Biggest Question: Providence Friars

Which returnee can become their number two scorer?

All the attention around Friar Basketball this summer has been centered squarely on Kris Dunn, and rightfully so. He was a surefire NBA Draft pick last year, and was thought by many to have the potential to be a lottery pick. He was just recently voted the number one player NCAA coaches would want on their team for the upcoming season, based on a poll conducted by CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish. Yet despite all of last season’s accolades and this season’s hype, Kris Dunn cannot single-handedly win 25 games and get the Friars back in the NCAA tournament. Providence needs to find an experienced second scorer who can reduce the load on Dunn’s back and be counted to convert in big situations.

LaDontae Henton was the Friars’ best scoring option last season. He averaged just under 20 points per game and took over 15 field goal attempts per game, tops on the team and one of the higher marks in the country. The scoring that Henton provided was consistent and reliable, the type of production that good teams get. Providence returns three players with starting experience in Ben Bentil, Junior Lomomba, and Kyron Cartwright who all have the opportunity to pick up the scoring Henton leaves behind. Bentil plays with power in and around the paint, but he often shoots with a lack of touch and was unable to be consistent last season. Even if he can improve his outside game, including 30% accuracy from three-point range, he hasn’t given Ed Cooley a reason to make sure he gets 12 or more shots a game. Lomomba provided shadowy defense for long stretches last year, but his offense was always a liability. He shot a dreadful 32% from the floor and was even worse from three, knocking in only 2 of 11 attempts. Only if Lomomba makes a drastic improvement in his shooting form will he be considered a threat by opposing defenses. Cartwright is an interesting option because of his skill level: Quite frankly, it’s really good. But the problem is that his style is very similar to Dunn’s and the Friars lack good outside shooting when they play together. If Cartwright was not such a driving-and-dishing point guard like Dunn and a more perimeter-oriented shooter, he could start alongside Dunn and be the second part of a dangerous combination. Unfortunately for Cartwright, players who shoot 4-for-33 from downtown cannot be starting shooting guards in the Big East.

One other returnee could step up and fill Henton’s shoes is Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey was a highly-regarded recruit from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, who showed flashes of dangerous shooting ability last season. His finest performance came against Florida State at Mohegan Sun, when he knocked down 5-of-6 threes to carry an offense that was firing on all cylinders. It is this three-point shooting that makes Lindsey the best candidate to become the Friars’ number two scorer next year.

There is no question that Lindsey struggled mightily at times to make the adjustment to college basketball. He went through one seven-game stretch in which he did not make a three-pointer and saw his minutes decrease drastically. But what truly impresses is how he responded after that stretch. The next two games following his seven-game nightmare were against Villanova in the Big East tournament and Dayton in the NCAA tournament. Lindsey stepped up to match the stage in both games. Against the Wildcats he made 3-of-5 three pointers, including two big second-half shots that kept the Friars in the game late. His performance against the Flyers felt like deja vu, as he hit big shots to keep Providence in the game and scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep. Lindsey shot only 33% from three last year and 36% overall, but with the improvement he showed late in the year, he is the Friars’ best number two scoring option.

 

Kevin Copp

Providence College ’18

 

All stats from sportsreference.com

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