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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Cooley keeping word, bringing top players to Providence

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Ed Cooley cannot publicly discuss specific prospects because of NCAA rules that prohibit it.

But the Providence coach can talk generally about how he's feeling these days.

So I asked him to do exactly that.

"I'm excited about our future," Cooley said. "I think we're off to a good start."

Yeah, I think so, too.

Just give me a chance, Ed Cooley is saying to blue-chip recruits. It's early, but so far his pitch is working. (US Presswire)  
Just give me a chance, Ed Cooley is saying to blue-chip recruits. It's early, but so far his pitch is working. (US Presswire)  
While most sports fans have been consumed with Texas A&M's imminent move to the SEC, Mike Vick's new contract, LSU's foot-stomping quarterback and Peyton Manning's neck, a story that's less relevant nationally but just as interesting in the world of college basketball is unfolding up in Providence.

Cooley last week secured a commitment from Kris Dunn, arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2012. He's next expected to, at some point, accept another high-profile commitment from Ricky Ledo, one of the nation's most talented wings.

In other words, Providence should eventually have two top-30 commitments.

Only one other school currently has two.

That school is Arizona.

So you can see why Cooley is excited about the future, right? The Providence native took over at Providence College in March after Keno Davis was fired for leading the Friars to only eight Big East victories in the past two seasons, and when I saw Cooley for the first time afterward he made his top priority clear. "I'm gonna get players," he said. "I promise you that."

Rest assured, the man has kept his promise.

"I feel really confident when it comes to recruiting," said Cooley, who spent the previous five seasons at Fairfield, where he won 48 times the past two years. "We're gonna get our guys. I just believe that.

"Now am I putting pressure on myself by saying that? Maybe. But what am I gonna say? That I'm not gonna recruit well? If you don't believe in yourself, how can you sell your program and your vision and ultimately reach some goals?

"I always tell these young kids the same thing -- just give me a chance," Cooley added. "A lot of players in the past have given the [Jim] Calhouns and the [Jim] Boeheims and the [Rick] Pitinos a chance. But who is going to become Ed Cooley's signature guys? I ask them to give me a chance. I ask them to come help me build a dominant program."

In fairness, lots of coaches ask recruits those same things, but it's how Cooley asks that helps set him apart. He's got a huge personality that's evident the first time you meet him, and because he's only 41 years old he can still relate to young people in a way that might be difficult for a grandfather.

And he's relentless, too, one of the wise men of this sport who realizes you've got little chance to succeed unless your players are better than your opponent's players.

"Every meeting we have starts with recruiting," Cooley said. "I mandate it."

Then he approaches the prospects.

"When I sell my background to the kids and my vision to their families, I always tell the kids that if I get the opportunity to know them and they get the opportunity to see who we are as a family and what we do as people during the recruiting process, when it comes time to make a decision on a school, they will have a brutal time telling me no," Cooley said. "They might tell me no. But they'll have a brutal time doing it."

Or, as we're learning, they might just say yes.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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