After starting all 35 games and posting averages of 8.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest last season, guard Josh Fortune made the decision to transfer from the Providence program. Wednesday it was learned that the Virginia native has found a new school, with CBS Sports‘ Jon Rothstein reporting that Fortune will be transferring to Colorado.
Fortune, who has two years of eligibility remaining, will have to sit out the 2014-15 season per NCAA transfer rules but his perimeter shooting ability makes this a solid pickup for Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and his staff.
As a sophomore, Fortune shot 41.4% from the field and 35.0% from beyond the arc, and while those numbers may not jump off the page they represent solid improvements when compared to his freshman season. Fortune made his greatest strides during the Friars’ late-season run to the Big East tournament title and a spot in the NCAA tournament, reaching double figures in nine of Providence’s final 13 games.
By comparison, Fortune reached double figures in just six of Providence’s first 22 contests. The most important performance in that late-season stretch was a 24-point outing in Providence’s Big East quarterfinal win over St. John’s, a game billed by more than a few as an “elimination game” of sorts with regards to the NCAA tournament.
The addition of Fortune gives Colorado some needed depth at the off guard position, especially when considering the fact that Askia Booker will be a senior in 2014-15. From a shooting standpoint Colorado made just 31.3% of its three-pointers in 2013-14, ranking 11th in the Pac-12 in that category, and the 6-foot-5 Fortune has the shooting ability needed to help the Buffaloes improve on that figure.
During Providence’s late-season run that featured a Big East tournament title, sophomore guard Josh Fortune became a player more comfortable in his role and was a more assertive offensive player as a result. After reaching double figures in just six of Providence’s first 22 games, the Hampton, Va. native scored ten points or more in nine of the Friars’ final 13 games.
With Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts both out of eligibility, this offseason looked to be an important one for Fortune with the hope being that he could develop into a more consistent offensive option.
However it will be important for other reasons, as it was reported by Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal that Fortune has decided to transfer in hopes of playing at a school closer to his home. Given the aforementioned personnel losses, this isn’t good news for Ed Cooley and his staff. Fortune averaged 8.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore, shooting 41.4% from the field and 35.0% from beyond the arc.
Providence was in search of additional depth on the perimeter prior to Fortune’s decision to transfer, so obviously there’s even more work to be done. One recruit the Friars are in the running for is former Washington State commit Tramaine Isabell, who announced via his Twitter account that he’s down to Providence and Missouri.
And could they also make a run at Antoine Mason, the nation’s leading returning scorer who has decided to leave Niagara for his final season?
Providence does return some perimeter talent, with Kris Dunn expected back after missing most of the 2013-14 season due to a shoulder injury and Tyler Harris and LaDontae Henton both being options on the wing. Providence also adds point guard Kyron Cartwright and small forward Jalen Lindsey to the program this summer (along with power forward Ben Bentil and center Paschal Chukwu), and based upon the loss of Fortune the hope for Providence fans is that the staff isn’t done making additions.
In the immediate aftermath of Providence’s win over St. John’s on Thursday, many held the belief that the Friars had done enough to make the NCAA tournament regardless of what happened in their semifinal matchup with Seton Hall. However with the members of the selection committee being the only ones who truly know the answer (opinion: they’re in), why leave anything to chance?
Also of note was the fact that a win would advance Providence to the Big East tournament final for the first time since 1994, and LaDontae Henton made sure the Friars accomplished that goal. Henton tallied 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead Providence to the 80-74 win over the Pirates, meaning that on Saturday the Friars will play for the conference’s automatic bid.
Providence made 48.9% of its shots from the field and their starters were responsible for 78 of the 80 points scored. That isn’t a surprise for this group, with injuries and the suspension of two freshmen whittling Ed Cooley’s rotation down to six players for most of the season. But Providence has continued to fight and after Bryce Cotton (18 points, ten assists) led them for much of the season his teammates have risen to the challenge in New York.
Friday night it was Henton, one day after guard Josh Fortune scored 24 points to push Providence past the Red Storm. The question now is whether or not Providence will have enough left in the tank to win a third straight game, and if they’re to do so the Friars will need to perform better in the paint.
Seton Hall scored 40 points in the paint, and with a matchup with either Creighton (Doug McDermott) or Xavier (which has multiple interior options) in front of them Providence will need to help Kadeem Batts in this area. Either matchup will be difficult in that regard, but this entire season has been difficult for Providence. And the Friars have continued to fight, reaching this moment as a result.
What will be on the line Saturday night at Madison Square Garden? Not only the chance to leave no doubt when it comes to their NCAA tournament chances but to also take their place in history alongside the 1993-94 Friars, the only Providence team to ever win this event.
In our Big East tournament preview, Providence’s Josh Fortune was highlighted as a potential surprise for Ed Cooley & Co. at Madison Square Garden. The guard remained essentially a three-point specialist during his sophomore season, but unlike his first year at PC, Fortune was much more effective from beyond the arc, converting 36 of his threes (up from 28.9 percent in 2013). That improved shooting was on display during the Friars’ win over St. John’s yesterday: Fortune scored a career-high 24 points, making four of his seven three point attempts and carrying PC while Bryce Cotton suffered his first poor game arguably this season.
After the game, Cooley was effusive when describing Fortune’s game: “I think Josh is a big reason why we’ve grown the last five or six games. He doesn’t shoot the ball enough for me … If you leave [him] open, I think it’s going in every time he shoots it. So he’ll be shooting again tomorrow. If not, we’re going to have a fight.” I spoke with Cooley early this week, and the PC coach had to work hard with Cotton on learning how to balance scoring with setting up the other Friars, a concept it seems Cooley needs to teach to Fortune. When Cooley first took the job, he learned Cotton was the team’s best shooter, but he wouldn’t shoot the ball, preferring to defer. According to Cooley, “When he wouldn’t shoot the ball, I would make the team run, and so I told him he had to shoot unless the team would run.”
Fortune’s offensive appearance has lessened the load on primarily Cotton, but also Kadeem Batts, and as Fortune is able to take control of the Friars’ offense, PC could emerge as the Big East’s bid thief.