When you return ten players from last year’s team, including all five starters, the emphasis heading into the season is rightfully on all the pieces returning to Friartown.
Nonetheless, there are still five new faces on this year’s Providence roster for fans to familiarize themselves with, including two freshman and a trio of transfers, two of whom won’t see more than the practice court this season.
LUWANE PIPKINS, 5-11, Grad., Guard:
Far and away the most important newcomer on the team, Pipkins is a UMass graduate who is immediately eligible as a graduate transfer after sitting out his freshman season back in 2015-2016. Pipkins is generously listed at 5-foot-11 but is skilled with shot-making ability and a lot of playmaking craft with the ball in his hands. He started all three seasons he wore a UMass uniform, although his junior campaign in 2017-18 was far superior to his senior year.
The biggest question though with Pipkins is his health. He had nagging injuries last year at UMass, missed the Pan Am Games this summer with a knee injury, and has battled a hamstring issue this fall.
If healthy, he provides Providence with just the ball-handling, shot-maker that they were missing last year. His presence also enables David Duke to move off the ball more often and in so doing also permits A.J. Reeves to see more time at the three, creating the potential for more three-guard line-ups.
One of Ed Cooley’s parting comments on the 2018-19 season was that the team’s top off-season priority was to address their point guard position. Well, Pipkins is the solution they came up with and hopefully the missing ingredient to fuse together a variety of undeniably talented other pieces.
GREG GANTT, 6-8, Freshman, Forward:
A consensus top 100 national prospect a year ago, Gantt isn’t just an undeniable talent, but also just the type of athletic combo-forward who has thrived under Ed Cooley over the years.
— Greg Gantt Jr. (@juuune__) July 27, 2018
Unfortunately for Gantt, he too has been limited by injuries this fall, struggling first with his right thumb and more recently his achilles, which has caused him to not only just miss the team’s exhibition and scrimmage, but also a significant amount of practice time.
That’s a daunting setback for any player to start the season, but for a freshman on a veteran laden team that has good depth at his position, it’s especially challenging.
So while Gantt is reportedly now getting closer to a return, fans are going to have to be patient as he will undoubtedly be brought along slowly. That shouldn’t have any bearing however on his long-term projection as he’ll likely see his role increase this season and then have an opportunity to become more of a focal point next year as a sophomore.
TOMMY DEMPSEY, 6-2, Freshman, Guard:
The freshman walk-on won’t be a rotation player this year, and likely for the three subsequent years either, but he nonetheless has an impressive high school resume, both athletically and academically, and should have a positive impact on the team’s culture.
The Seton Catholic Central alum averaged 17 points per game as a senior while knocking down 88 threes and being named All-Metro, All-Division, and All-State in the process.
Dempsey was also the senior class president and a member of the national honor society.
JARED BYNUM, 5-10, Sophomore, Guard:
Bynum is a St. Joseph’s transfer who will sit out this season per NCAA rules and then have three years of eligibility remaining.
Bynum started all 33 games as a freshman last year for St. Joe’s averaging over 11 points and nearly 5 assists and 4 rebounds per night. While his lack of size prevented him from getting much high-major recruitment out of Georgetown Prep in 2018, he had his choice of high-major suitors last spring (including Butler, Clemson, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Stanford, and Virginia Tech) after leaving St. Joe’s following the dismissal of head coach Phil Martelli.
Bynum is a skilled and cerebral point guard who can both play off the ball-screen and make spot-up shots. He provides built-in depth at the point guard position with Maliek White set to graduate this spring. Whether or not he ever becomes the Friars starting point guard remains to be seen.
NOAH HORCHLER, 6-8, Senior, Power Forward:
Horchler spent the last three seasons at North Florida and was one of the most efficient big men in the country last year as a junior.
He too has to sit out this year per NCAA rules but then will have one season of eligibility remaining. The risk for the Friars though is that should he finish his red-shirt year and not see much opportunity for next season, the NCAA’s grad transfer rules would likely allow him to transfer to a third school and be immediately eligible next season.
At North Florida, Horchler was best known for his scoring efficiency around the lane and his rebounding prowess. Whether or not that game translates to the Big East at 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds is something we won’t find out until next season.
Ed Cooley and his staff were strategic with the four scholarships they allocated last spring. The top priority was finding a point guard and they did that with Pipkins.
Stylistically, he’s ideally what they need as he combines ball-handling with shot-making to potentially make them much more dynamic on the perimeter. The risk of course is his history of injuries over the last 18 months.
They only took one player out of the high school ranks but got a blue-chip prospect with a high-upside in that spot who also fits a prototype they’ve thrived with.
They played the transfer market with the last two spots and while neither Bynum nor Horchler may ever be stars for the Friars, they’ll provide some built-in veterans for a 2020-21 team that will be losing at least four rotation players.
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