 

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI-connected players help bringing new hope to A-10 basketball teams