In the early years of Ed Cooley’s tenure at Providence, the Friars succeeded in the Big East via a simple formula: a few clutch crunch-time scorers (Bryce Cotton, LaDontae Henton) and imposing size. As much as Carson Desrosiers, and, to an extent, Kadeem Batts may be forgotten in the shadows of Henton, Cotton, and Kris Dunn, they were crucial in the Friars success during the rough and tumble conference schedule in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
With that being said, a key factor in the Friars’ undoing the past two years was a lack of depth in the front court. The Friars of the past two years lacked a true center, and Cooley seemed to make size a focal point of his 2017 recruiting class. As a result, he netted two high upside big men: three-star Dajour Dickens and four-star Nate Watson.
While Dickens comes in as a much more raw prospect, Watson projects as a potential mainstay in Cooley’s lineups. The graduate of Bishop O’Connell High School in Virginia committed to the Friars on October 15 of last year after taking official visits to Maryland and Miami, and was Providence’s highest rated 2017 recruit prior to the commitment of Makai Ashton-Langford this spring.
Watson should provide needed effort and energy on the glass, a breath of fresh air for a Providence squad that finished seventh in offensive and defensive rebounding, as well as rebounding margin during Big East play last year.
Additionally, Emmitt Holt and Kalif Young, the Friars’ mainstays at center last year, will benefit from the arrival of Watson as well. Holt, a power forward by trade, will be able to move away from the basket on both sides of the court, keeping him out of foul trouble and allowing him to open up lanes for slashers Ashton-Langford and Kyron Cartwright to create offense. In Young’s case, Watson provides needed depth and foul relief as well.
Watson, of course, isn’t perfect; namely, it’s clear that he has to develop a consistent offensive game. While he certainly finished around the rim during is time at Bishop O’Connell, he hasn’t yet developed a reliable jumper to expand his offensive threat. On top of that, he won’t blow anyone away on size alone: after all, he stands at just 6’8”. Both of those things can be masked, however, dependent on how Cooley uses him; it’s possible that he could be surrounded by four shooters, and that he can play in tandem with undersized but nonetheless solid rebounders such as Rodney Bullock, Holt, and Young.
In the long run, what Watson will immediately provide is increased depth and a greater arsenal of options for Cooley as he heads into 2017-2018. What remains to be seen now is what he does with his opportunity to play immediately.
You can check out some of Watson’s senior season highlights in the video below.