NCB On The Trail: Providence Friars

College basketball’s incoming freshman class features some elite rim protectors. They are the guys who are able to patrol the paint on defense and turn away a wide variety of would-be scorers. Here are the best shot-blockers in the class and one name to know in 2015:

1. Myles Turner, Texas
He went on national television and announced he was going to “hook em.” Well, he might have also meant he was going to “block em.” Arguably the best shot-blocker in the rising freshman class, Turner will provide an immediate boost to Texas’ defense with his ability to turn away shots at the rim. What’s going to be interesting is to see how Rick Barnes elects to use Turner in combination with returning center Cameron Ridley, not to mention last season’s starting power forward Jonathan Holmes. The trio is likely to see plenty of time on the floor together next season, which could mean more of a 2-3 zone from the Longhorns. That allows both Turner to anchor himself to the front of the rim when he plays in the middle, as well as show his mobility in challenging shots on the perimeter from the wing position.

Freshmen might be the talk of college basketball this season, but if you are paying attention you are starting to notice that experience counts.

The new No. 1 team in the country, Florida, starts a quartet of seniors in Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and Will Yeguete.

The leading candidate for this year’s Wooden Award as college basketball’s best player is also a senior, as Creighton’s Doug McDermott is averaging 26 points and almoist 7 rebounds while shooting high percentages from the 3-point line, free-throw line and the field.

So while Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid and Tyler Ennis could all bolt for the NBA -- only to be replaced by the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Cliff Alexander, Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay -- it might actually be others from the 2014 class, who might not necessarily have the same level of instant success, but nonetheless go on to make their mark on college basketball by staying longer and getting better at each step along the way.

Here’s a look at some of the most likely candidates:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Biancardi's Breakdown: JaQuan Lyle 

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
video JaQuan Lyle (Evansville, Ind./Huntington Prep), the highest-rated uncommitted perimeter player left in the ESPN 100, is in high demand as Kansas, Providence, Oregon, UConn, Memphis and Oklahoma State are in heavy pursuit of the Indiana native. He is one of the few players left in the 2014 class who could come in and contribute immediately to a major college program.

Let’s take a look at the latest on his recruitment, how his game has grown and what he can do to reach his potential.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

#AskCoachB: Lindsey has room to improve

December, 20, 2013
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
If you are talking about the college level, there are some aspects of Jalen Lindsey's game that really really stand out.

First Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) is a freakish athlete with an explosive and quick vertical leap. He also owns a 3-point jumper and hits it with consistency.

After that, he must become a more effective driver and passer. With his elite athletic ability, he will draw a crowd. He can use that talent to make driving plays, finishing plays and to defend. As a junior, the 6-foot-7 small forward was Mr. Basketball in Tennessee.

A statistic that really translates is rebounding, and this is an area in which he can improve. Right now he is most comfortable facing up from the 3-point line. Shooting and athleticism will translate right away at Providence.

Linsdey is headed to Providence to play for Ed Cooley, who will utilize his strength and size to develop his basketball IQ. His shooting and athletic ability will carry over to the college game in good fashion.

Providence class is official

November, 13, 2013
The Providence Friars announced the signing of three players to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

ESPN 100 C Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield College Prep), ESPN 100 SF Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) and PF Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrew's) signed on with head coach Ed Cooley's 2014 class.

"Ben, Pashcal and Jalen will provide depth, length and athleticism to our team," Cooley said in a press release. "We feel that these three nationally ranked players will help us to continue to build our program towards achieving our ultimate goal."

Under-the-radar recruiting powers 

October, 22, 2013
When it comes to recruiting, there are certain superpower programs that are simply on a different playing field from everyone else in college basketball. Programs such as Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are the most obvious there. Those teams are national brands with Hall of Fame coaches, rabid fan bases and a history of success at the highest levels.

But there are always surprising teams that can rise up and compete with the big boys. Change and evolution are inevitable in the world of recruiting. Whether that’s thanks to a dynamic coach, a deep run in the NCAA tournament or an impressive crop of local prospects, teams can quickly establish themselves as forces on the recruiting trail.

With that in mind, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts to predict which under-the-radar team could become a recruiting power in the next few years.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Three-star senior power forward Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrew’s) made a verbal commitment to Providence on Monday, joining a pair of ESPN 100 prospects in center Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield Prep) and small forward Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) to complete the Friars' frontcourt of the future.

Why he committed: Ultimately, this was about two things: Bentil saw Providence as a program on the rise, and the Friars had immediate minutes to offer him next year. The fact that Miami and Georgetown both landed other prospects up front certainly didn’t hurt the Friars' chances, but ultimately this is yet another example of how dynamic head coach Ed Cooley can be on the recruiting trail when he locks in on a target.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

#AskCoachB: The story on Jalen Lindsey

September, 30, 2013
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Jalen Lindsey is a one-time ESPN 60 prospect, having headed into his junior season at No. 19 based on his size and long-range shooting. He also had a terrific junior season, earning a Mr. Basketball award and winning another state championship. However, during this past spring and summer, he did not play up to his lofty ranking (which was No. 32). He shot the ball at over 40 percent from beyond the arc, which has always been a strong suit, in the Nike EYBL summer league.

Athletes sometimes get highly publicized at a young age based on their physical size along with their ability to stand out using their physical tools and skill or basketball IQ.

Specifically for Lindsey, his ball-handing did not improve at the rate we hoped for and at times he did not play with the same intensity we saw at a younger stage of his career. For any player, if their performance and production lessen, it's likely they will drop out of any rankings.

But let's keep this all in perspective -- he is still in our ESPN 100, which is a remarkable place to be, and he is an accomplished player. Every time we update our rankings we discover more players who have emerged and move in and up on our big board. If Lindsey can improve his handle, play with more passion and become a more complete player while keeping his sharp-shooting jumper, he can always move back up.

When a player moves down in any ranking format it's usually a combination of what others are doing by playing at a high level compared to the player who dropped who no longer is performing or producing at a high level.

Jalen Lindsey is a very good player who will help Providence win a lot of games.

Weekly Commitment Roundup

August, 30, 2013
Ronnie Suggs SG (Washington, Mo./Washington)
HT: 6-4 WT: 17
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big 12
Damiyne Durham SG (Oakwood, Texas/Oakwood)
HT: 6-4 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

American Athletic Conference
Emmanuel Mudiay PG (Dallas/Prime Prep)
HT: 6-5 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 2
Stars: 5
ESPN 100: 5

JaQuel Richmond PG (Greensboro, N.C./Wesleyan Christian)
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 26
Stars: 4

Big East
Paschal Chukwu C (Westport, Conn./Fairfield College Prep)
HT: 7-1 WT: 220
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 5
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 58

West Coast Conference
Josh Perkins PG (Denver/Huntington Prep)
HT: 6-3 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 6
Stars: 5
ESPN 100: 24

Big West Conference
UC Santa Barbara
Gabriel Vincent SG (Stockton, Calif./St. Mary's)
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Ivy League
Aaron Young PG (Lynchburg, Va./Virginia Episcopal)
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Jason Massey SG (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage)
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Tyler Nelson SG (Lawrence, Mass./Central Catholic)
HT: 6-0 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 1

Missouri Valley Conference
Missouri State
Chris Kendrix SG (Willard, Mo./Willard)
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big South
Ryan Badowski SG (Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick)
HT: 6-3 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Atlantic 10
St. Bonaventure
Idris Taqqee SF (Ashburnham, Mass./Cushing Academy)
HT: 6-3 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

When coach Ed Cooley makes a recruit a priority the percentages are usually in favor of the Rhode Island native. The Friars landed earlier tonight big-time ESPN 100 center Paschal Chukwu (Westport, CT/Fairfield Prep). This Providence program is beginning to take shape just like the Fairfield team that ED Cooley took to postseason appearances.

Why he committed: Trusted assistant Bob Simon has been recruiting Chukwu for a couple of years and the trust factor with Cooley, Simon and staff was hard to beat as loyalty and trust were a big part of the decision. The proximity was perfect as Chukwu wanted to be close to home and be in a big-time basketball program with a small-school feel. Providence checked all the boxes.

What he brings: Great length and excellent mobility. Chukwu's approach in the paint, specifically at the rim, has been much more assertive as he looks to block more shots on defensive and finishing with authority by dunking more on the offensive end. What makes his shot blocking special is his timing as he waits and leaves his feet seconds after the offensive player has jumped up in the air and released the ball.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ESPN 100 center Pascal Chukwu (Westport, CT/Fairfield Prep) committed to Providence on Thursday night, announcing his decision via Twitter.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Notebook: Potential pair for Providence 

August, 9, 2013
This week’s Friday recruiting notebook includes a look at a potential ESPN 100 package deal for Providence, handicapping the race for ESPN 100 point guard Kaleb Joseph, the final eight for No. 10 recruit Myles Turner, and plenty more recruiting news and notes.

Abdul Malik-Abu
Dave Telep/ESPNESPN 100 PF Abdul-Malik Abu is down to Providence, Florida, NC State and UConn.
Abu, Terrell and Providence?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ESPN 100 point guard Kaleb Joseph (Nashua, N.H./Cushing Academy) cut his list to three schools on Sunday night.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The first July evaluation period has come and gone, but not before a number of elite prospects made their mark on the court at events like the Nike Peach Jam, adidas Invitational and the LeBron James Skills Academy.

We brought back national recruiting director Paul Biancardi’s #AskCoachB mailbag to answer any questions you may have on the busy month and which recruits and classes are making waves. As a reminder, you can always get Paul’s take on any prospect or find about new recruiting activity anytime on Twitter using the hashtag.

