FRIARS’ MARKED MAN
As focal pont of opponents’ defense, Bynum adjusting to new role
PROVIDENCE – For Jared Bynum, it’s a whole new ballgame regarding life as a marked Providence Friar.
“He’s on top of everyone’s scouting reports so he’s drawing everyone’s best defenders,” said coach Ed Cooley following Wednesday’s 71-57 win over Merrimack. “He’s got to adjust to balancing. Do I go? Do I stay? Do I get my teammates involved early in the game?”
Sticking with the same train of thought regarding his lead guard, Cooley shed additional light on a few reasons why life as a super sub on last year’s team helped Bynum to flourish.
“Jared had the luxury of coming off the bench and playing against a tired starter or a backup. He had other pieces around him who knew him,” said Cooley. “These players [meaning those comprising the current Providence edition] don’t know Jared as far as playing games.”
Bynum was a preseason first- team all- conference selection. Such a designation meant that he went into the season as a known commodity with a target on his back. Borrowing from Shakespeare, “heavy is the head that wears the crown.”
We’re talking about a noticeable rise in the pecking order after last season when Bynum stepped onto the floor with valuable sidekicks who also found themselves in the eye of the storm when it came to being defended. Alas, Nate Watson, Noah Horchler, A.J. Reeves, and Justin Minaya are no longer in the fold. Neither is Al Durham, the former Friar whose contributions, in particular, enabled Bynum to experience a major upswing in production.
The load of production that departed opened the door for Bynum to take on a greater load, as well as a newfound level of fame. Be the face of the program but make sure to run the offense like a conductor who guides the orchestra. Don’t forget, we need some point production from you as well. Lastly, you see the high-flying guard in the opposite color jersey? That’s your defensive assignment.
On a Providence team short on known commodities, Bynum finds himself walking a fine line – something he acknowledged before departing the Amica Mutual Pavilion Wednesday night.
“The more you produce, the better you play, the higher up on the scouting report you’ll be,” said Bynum. “Teams game plan for you a little bit more, but you have to do your own part as well … work a little bit harder to produce the same numbers or even better numbers.”
Entering Saturday’s 4 p.m. tip against Columbia, Bynum ranks tied for second in scoring (11.2 ppg) while shooting 38 percent from the field and 22 percent from three. He tops the Friars in assists (30) and has turned the ball over just seven times through six games.
His stat line from the Merrimack game was eye-catching in the sense that Bynum finished with more assists (six) than shot attempts (three). When the Friars played at Mohegan Sun arena last weekend, Bynum hoisted up 28 shots and handed out six assists over a tough two-game stretch against Miami and St. Louis.
“Sometimes like [the Merrimack game where the opponent threw a zone], it’s a night where you have to move the ball more to find the weaknesses,” said Bynum.
The points articulated by Cooley during Wednesday’s postgame address were conveyed to Bynum when the Friars returned to campus after spending time in the Connecticut woods.
“We want to see an improvement on when to find guys, when to pass, when to shoot, stuff like that,” said Bynum. “It’s definitely a feel thing.”
As articulated earlier, Durham was a boon when it came to last season’s version of Bynum and how they
were able to play off each other. This year’s PC team may not have a Durham-type of player, yet they have a versatile option in Bryce Hopkins, the sophomore transfer from Kentucky. Imagine Hopkins functioning as a “point forward” who directs traffic in the halfcourt which in turn frees Bynum to attack as a scoring threat.
“At his size, he’s very dynamic in what he brings to the game … rebounding and scoring and pushing the ball up the court,” said Bynum about Hopkins. “It’s fun playing with someone like that because he can make plays for himself and others.”
Bynum believes that freshman
Jayden Pierre holds the potential to serve as an important running mate.
“He’s someone who can come in and be that playmaker. He’s also a guy who can find his own shot,” said Bynum. “He’s fast and crafty … getting into the teeth of the defense.”
Closing the book on a conversation about being known as a Friar focal point, Bynum says his confidence remains unshaken in the face of a sporadic start to the season.
“I’m not one to worry too much,” he said.