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The Underdogs of Big East Basketball: The Providence College Friars

Gritty Team Overcomes Key Injury, Delivers Exciting Season
Several Friars huddle during an early-season game.


It’s the new mantra of the Providence Friars men’s basketball team.

The Friars made headlines last year when former Coach Ed Cooley left to join the Georgetown Hoyas. Just days after Cooley’s announcement, a new head coach was introduced: Kim English, the former coach at George Mason, who brought with him several players who bring experience and talent to the court — especially Josh Oduro (forward) and Devonte “Ticket” Gaines (guard).

The Friars have an extremely loyal fanbase. While they don’t win every game, the fans always show up at the Amica Mutual Pavilion (or The AMP) in their gear and with their voices — not only to cheer on the players but in the hopes of getting to “ice the shooter” and receive a free Dunkin Donuts gift card if an opposing team player misses two free throw shots in a row.

This season especially, the Friars have shown what it means to play through adversity. At a home game in early January, one of the team’s key players, Bryce Hopkins (forward) tripped and wound up with a torn ACL that effectively ended his season. After the loss of Hopkins, the Friars found themselves stuck in a four-game losing streak. However, they bounced back. The team adjusted to a slightly different starting lineup and broke their losing streak with a 100-62 win at DePaul University. Stepping up to help fill the 15.5 points per game (ppg) and the critical 8.6 rebound gap left by Hopkins were Oduro and Devin Carter (guard).

Oduro is a graduate student and has played for Coach English since 2021. He’s the big man on the team — and much needed, considering the Friars are on the smaller side this year. And Carter, who with his 19.3 ppg, 8.3 rebounds, and superior defense may very well land Big East Player of the Year. This is Carter’s second year playing for the Friars and along with Hopkins had an excellent season last year. Hopkins was even selected as a member of the 2023 Big East All-First Team, meaning he was recognized as one of the five best players in the league.

It is also worth noting that the Friars came within 10 points of securing the win over the UConn Huskies, who (until recently) were ranked first in the country. The teams meet again in Providence to close the regular season on March 9th.

Despite numerous challenges and several injuries this year, (including losing star player Hopkins), the Friars maintain a 9-8 record in Big East play and a 18-10 record overall. They are tied for fifth in the Big East with games against Villanova, Georgetown, and UConn remaining before the conference tournament.

Yes, the Friars do have key players. But the great thing about Providence is that everyone on the bench has something to offer. If one of the players isn’t having the best game, someone else jumps in and adapts to the current situation. The best games to watch are when it’s not just one or two guys scoring points, it’s the whole team contributing and handling the ball. It’s great to see younger players like Rich Barron, Garwey Dual, and Jayden Pierre making an impact on the court, especially when big man Oduro is in foul trouble, which he is at risk of doing with the loss of Hopkins’ defensive contribution. Players like Corey Floyd Jr. and Rafael Castro are always there when you need them. This team feels like a unit — a group that really does work together. You can tell based on how they play off each other, pick each other up, talk about each other during postgame press conferences, and celebrate together. There’s a community there, and it seems to go beyond just the court.

And this isn’t unique to just this season. I’ve been a Friar fan for a few years now, and my favorite season so far has been the 2021-2022 team, featuring the talents of Alijami Durham, Justin Minaya, and Nate Watson with Ed Croswell, Noah Horchler, Jared Bynum, and AJ Reeves in supporting roles. This supergroup finished with a 27-6 record, the Big East regular season title, and brought the Friars to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.

This sense of community is also mirrored from the stands. I have a personal connection to the Friars because my parents and my Mom’s Dad all went to Providence. As a result, watching the games is a family affair. It’s a sort of tradition, carried on from my Dad and his father. When my Dad was young, the two of them would watch UConn games together. And now, my Dad shares Providence games with my sister and I (and my Mom and her parents). It’s fun getting to share the fanaticism with the people you’re close to.

Looking ahead, the Friars will have an interesting lineup next season as well, with some new and some returning players. Justyn Fernandez was out this season with an ACL injury but will be back in the game next year, as will Hopkins, assuming he’s ready to get back out on the court and wants to stick around for another year instead of entering the NBA draft. This year’s graduates will be sorely missed, but there’s a lot in store and a lot of potential for the second season of Friars basketball coached by Kim English.

The Friars truly are underdogs. Watching them play is exciting, and being a fan during those key moments of the game is extremely rewarding.

If you’re a college basketball fan or a fan of the Big East, I’d certainly keep an eye on this Friars team.

Check out the 2023-2024 season roster here.

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About the Contributor
Sophia Caneira, Staff Writer
Sophia is a junior at E.O. Smith. She enjoys writing, reading, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with family. She is excited to write for the newspaper again this year.

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