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2021 Local Recruiting Options Who May Be On Ed Cooley’s Mind

Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

As the Friars unexpectedly challenging season continues into its second month, there has been lots of talk about the root of the problems and answers that the recruiting trail might present for next season.

Part of being a college basketball coach though is managing short and long-term planning. In other words, while Ed Cooley and his staff are trying to find an immediate answer to the problem on the floor and simultaneously looking for ways to boost their roster with their 2020 recruiting class, they also have to be mindful of their 2021 recruiting class.

One of the major traps of college basketball is allowing one disappointing season or two to snowball by getting consumed in the here-and-now and neglecting the necessary long-term planning of recruiting.

A recruiting trend you’ll see across every level of college basketball when it comes to the high school market is those that do their work early are typically going to get the better results. For example, programs that carry numerous scholarships into the spring are often unable to find quality players in each of those spots. Conversely, when you prioritize someone early and are able to close, the inherent advantage that exists is not only getting the guy you prioritized, but also now having the time to allocate towards getting ahead on younger prospects.

The challenge for Cooley and his staff is in the multi-tasking they have to do right now. First and most obviously, they’re working to get the product right on the court. Second, this is a roster that will clearly need some reinforcements who are ready to make an impact next season. Third, and not as insignificant as some might think, they also have to be laying the groundwork for their 2021 recruiting class.

And unfortunately, that’s a class that doesn’t look especially strong in New England so far. Here’s a rundown of names Friars coaches, and fans, need to know about in the local 2021 ranks.

Definitely Good Enough

MAC ETIENNE – Suffield Academy: He’s probably the best long-term prospect in the class right now. At 6-foot-10 with a great build, high-motor, and charismatic personality he’s already an early high-major target for a variety of potential suitors despite the fact that he’s still just at the early stages of developing his game. The Friars have offered along with the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Arizona State, and UConn.

BENSLEY JOSEPH – Cushing Academy: Joseph is a 6-foot point guard loaded with intangibles, leadership, long-arms, and a two-way mentality, but still working to become a more consistent three-point shooter. He’s already been in the USA Basketball system and is bound to end up at the high-major level but is a little under-recruited now and would be a good prospect for the Friars to move on early.

JAYLEN MURRAY – Putnam Science Academy: An undersized playmaking guard from New York City in his first year in the local prep ranks, Murray comes with little size but a ton of game and personality. While his size presents some questions long-term, his talent is undeniable. Providence, and any other interested suitor, have to assess fit and probability before investing a lot of time here. UConn is a reported early leader.

Watch Closely

ELIJAH HUTCHINS-EVERETT – Putnam Science Academy: Another first-year prep product, the New Jersey native is a true big with good size, natural skill and touch, but a questionable motor. His obvious talent made him a high-priority prospect from early on as an underclassman but he’s yet to live up to those initial projections thus far.

CAMARON TONGUE – RIVERS: There weren’t three more productive 2021 prospects this spring and summer as the 6-foot-7 forward played his way into high-major interest. That was why an early commitment to Santa Clara in the fall of his junior year caught so many by surprise. If he were to ever reconsider his options, the Friars would be obligated to evaluate him.

DERRIUS WARD – St. Thomas More: A wing with emerging guard skills from Philadelphia, Ward has solid perimeter size, good early returns on his three-point stroke, and the tools and mentality to be a good defender. He had A10 level suitors in 2020 before reclassifying and will be evaluated by a variety of high-majors in 2021.

GIANNI THOMPSON – Brimmer & May: A product of the same programs that produced A.J. Reeves, Thompson is a work-in-progress but one who is developing in a clearly linear way. The 6-foot-7 forward has gotten more skilled, competitive, and productive at each step along the path and may end up being good enough for the Friars to pursue.

NATE SANTOS – Loomis Chaffee: A jumbo-wing with an advanced early skill-set, Santos had a high profile upon his arrival in New England last year but missed all spring and summer with a torn ACL. He’s recently returned to the court and bound to start pinging the high-major radar again.

QURAN McPHERSON – Woodstock Academy: A similar story, McPherson tore his ACL last year as a junior at Christ the King in New York. He returned this fall but without many of the early high-major suitors that had once been pursuing him and subsequently transferred to, and reclassified at, Woodstock where the early reviews have been favorable while he continues to work his way back to 100%

JAI SMITH – St. Thomas More: An undersized big who played limited minutes for STM last year but exceeded expectations on last spring’s EYBL. Smith is most intriguing when he’s buying into the role of the athletic junkyard dog on the interior and not caught up in trying to prove he’s a big wing, which he is not.

NANA OWUSO-ANANE – Vermont Academy: A long-armed Canadian native with very advanced defensive instincts at an early age and an offensive game that is gradually catching-up, Owuso has early D1 suitors, especially in academic leagues like the Ivy, while high-majors should be aware of him and monitoring his progress.

ALEXIS REYES – Cushing Academy: Reyes had a big early rep as a youngster, which can often be more burden than blessing, but has developed at a consistent rate over the course of the last year. He’s built in the mold of a big wing with an evolving skill-set and shot-making potential.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Jack Molloy & Gus Larson, Northfield Mount Hermon; Bennett Pitcher, Deerfield Academy; Tyler Whitney-Sidney, Brooks; and Josh Bascoe, Vermont Academy.