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Providence's Cooley bracing for worst with injuries, suspensions

By Jon Rothstein | CBS Sports

NEW YORK -- Ed Cooley is the ultimate optimist.

If he wasn't a basketball coach, he might be a likable politician.

The man shakes hands, kisses babies and tells anyone that will listen why Providence basketball is on the rise.

Cooley brought instant energy to his "dream job" and has made the Friars a major factor nationally both on the floor and in recruiting.

But again it seems like the one thing that always gets in Cooley's way of major progress at Providence is again becoming a factor.

Lack of personnel.

Sophomore point Kris Dunn missed Sunday night's game against Kentucky at Barclays Center with a shoulder injury while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remained suspended indefinitely and have yet to play a minute this season.

According to Cooley, none of the three sound like they'll return anytime soon.

"Kris Dunn is in a lot of pain," Cooley said after the Friars' 79-65 loss to No. 3 Kentucky on Sunday night. "He's really, really hurt. We don't expect him back anytime soon. And the other two guys, we're going to abide by the college code. If they can't play, they'll be cheerleaders."

Cooley is coming off a 20-win season where the Friars reached the NIT and he's also signed three Top 100 level prospects for next season in Jalen Lindsey, Ben Bentil, and 7-foot-1 Paschal Chukwu.

But he had Providence primed for a run at an NCAA bid this season with the addition of Austin and the return of a healthy Dunn.

Unfortunately the status of both of those players for this season is very much up in the air.

Cooley told CBSSports.com that Dunn will be re-evaluated this week and there was no timetable for decisions on Austin and Bullock.

Without Dunn or Austin, the Friars don't have legitimate help on the perimeter for Bryce Cotton, who played all 40 minutes against Kentucky.

"We've got to give him a little more help," Cooley said of Cotton, who had 23 points in the loss to Kentucky.

The Friars have three cornerstone pieces in Cotton, LaDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts while NC State transfer Tyler Harris has emerged as a double-figure scorer.

But without Dunn and Austin, a lethal 6-6 freshman who's good enough to immediately become a double-figure scorer, it seems like once again Providence will be pushing a boulder up a hill when it begins play in the Big East.

"I'm going to coach the team that's on the bus," Cooley said.

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