Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil departing for the NBA Draft leaves Ed Cooley in a difficult spot. That’s 37.5 PPG walking out the door for a team that only averaged around 74 PPG last season. Scary, I know. In years past, Cooley has been the master of doing a whole lot with very little, but this season may prove to be his toughest fix yet. So, how does he deal with losing the best duo in the Big East? His leading returning scorer, Rodney Bullock, is a good place to start.
Thanks to a season long suspension followed by a torn ACL, the 2015-2016 season was the Friar Faithful’s first true introduction to Bullock. Despite his absence from the court in his first two seasons, the 6’8 forward was expected to be the prominent secondary scoring option behind All-American Kris Dunn. However with Ben Bentil quickly becoming a scoring machine, his role in the offense was diminished.
Even with Dunn and Bentil producing the majority of Providence’s offense, Bullock still managed to contribute throughout the season. Averaging 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, he became a must-have third option for the Friars. When everyone’s focus turned to Dunn and Bentil, Bullock was often ignored by opposing defenses. This was never more evident than it was in the waning seconds of Providence’s first round match-up against the USC Trojans.
Obviously this was the highlight of his 2015-2016 campaign, but inconsistency seemed to be the unfortunate common thread. Early on in the season, he was able to produce big numbers against nonconference opponents. However, as the season went on, the roller coaster ride of productivity became more and more drastic.
Inconsistency is expected out of any first year player, and Rodney Bullock was no different. When facing a mismatch or tightly defended, he often seemed to lose focus, confidence, and take possessions off. If Ed Cooley wants to find any sort of success this coming season, those tendencies must disappear.
The optimist in me wants to focus on Bullock’s performance at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve. Going up against #9 Butler, he put up 25 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes of consistent play and led the Friars to an 81-73 victory. The pessimist in me presents the box score from Providence’s January 26th loss to Xavier, where Bullock had just three points and three rebounds. The facts are there for both sides of the argument. I genuinely hope Bullock proves my pessimism wrong this coming season, but something tells me the inconsistency won’t just magically disappear. Whether he likes it or not, Bullock will be looked at as a leader for the 2016-2017 Friars. He has all the tools to be the main producer for Cooley, now he needs to use them.
If you’re wondering about Bullock’s interests outside of basketball, he’s apparently a big fan of Ulysses S. Grant. But, I mean, who isn’t these days?