Cooley, Providence in MIx for Trio of 2012 Big Men

With Noel and Obepka available, Cooley and staff will be working overtime

by By ADAM ZAGORIA and HARRISON SANFORD February 23, 2012 9:44am ET

Did any coaching staff work as hard on recruiting this week as Ed Cooley and the guys at Providence?

First, they went up to New Hampshire Monday to watch Nerlens Noel and JaKarr Sampson battle it out in the big Tilton-Brewster game.

Then they came down to Long Island and saw Chris Obekpa and Our Savior New American on Tuesday night.

The Friars are in the mix for all three late-signing big men, any one of whom would add to the strong recruiting class they already have that already includes McDonald's All-American point guard Kris Dunn, shooting guard Josh Fortune and prolific scoring wing Ricky Ledo.

"If they got a big like that it would be a tremendous class," longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told

"It's a tremendous recruiting class already. To win at the highest level you need a big guy. Nerlens Noel is probably the best of them, but Chris Obekpa or JaKarr Sampson [would be a great addition]. Nerlens or Obekpa change the game defensively. It would signal that the Providence Friars are back."

The 6-foot-10 Noel has visited Syracuse and Kentucky and said he plans to visit North Carolina, Florida and Georgetown during Tilton's spring break, which runs March 10-26.

“I don’t have any dates for visits but I’ll be visiting North Carolina, Georgetown and Florida most likely during March break,” he told Five Star.

“And Providence and UConn, those are local schools so I can get down there.”

Sidiki Johnson, the New York City native and former Arizona forward who transferred to Providence, would love Noel to join the Friars.

"If we can add Nerlens, that's gives us another big," Johnson told Five Star. "He can block shots, really protect the paint."

"The class we have for next year is already good," Johnson said. "But if we can add a player like him or the others [Sampson & Obekpa], we feel that we can play with any team in the nation

The 6-8 Sampson is mulling offers from Florida, Louisville, Kansas, Providence and St. John's, the school from which he decommitted last fall. He scored added 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Brewster's 60-56 victory over Tilton. Noel tallied eight points.

Smith told the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader Noel is projected to be the “best shot blocker since Patrick Ewing. I would not be shocked if he had a 10-to-15-year pro career. He definitely can dominate a game." 

When it comes to shot-blocking, the 6-9 Obekpa is no slouch, either. He had 20 swats in a game last month against National Christian (Md.).

Obekpa is considering numerous schools, including Providence, UConn, St. John's, Seton Hall, Cincinnati and others. 

He visited Providence and UConn Saturday and is currently at Cincinnati for Thursday's Louisville game.

"We had already been to Providence in the fall so we saw the Dunkin Donuts Center but now this time the place was packed," Our Savior assistant Eric Jaklitsch said. 

"After the game we had the opportunity to speak with Coach Cooley and his staff. They expressed again how much they want Chris and how much they need him. They talked about the opportunity that was available for him if he decides to attend Providence College.”

If anyone one of these big men decides to attend Providence, look out.


For more from Adam Zagoria, check out and follow him on Twitter: @AdamZagoria

Harrison Sanford is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter: @HarrisonSanford



Related JaKarr Sampson Ed Cooley Nerlens Noel Sidiki Johnson Kris Dunn Josh Fortune Ricardo Ledo Providence Friars Chris Obepka
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