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Providence coach Pete Gillen looks at his basketball team as one
big happy family, and he takes his close-knit-team philosophy
very seriously. Each Friars player wears practice shorts with
the word FAMILY printed on the back. And the coach insists that
his team eat breakfast together four times a week in addition to
coming to his house for dinner once a month. "It's nothing
fancy, just macaroni or burgers," says Gillen, now in his third
year at Providence. "We try to be like a family. I don't pretend
to have all the answers, but I think this is helpful."

No doubt the first Friar served is the team's 6'9", 230-pound
All-America candidate, Austin Croshere (page 92). The senior
power forward was a third-team All-Big East selection last
season and led Providence with 15.3 points a game. After playing
with the U.S. national under-22 team this summer, Croshere has
added a short-range jump hook to his repertoire and 22 pounds of
muscle to his frame. In September, Gillen actually ordered him
to stop working out so he would lose 10 pounds and give his
weary legs some relief.

Croshere joins senior Derrick Brown to form the Friars' solid
forward front. The high-flying Brown--who goes by the nickname
of Flight back home in Brooklyn--averaged just under 15 points a
game in 1995-96. "I think Austin and I complement each other
really well," says Brown. "His outside skill keeps the lane open
for me, plus he's so smart with the ball, it makes you stay
active and keep your head up." The team rounds out its solid
starting front line with 6'9" center Ruben Garces, a Colon,
Panama, native who snared 7.5 rebounds per game last season.
Garces has bulked up to 240 pounds in the off-season and will
help the Friars improve their team defense, which allowed 74.8
points a game last year, ninth in the Big East.

Sophomore point guard God Shammgod demonstrated his celestial
ball-handling skills last year in setting a conference record
for assists by a freshman (118). But Shammgod was uneven from
the floor, shooting just 33.6%. That underscores this squad's
biggest problem: Though Providence put up 78.2 points a game,
the team as a whole shot just 43.4%. The Friars, who lost four
games by five points or less, surely would have improved on
their 18-12 performance with better numbers from the field.

Gillen hopes that the team's new starter at shooting guard can
help remedy the situation. Either senior Jason Murdock, who
averaged 4.3 points a game as the squad's sixth man last season,
or 6'8" sophomore Jamel Thomas, who scored 9.3 points in nearly
21 minutes a game in his first year, will get the nod. Even with
this team's suspect shooting touch, the buzz on Federal Hill is
that Gillen has assembled what might be the Friars' most
talented clan since the days of Ernie DiGregorio. Gillen
prudently deflects the hype. "We're talented," he says, "but
that doesn't always equal good chemistry, which is vital for
success." Still, if the shooting improves even a little, expect
dinner at the Gillens' to become a raucous family affair.

--Chad Millman

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN SPURLOCK High flier Brown isn't easily grounded. [Derrick Brown in game]


Coach: Pete Gillen
Career record: 237-100 (11 seasons)
Record at Providence: 35-25 (two seasons)
1995-96 record: 18-12 (final ranking: none)
Big East record: 9-9 (sixth)


PG *God Shammgod, 6'0", Soph.
Game is as (omni)potent as his name
SG Jason Murdock, 6'3", Sr.
Made only 21.6% of his three-pointers
SF *Derrick Brown, 6'6", Sr.
Second on Friars in points and boards
PF *Austin Croshere, 6'9", Sr.
A top contender for Big East MVP
C *Ruben Garces, 6'9", Sr.
Defensive stopper on this undersized unit

*returning starter


Dec. 4 at Villanova
Big test against the Wildcats' big front line

Dec. 31 vs. Texas
Friars had six assists in 92-83 loss last season

Jan. 15 at Miami
Loss last March cost Providence tourney bid

Jan. 29 at Connecticut
UConn withdrew scholarship offer to Croshere

Feb. 1 vs. Boston College
Only meeting between two rising Big East powers