The Providence coaches have a recruiting credo: Know who you are. It means understanding that the school, although possessing an esteemed basketball tradition, doesn't have a large and diverse student body like Syracuse's, or a sparkling new arena like Maryland's, or the sunshine of Florida, or the perennial triumph of Duke. Providence is a private college with a student body of around 3,700 that, with a small minority presence, can seem awfully white on a recruiting visit. The Friars play off-campus in the 32-year-old Dunkin' Donuts Center, a 12,993-seat downtown arena in need of a face-lift, and rare is the day a kid outside of Rhode Island is seen sporting PC gear. The attributes that Welsh and his staff play up are the small class sizes that James Gist's mother liked, the Friars' membership in the Big East and Welsh's willingness to give freshmen major minutes. But the bottom line is that "we are not Duke," Seymore says, "so sometimes you have to take a chance on a kid with some flaws."
In late July 2003 Seymore flew to Orlando for the Super Showcase. When he landed, he got a call from Anthony Ivory, a 6'9" forward with soft hands and quick feet who had made the trip to Orlando to play for the Southern Region Explosion, an AAU outfit based in Waldorf, Md. Ivory was an East Coast schoolboy legend. But he had a checkered schoolboy career, migrating from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md., to Springbrook (Md.) High, to the Marriott Hospitality Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., and he had battled chronic shin splints and stress fractures in his legs.
Seymore first met him at Springbrook in the fall of 2002 while scouting a point guard named Folarin Campbell. When Ivory didn't play a single game as a junior, seemingly every college assistant had given up on him ...except Phil Seymore.
He had invited Ivory to join Campbell on a visit to a summer camp on campus in June 2003. By that time Ivory weighed 330 pounds and hadn't played a competitive game in more than 15 months. "I really like Anthony," Welsh told Seymore after spending most of a day with him. "He's a gentle kid who wants to be coached. The question is, Can he get healthy, get in shape and get the guidance he needs?"
Seymore got an encouraging glimpse of Ivory in the first of two games he played in Orlando. On one series he got the ball near the free throw line, backed in against his defender, spun to his left and then back to his right before finishing with a lefthanded layup. He's probably 60 to 70 pounds above his ideal weight and still taking guys, Seymore thought. After Ivory's strong showing in Orlando, Florida State, Houston and Clemson began recruiting him, but they wanted to see if he could stay healthy before offering a scholarship. Providence had no such stipulation, and Ivory's AAU coach, Lynn Smack, felt like it was time for Ivory to reward Seymore's loyalty.
In late August, Smack had a crab feed for his players at his home in Waldorf. Over a plate of blue crabs, he told Ivory, "When you got hurt, everyone started shying away. Even my own cousin [ Clemson coach Oliver Purnell] shied away. But Coach Seymore--he stuck with you. He told you he'd help you find a prep school. He's told you to work on your grades and not worry about basketball, that Providence would always be there for you. Coach Seymore has your best interests at heart." A month later Ivory surprised Seymore with a call. "I want to come to Providence. I'm tired of all this [recruiting]," he said. Smack followed up with a call to Seymore. "Anthony needed a father figure, and you've become that for him," Smack said. "He's coming to Providence because of you."
At the beginning, the class of '04 seemed to offer a plethora of point guards. DeMeo talked of landing Sebastian Telfair, whose half-brother Jamel Thomas had played for the Friars. DeMeo flirted with DeSean White's Cardinal Dougherty teammate Kyle Lowry before Lowry committed to Villanova, and he also pursued Manny Quezada of St. Albans in Washington, D.C. Quezada would sign with Rutgers. Seymore courted one-time Anthony Ivory schoolmate Folarin Campbell (who's headed to George Mason).
Welsh is customarily the recruiting closer. DeMeo and Seymore keep him abreast of players they are after, and Welsh leaves it to their judgment to decide when he should get involved. But Welsh liked point guard Ron Ramon of All Hallows High in the Bronx so much that he handled Ramon's recruitment personally. However, after vacillating for several weeks, Ramon in early October chose Pittsburgh over Providence.
When Seymore got word of Ramon's decision, he immediately called Harvey Brewer, coach of the Baltimore Bombers, who is known for giving kids a second chance. Poor grades, trouble off the court--Brewer forgives and forgets and turns one-time misfits into Division I prospects. His major project in the summer of 2003 was a skinny, 5'11" lefthanded guard with seemingly endless arms named JaJuan Robinson, whom everyone calls Ice.
Seymore had seen Robinson play for Baltimore Select in the summer of 2002 and wasn't convinced that Robinson was a Big East player. But Robinson had been tearing up the summer circuit in 2003, scoring 37 against UCLA-bound guard Jordan Farmar in a tournament and then, with Seymore in attendance, dominating several high-profile guards at the Best of the Summer tournament in Los Angeles in July. Trying to describe Robinson's game to DeMeo, Seymore struggled to pinpoint which part was so impressive. "It was nothing in particular, but he was just in the flow doing everything he wanted to do," