Send to KindleThe 2013 NBA draft has come and gone and while the draft class notoriously lacked star power, one thing it was not without was some serious intrigue.
Between an unforeseen selection at number one in UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Kentucky’s star Nerlens Noel slipping outside the top five and a blockbuster deal that sent two future Hall of Famers away from the team they made relevant after nearly 20 years of mediocrity, last Thursday’s draft had it all.
And while last week’s draft provided a great deal of excitement among NBA fans, one thing it provided fans of the college game — as it does each and every year — was a reality check. After 60 players heard their names called, fans and alumni of some 35-40 universities and colleges throughout the country were left to accept the fact that their team’s best player or players will be donning a new uniform come 2013-2014.
That reality check was apparent for Providence College. Not only did the Friars lose their most talented player from the 2012-2013 squad in Ricardo Ledo, but they lost a player who never so much as once stepped foot on the Dunkin’ Donuts Center floor, or on any NCAA gym floor for that matter.
Because of academic issues at the high school level, Ledo was ruled a partial qualifier this past season for Head Coach Ed Cooley, meaning he could practice with the team and could enroll in classes but could not compete for PC until 2013-2014.
Well, one year of sitting on the sidelines in Providence was all Ledo could take, as he decided to make the jump to the league. NBA scouts were pleased enough with what they saw from Ledo in high school and in a year of practicing with and against a solid Big East squad for him to see his name called at No. 43.
So for Providence fans, no top-25 recruit and no super-talented 6-6 guard who can shoot the lights out. A hometown hero who never was.
Couple that with the loss of starting point guard and all-time PC assist leader Vincent Council to graduation, and the Friars have an opportunity in the backcourt heading into this upcoming season. Who now does Cooley turn to? Who needs to step up most?
(Courtesy: Providence College Athletic Media Relations)
Enter Kris Dunn.
Dunn was supposed to play Robin to Ledo’s Batman for as long as the two donned the black and silver in Rhode Island’s capital city. The two came to PC together and were supposed to make up a backcourt Providence has not seen since Ernie DiGregorio and Kevin Stacom in the early 70s.
With Ledo’s departure, that dream backcourt combo will never be, but Dunn now has the chance — has the responsibility — to be the player the Friars turn to for some serious production in 2013-2014.
After missing the early portion of the season last year to a shoulder injury, Dunn appeared in 25 games, starting in 18 of them. He showed signs of brilliance but was more or less uneven, as are many freshmen, en route to averaging 5.7 points, 4.8 boards and 3.2 dimes per contest. Having played a shortened season, the New London native deserves the benefit of the doubt and he may well be the key for a Friars team with hopes of contending for an NCAA berth this season.
With no Ledo, no Council and opposing defenses without question gearing up against returning Big East leading scorer in Bryce Cotton, Dunn has to be able to produce in the new Big East Conference for the Friars, as they face the likes of the Catholic 7 along with Xavier, Butler and Creighton.
It doesn’t take much more than a quick look at a stat sheet to see Dunn must improve his shooting, but that’s okay.
At 6-3, Dunn has a terrific ability to get to the hoop and finish in the lane… and needs to be more confident in doing so come November. His success in drawing defenses and opening up space for sharpshooter Bryce Cotton to thrive on the perimeter is critical. He’s also an outstanding rebounder for his size and has shown an ability to create offense for the big fellas via drive and dish. Totaling 79 assists to just 47 turnovers last year - despite shaking off rust - is impressive.
An inability to consistently knock down shots should not, and cannot deter Dunn from being a big time contributor for Cooley’s squad this season. It’s just a matter of confidently committing to doing what he can do best so the sniper Cotton can continue hitting the mark from long-distance.
After a promising 19-win season, which saw the Friars win seven of eight in a 30-day stretch beginning in early February and explode into the bubble discussion come March, Providence has some big expectations for the upcoming year.
If those expectations are to be met, expect number 3 to play a huge role.
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