How could you send God to the NIT?
It happened last March as Providence freshman point guard God Shammgod and the rest of the Friars looked on miserably from their locker room while the NCAA tournament selection committee burst their bubble. To make matters worse, ESPN cameras were on hand to share the Friars' heartbreak with a national television audience.
A newspaper photograph from that awful day, featuring Providence teammates Austin Croshere and Michael Brown with heads in hands, is now taped inside Croshere's locker, where he must examine it every day. "I know that as sad as that moment was for me, it was a hundred times worse for Michael because he was a senior," says Croshere, studying the photograph. "Now I'm a senior, and I won't let myself be in that same picture this March."
Don't bet against Croshere, a kid who in the summer of '95 beat out Marcus Camby and John Wallace to make the U.S. team for the World University Games even though at that point he had never started a regular-season college game. As a junior last season the 6'9" Croshere started every game and averaged a robust 15.3 points and 5.8 rebounds, but he didn't get complacent. Six days a week this summer he sneaked into the campus gym through an unlocked window to conduct rigorous solo workouts, the evidence of which can be seen in his gym-rat pallor and heavier muscles. "Most college kids have their brains going down 20 different roads all at once," Friars coach Pete Gillen says. "Austin isn't tempted to veer down Doughnut Avenue. He's driving straight down Main Street all the time."
Even though the Friars' offense will revolve around Croshere, it's always nice to know you have Shammgod on your side. The Friars' point guard scored 9.6 points a game last season and proved that God can create too, setting a Big East freshman record for assists with 118, many coming off his trademark high crossover dribble so reminiscent of his idol, former Syracuse star Dwayne (Pearl) Washington. "I see myself as the head of a snake," Shammgod says. "If I don't move, the team's not going anywhere."
This season Shammgod will often dish inside to senior Derrick (Flight) Brown, who averaged 14.8 points per game last season. Shammgod is also hoping to improve his own shooting, especially since his field goal percentage was 33.6% a year ago. He knows that as the season progresses, this team with PROVIDENCE written across the players' chests will need plenty of divine intervention. No problem. The Friars' motto is tattooed on their point guard's right biceps: IN GOD WE TRUST.