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Makai Ashton-Langford Brings Friars Closer to Reclaiming “Elite Program of New England” Status

When Makai Ashton-Langford announced his decommitment from the UConn Huskies less than two weeks ago, every Providence Friar fan around the country had the same thought: do we have a chance at redemption?

Ashton-Langford, the #36 recruit in the 2017 class, had narrowed his list down to UConn and Providence when he originally selected the Huskies over the Friars. It was a head-to-head recruiting battle with Providence ending up on the losing end, and it stung. The Friars had been so close to landing a program changing recruit, and although the Friars were bringing in talent that was nothing to scoff at, many fans wanted to see head coach Ed Cooley land his next Kris Dunn.

That all changed on April 10 when Ashton-Langford called Cooley and pledged his allegiance to the Friars. Ed Cooley gained a program-boosting player who brought his 2017 recruited class surging into the top 15. For Friar fans, it meant one thing: identity.

In New England, the Unversity of Connecticut Huskies, under hall-of-fame coach Jim Calhoun, have reigned supreme for decades. They pulled top talent, built a trophy case that even the bluest of bloods would eye enviously, and made national headlines consistently. Providence, the powerhouse of old, has worked diligently at reclaiming the top spot, but has been unable to dethrone the Huskies.

With Ashton-Langford’s defection from Storrs in favor of Providence, the Friars have taken a major step toward surpassing their interstate (and former conference-mate) rivals.

This is more than just a simple swap in allegiances by an incoming recruit however. From Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn to Kyron Cartwright, the Friars have been gaining a reputation as a program that develops and produces high caliber point guards. Ashton-Langford’s commitment helps solidify Providence’s identity as a program that not only develops great point guards, but also one for which great point guards want to play.

The secret is out on Cooley, and while many fans are relishing the positive attention the Friars are getting, as well as the fact that this commitment is another step in dethroning UConn as the perceived New England college basketball powerhouse, there’s something else fans are eyeing: marching in March.

The Friars did something impressive this year: they made their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance. That had never been done before in the history of the program. Considering the Friars were picked 9th in the Big East, that’s pretty astounding. Fans were happy with that. But, while fans were happy with the Tournament appearance, there was a lingering question: when will we make it out of the first weekend and start doing some damage?

With Ashton-Langford in the fold, the answer from many fans went from “hopefully this year” to “most definitely this year.” Ashton-Langford is no small-time talent. Combined with Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens coming in, along with almost everyone returning, fans are more confident than ever that this really could be the year the Friars go from a “one and done” team to a bracket busting, Elite Eight/Final Four type of team. They have the roster, depth, and talent to do it, and Ashton-Langford’s commitment brought fans’ confidence way up.

But there’s one thing perhaps fans haven’t considered in all this: Ashton-Langford’s commitment paints a pretty big target on the Friars’ back. While the Friars were already bringing some talent in and returning a good team, expectations are now going to be higher – from fans and from opposing teams and coaches. The Friars won’t be sneaking up on any team this coming year. Teams will be bringing their all against this rejuvenated squad, and the Friars and their fans need to be ready to consistently face off against the best any team will have to offer.

But, until November comes, fans will be feeling confident. Their Friars have an identity like they haven’t had in a long time: one that carries with it real king-of-New-England type swagger.