In this week’s mailbag, Paul examines UNC’s possibilities for landing an elite shooting guard in its 2014 class, what Ohio State should add to its second-ranked recruiting class, Ed Cooley turning Providence into a serious player in recruiting and whether Justise Winslow and Florida recruit Brandone Francis are in line for a bump in ranking in the next ESPN 100.

So let’s get rolling with your questions.

He comes home with a gold medal from Prague, and I heard he was a very valuable member of that U-19 team. His ability to pass, defend, handle the ball, combined with his basketball acumen impact without needing to score makes him special. At times, he can even bring the ball up the floor with a point guard’s mentality. He’s part of a small group of guys outside the top 10 who have a strong chance at cracking the top 10 in our next rankings.

On his status in the proposed package deal of Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, I think Winslow would like for it to happen. But after going overseas and playing this summer, he’ll see his decision and future should be more about a school that fits his needs rather than trying to fit his needs with someone else’s. I’m sure all three are trying to make it happen, but the longer it goes the less of a possibility it will happen.

Providence has been a legit team in recruiting from the moment Ed Cooley got hired. That’s how he won at Fairfield and he did a tremendous job evaluating talent as an assistant at Boston College. Now as the leader at Providence, he’s not only doing a great job evaluating talent, he’s bringing those top guys in. When you look at Ricky Ledo (No. 21 in 2012), Kris Dunn (No. 23 in 2012) and Brandon Austin (No. 56 in 2013), that’s three big players he signed, and then add a commit from current ESPN 100 SF Jalen Lindsey, and you can see how big of an impact he’s had in a short time. Providence recruiting was instantly upgraded with his hire and the Friars are in great hands going forward.

I will say I love the Buckeyes class right now as it boasts skill, versatility and two guys who can flat out score in Keita Bates-Diop and D’Angelo Russell. With that said, it’s obvious they still need to add some size to the frontcourt despite earning a pledge from three-star center David Bell.

I can’t say who they will land but some of their biggest targets on their board are top-10 recruits Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner. Now the Buckeyes are in the running to win the Okafor and Jones sweepstakes, but if they miss out, Turner would be a great consolation prize. Other potential targets are forwards Leron Black and Paul White and center Elbert Robinson, all of whom would be great gets for the No. 2-ranked team in the ESPN Class Rankings.

I see them finishing out the July and August event season and then taking some official visits together in the fall. I would say the earliest we can expect a decision is the early signing period (mid-November). They still need to take some official visits and sort things out before making a pledge.

The Tar Heels are looking for someone who can score and shoot with range. Someone like No. 11 senior prospect Rashad Vaughn would fit that bill. He’s the most dynamic scoring guard in the class and he does it from all three levels: Behind the line, inside the arc and driving to the basket. This guy has a knack for putting the ball in the basket, he just needs to cut down on his attempts and become more efficient. If Vaughn is out the mix, the Heels may go after Georgia scorer Ahmed Hill, the No. 33 overall player and eighth-rated 2-guard.

He’s an intriguing prospect who has had a good summer. I saw him play well at adidas and at the LeBron camp and he had a strong showing at NBA camp. He has a strong body and the ability to score on the perimeter and in the paint or post up to get buckets down low. I like his skill level and IQ and his body. When you factor all those things, he has a chance to move up depending on how strong he finishes the summer. Right now he’s at 34, but he has the ability to crack the top 25.

When most coaches recruit, they think about finding the right fit and need in a prospect. When you talk about fit and need, it usually revolves around a player’s offense, skill level, size at the position and basketball IQ. Some coaches will look at defensive attributes depending on their scheme, but in large part coaches recruit more for offense, IQ and athleticism because they can teach defense later in the process. It’s harder to teach a guy to be more skilled or athletic than it is to teach defense.

I look at scouting through a similar lense when evaluating players for the ESPN 100 rankings. You look for attributes and qualities that will make a good offensive player a strong defender, whether it’s his ability to rebound, stay in front of guys or take charges. For big guys, I have put an emphasis on how they defend ball screens, cover the low post and hedge out as well as skills and IQ.

ESPN 100 small forward Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) ended his recruitment Monday night by committing to Providence over offers from Tennessee, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State and others.

Lindsey is ranked the No. 32 prospect in the ESPN 100 and is the Friars’ first pledge in the 2014 class.

[+] EnlargeJalen Lindsey
Paul Biancardi/ESPN.comESPN 100 SF Jalen Lindsey committed to Providence on Monday.
"I chose Providence because they recruited me the hardest and were the most sincere,” Lindsey said. “I believe coach Ed Cooley is a great coach, and he is the best fit to help me showcase my skills and help me reach my dream to become a NBA player."

So what will Providence be getting in the four-star recruit?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider