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Can Ryan Fazekas stay healthy this season?

Mononucleosis derailed a strong freshman campaign for the sharpshooter.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Providence Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Cooley brought in Ryan Fazekas to do what he does best: shoot. The 6-7 forward came into last season with an aura of mystery regarding what to expect. You couldn’t find him on any big recruiting sites, and his highlight tapes didn’t sport 50,000 views on YouTube. He was no Seventh Woods, but he was a key component of Ed Cooley’s 2015 recruiting class.

Fazekas was a proven sharp shooter even before stepping onto the Providence campus. During his junior year at Marquette Catholic (Indiana), he led his team to the school’s first ever state championship by capping off the playoff run with a 34 point performance in the state final. Check out the highlights below:

Entering his freshman year at Providence, Fazekas was expected to be the shooter that the Friars needed alongside Kris Dunn. In the first nine games, he did just that. Averaging 27.1 minutes, Fazekas played a key role in the Friars offense by providing a reliable shooter next to the likes of Dunn and Ben Bentil. Hitting at least one three pointer in all but one of those nine games, it seemed as though Cooley’s plan for the sharp shooter was working perfectly. Unfortunately, this didn’t remain true for much longer.

After a few absences due to the always-deceptive “undisclosed injury”, it was reported that Fazekas had been diagnosed with mononucleosis and there was no timetable for his return. Following such a great start to his collegiate career, this was a disappointing turn. His recovery was an unfortunately long process, as most mononucleosis recuperations are. Losing weight and not being able to workout was a tough blow to Fazekas and his hopes to picking up right where he left off.

Fazekas returned on January 5th against Marquette, but it was clear he wasn’t the same player we had seen at the beginning of the season. His minutes and productivity never got back to where they were earlier in the year. It’s difficult to avoid playing the “what if” game in this situation. What if Fazekas had never gotten sick? Would he have continued to progress throughout the entire season? Would this have changed the outcome of the Friars’ season? It’s these kind of questions that drive every sports fan crazy.

Friar fans are hoping to see Fazekas return back and better than ever for his sophomore year. Shooting was and is still the top asset in his arsenal, but there are some areas that Ed Cooley would love to see him improve upon. On the defensive side of the ball, Fazekas will need to improve his awareness and on ball defending. Being he only has one year of experience, Fazekas has plenty of time to get better on this side of the ball, however Cooley will need him to step up and help a Friars team that relied heavily on Kris Dunn’s defense.

Look for the Friars to use Fazekas’ length to their advantage, as he can create a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A 6-7 forward who can consistently knock down three pointers is never easy to defend. He’ll be an essential component of Providence’s lineup this season if the Friars want to find success. With the quickness of point guard Kyron Cartwright, expect Ed Cooley to use Fazekas to open up the floor and boost the Friars’ offensive productivity.

What if he returns playing better than he was at the beginning of last season? Only time will tell. But let’s hope mono stays away from him this flu season.