By KEVIN McNAMARA
After a few notable swings and misses, the Providence Friars are on the board with their recruiting Class of 2021.
Ed Cooley gleefully ripped off one of his now recognizable celebratory swan dives into his East Greenwich pool when Michigan schoolboy Legend Geeter picked the Friars on his Twitter page. Geeter was also considering Georgetown, Missouri and Duquesne, among other offers.
According to the Detroit News, Geeter will be a front-runner for Michigan’s Mr. Basketball award along with Detroit Douglass guard Pierre Brooks (Michigan State commit), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s guard Julian Roper (Northwestern), Grand Rapids Christian guard Kobe Bufkin (Michigan).
Geeter is a 6-7, 220-pound combination forward who averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks to earn Division 1 first-team all-state honors. Home state Michigan and Michigan State never pursued Geeter with great intensity but Ed Cooley and lead assistant Jeff Battle saw a versatile forward in the mold of LaDontae Henton, Rodney Bullock and Alpha Diallo and kept the heat on.
Geeter’s River Rouge High was the No. 1 ranked team in The Detroit News Super 20 and set to play for the district title when Covid-19 pandemic shut down the Michigan state playoffs last March. River Rouge is a perennial power attempting to earn its 15th state championship and should once again be a contender in 2020-21.
As for the rest of PC’s class, Cooley and his staff have juggled texts and phone calls and a whole lot of Zoom conversations since last March. Like every other Division One program, the Friars haven’t been allowed to leave campus to scout or meet prospects and their families in person. This likely isn’t good for a personality-plus head coach like Cooley.
“It’s been very different,” he said. “You’re evaluating on video, like football coaches. You don’t see the body language, the verbiage, are you a great teammate. We’re really recruiting two classes, 2021 and `22.”
Corey Evans, the top evaluator at Rivals who was just hired by the Oklahoma City Thunder, wrote on his site that PC’s misses on the recruiting trail over the last two years have come through all sorts of reasons. Aiming too high was clearly one last fall as PC lost targets to Michigan, Miami and Kentucky, among others. This summer top targets like point guard Bobby Pettiford picked Louisville over the Friars.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you why, other than they have had been hit by some bad luck and haven’t been able to close things out at the end of the day,” Evans wrote. “Cooley is consistently one of the most well-liked head coaches with recruits any time his name is brought up. He is down to earth, humble, works at it and has built a program that is always involved among the best in the Big East. In the end, PC has simply just swung and missed, but here we are entering a season in which Providence could finish as high as third in the Big East. The Friars are my sleeper in the league.”
Cooley and his staff are angling for a lead guard and a big forward or two to help replace seniors Nate Watson and Noah Horchler. North Carolina guard Breon Pass is a football star who now wants to play hoops full time but he chose to stay home and play at North Carolina State instead of coming up to Providence. Darius Johnson of Alexandria, Va., also has PC among his finalists but the guard’s father is an assistant coach at Central Florida and the Knights lead.
The Friars are in the mix with a talented North Carolina shooter named Lucas Taylor who is hearing from a host of good programs. PC, Dayton and Miami are the finalists for Rafael Castro and the Friars also like Kuluel Mading. They are two 6-9 forwards with face-up skills.
Like every other program around the country, the Friars could also fill their needs more systematically by plucking a transfer or two off the waiver wire.