By Jack Belanger
There is no denying that the best player for Providence College this year has been David Duke ’22. Duke has elevated his game this year raising his points per game to 19.9 while placing second on the team in in assists and rebounds. Big man Nate Watson ’21 has established himself as one of the best low-post players in the conference, average 19.2 points per game and currently has the most offensive rebounds in the Big East.
It is clear that this duo is a big reason why the Friars currently sit at 7-3 overall and a 3-1 record in the Big East. After the Friars 71-55 win over Butler University, head coach Ed Cooley stated, “We will go as far as David and Nate take us.”
Without Duke and Watson, the Friars would not be tied for third place in the Big East. They provide the consistent scoring and playmaking abilities that can disappear when they come off the court. But it is the recent performance of A.J. Reeves that has offered a glimpse of what the Friars are capable of. This team will be competitive as long as Duke and Watson show up, but Reeves’ playing at his best pushes this team to the next level.
Through four Big East games, Reeves has shown he can come through in crunch-time. Against Seton Hall University, he hit the game-winning shot in overtime thanks to a three from the corner. In the Friars third game, against DePaul, he hit the game-tying shot to send the game to overtime.
Shooting 27.8 percent from the three-point line doesn’t get anyone excited but, Reeves has knocked down four threes’ in each of his past two games. As many teams go to zone-defense to protect the paint, the Friars need Reeves to stay hot from behind the arc. When he’s at his best, opposing defenses have to come out and guard him, creating space for Watson down low and driving lanes for Duke.
To go along with the highlight reel, Reeve makes a difference on the stat sheet. Providence is 4-0 on the season when he makes multiple threes. When the Reeves makes one or no threes, the team is 3-3. Yes, the Friars don’t need him to be hot in order to win, but it sure helps a great deal. Having a consistent third scoring option will make it tough for any team to beat the Friars. Teams like Villanova and Creighton are going to have 3-5 guys who can score and the Friars are going to need to keep up with these high-powered offenses. In order to do that, they will need a third scoring-option who can pick-up the slack if Duke or Watson have an off-night. If Reeves can hit 10-15 points a night, it will be pretty tough for any team to slow down the Friars.