Lost and Found Again: Unearthing Providence Guard Bryce CottonPosted by mlemaire on November 13th, 2012
On the heels of transfer announcements from Gerard Coleman and Bilal Dixon, the rumors started swirling at Providence in early April that yet another guard — then-sophomore Bryce Cotton — asked for his release and was set to leave the program. The thought was that with Vincent Council returning for his senior year and at least two superstar guard recruits entering the program, Cotton saw the writing on the wall and was headed for a place that offered more playing time.
Friars’ fans did not take the news well but the discussion was never about losing a starting guard, it was about losing “depth” and a solid player who could back up Council and uber-freshmen Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo. Never mind that the then-sophomore was coming off a season in which he had averaged 38.6 minutes and 14.3 points per game, the message was already clear. Cotton was a nice player, but he wasn’t Council, or Dunn, or Ledo.
Fast forward to present day and you can bet that the Providence faithful is thanking its lucky stars that Cotton decided to stick around. The backcourt logjam that was supposed to eat into Cotton’s minutes never materialized. In fact, the backcourt has gone from an area of strength to an area of weakness almost overnight. First Dunn had shoulder surgery, then Ledo was ruled ineligible, and then, early in the team’s season-opening win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Council injured his hamstring, leaving him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.
The attrition left coach Ed Cooley with just six scholarship players heading into last night’s game and just one experienced ball-handler — Cotton. Although the opponent was Bryant — who is not well-equipped to beat anyone, let alone a team from the Big East — Cotton proved up to the first challenge, playing all 40 minutes and posting his first career double-double with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. He ran the offense with aplomb and proved to his doubters that he is fully capable of being the lead man for a Big East program, at least for the time being.
Cotton doesn’t have time to rest on his laurels however, because no one has any idea how long he will need to be the Friars’ focal point and offensive general. Ledo is ineligible for the season, Dunn’s shoulder won’t be healthy until at least January, and Council will miss at least a few weeks although there are some rumblings (scroll down to the second-to-last item) that he might miss the rest of the season. This leaves Cotton as the team’s only experienced ball-handler, which is unfortunate for Providence since Cotton definitely does not belong at the point guard position. His forte is his outside shooting and he thrived off the ball last season where Council’s penetration left Cotton with plenty of uncontested looks from deep.
Now Cotton is not only being asked to create his own shot more often, but he is also being asked to bring the ball up the court, run the offense, and distribute the ball effectively to his teammates. It will be interesting to watch Cotton’s progress as he grows more comfortable as the floor general but also faces much stiffer competition. He probably won’t approach many triple-doubles as he did last night, but if he can score in double figures and continue to distribute the ball and run the offense effectively, he will have proven he has the talent and IQ to be an excellent Big East guard. This is ironic, because all of a sudden, the junior who was once considered a player Providence couldn’t let get away because he would add depth, is now essential to the Friars’ success. The player who was once expected to back up a pair of highly touted freshmen is now being asked to steward a young and inexperienced team as they try to rebuild. Maybe it’s good thing Providence had so much depth before the season started.