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Ed Cooley: ‘We want to recruit the best players in the country’

Jul 23, 2013, 11:10 PM EST

Ed Cooley AP

The Providence Friars have been a cellar-dweller, a punching bag and any other synonym you can think of to describe the program’s struggles since its last NCAA tournament in appearance in 2004.

With head coach Ed Cooley settling in for his third season in his native Providence, the Friars are on the rise. That was apparent when he landed a stellar backcourt in 2012 of Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo. That dream of that guard tandem never became a reality due to Dunn’s shoulder injury, and Ledo unable to suit up all season.

The success of the 2012 class is something Cooley is starting to replicate.

“We want to recruit the best players in the country,” Cooley told SNY.tv. “Everybody always says a lot of negative things about the brand of Providence. Whether that’s in the past or whatever, I don’t look at that. I want the best players in the country to to play in the best league in the country.”

The soundbite Cooley provided early this week isn’t something to laugh off. Cooley showed he can recruit with the best by landing Dunn and Ledo one year ago. Joining the new Big East didn’t stop him from recently landing top-50 small forward Jalen Lindsey, either. If Cooley has his way, that will be the first piece in a heralded incoming class.

The PC coaching staff is doing its best provide Lindsey with some company, for instance, being present the past two weekends for nearly every one of Paschal Chukwu’s games — a 7-foot-1 center, who is entering his senior year at Fairfield Prep (Conn.). Chukwu isn’t the only New England product Cooley is actively pursuing.

It isn’t just the high school recruits making their way to Rhode Island. Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris join the program next season after transferring in. Next season, he’ll have a solid core of returners — Dunn, Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts — to go along with the two transfers and incoming wing Brandon Austin.

Cooley, without Ledo’s services and with plenty of injuries, got the Friars one game away from 20 wins, and now he’s got the Friars on the list of numerous top prospects. There is optimism in Providence, 2014 will only add to that with every recruit Cooley gets a commitment from. It’s been an impressive turnaround, so far … one that fans should be taking notice of.

“But what I’m excited about is we’re coming together as a program,” Cooley told SNY. “Our guys believe in what we’re trying to do.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne