Last March the Providence Friars entered the Big East tournament squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. Faced with an important quarterfinal matchup against St. John’s, it was anyone’s guess what Ed Cooley’s team needed to do in order to earn the program’s first trip to the NCAA tournament in a decade. Cooley’s Friars did something even better than leaving their fate in the hands of the selection committee: they removed all doubt by winning the automatic bid.
Now the Friars move forward, and they’ll be doing so without two critical players who have since graduated. Guard Bryce Cotton, one of the nation’s best scorers, and forward Kadeem Batts are now professionals, leaving two holes the Friars must account for if they’re to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament in 2015. With that being the case their opportunity to go on a summer trip comes at just the right time, with returnees and newcomers alike looking to fill the void, and Providence picked up a win in their first game in Italy on Thursday.
Led by guard Junior Lomomba’s 32 points, Providence rolled to a 135-50 victory over Nelson Basket in Milan. In total four players scored at least 20 points, with Rodney Bullock (29 points), LaDontae Henton (24) and Tyler Harris (21) joining Lomomba as the team’s top scorers.
Lomomba is one of two newcomers to keep an eye on during this trip, with freshman point guard Kyron Cartwright being the other. Unlike Cartwright however, Lomomba was a part of the Providence program last season after transferring in from Cleveland State. In his lone season at Cleveland State Lomomba posted averages of 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds, and there are multiple reasons why he and Cartwright (13 points, eight assists against Nelson Basket) are important figures for the Friars in 2014-15.
One reason is the loss of Cotton, and the other is the health of Kris Dunn. Dunn, who arrived on campus as a McDonald’s All-American, has played in just 29 games due to shoulder issues with 25 of those games coming during his freshman season. While Dunn is certainly a talented player to be reckoned with at the point guard position, there’s a need to have help at the ready should he once again be nagged by health issues.
If Lomomba and Cartwright can use their time in Italy as a springboard into the 2014-15 season, not only will Providence have some help in accounting for the loss of Cotton but they’ll also improve their depth on the perimeter.