Ed Cooley

Ed Cooley: ‘We want to recruit the best players in the country’

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The Providence Friars have been a cellar-dweller, a punching bag and any other synonym you can think of to describe the program’s struggles since its last NCAA tournament in appearance in 2004.

With head coach Ed Cooley settling in for his third season in his native Providence, the Friars are on the rise. That was apparent when he landed a stellar backcourt in 2012 of Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo. That dream of that guard tandem never became a reality due to Dunn’s shoulder injury, and Ledo unable to suit up all season.

The success of the 2012 class is something Cooley is starting to replicate.

“We want to recruit the best players in the country,” Cooley told SNY.tv. “Everybody always says a lot of negative things about the brand of Providence. Whether that’s in the past or whatever, I don’t look at that. I want the best players in the country to to play in the best league in the country.”

The soundbite Cooley provided early this week isn’t something to laugh off. Cooley showed he can recruit with the best by landing Dunn and Ledo one year ago. Joining the new Big East didn’t stop him from recently landing top-50 small forward Jalen Lindsey, either. If Cooley has his way, that will be the first piece in a heralded incoming class.

The PC coaching staff is doing its best provide Lindsey with some company, for instance, being present the past two weekends for nearly every one of Paschal Chukwu’s games — a 7-foot-1 center, who is entering his senior year at Fairfield Prep (Conn.). Chukwu isn’t the only New England product Cooley is actively pursuing.

It isn’t just the high school recruits making their way to Rhode Island. Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris join the program next season after transferring in. Next season, he’ll have a solid core of returners — Dunn, Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts — to go along with the two transfers and incoming wing Brandon Austin.

Cooley, without Ledo’s services and with plenty of injuries, got the Friars one game away from 20 wins, and now he’s got the Friars on the list of numerous top prospects. There is optimism in Providence, 2014 will only add to that with every recruit Cooley gets a commitment from. It’s been an impressive turnaround, so far … one that fans should be taking notice of.

“But what I’m excited about is we’re coming together as a program,” Cooley told SNY. “Our guys believe in what we’re trying to do.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.