By KEVIN McNAMARA
April may be the month when the games end in college basketball but it’s also the month where wins may be secured more than any other.
With the wildness of the transfer portal changing the sport, players are busy deciding whether to honor their existing scholarships or start shopping for a new opportunity. Then there is the traditional recruitment of high school and junior college players, plus and minus.
After some expected exits via graduation and the transfer portal, Providence College and coach Ed Cooley received some unexpected news when incoming 6-11 big man Christ Essandoko announced that he was re-opening his recruitment. Essandoko, a native of Paris, France, had signed a letter-of-intent with PC last November.
According to Jacob Polachek of Zagsblog.com, Essandoko said “the relationship and communication between me, my parents and the coaching staff changed. I was supposed to enroll early in January, but it didn’t happen, so I think it was the best choice for me as a student-athlete.”
Essandoko owned a chance to challenge for instant playing time in 2022-23. PC returns Ed Croswell at power forward and redshirt 6-10 forward Rafael Castro as the lone center prospect.
Essandoko was ranked in the top 10 among North Carolina seniors. He teammed for part of this season at Winston-Salem Christian School with guard Quante Berry, who also signed with Providence last fall. Berry is still committed to the Friars.
“I’m 100 percent locked in, for sure,” Berry said. “With Christ I know they were talking but I’m not sure what was going on there.”
Essandoko was prepared to enroll at PC in January and practice with the team in the second semester but it is unclear if PC’s staff backed off that option.
At Winston-Salem, Essandoko and Berry were two of the leading players most of the season but they did not play in the school’s final games of the season. According to Berry the coaching staff decided to showcase uncommitted seniors instead of those already signed to play in college.
While the public often sees the comings/goings of recruiting only through the eyes of the teenager, there is certainly two sides to that equation. Providence, for example, could have chosen to back off Essandoko or determined that the fit was not going to be a perfect one.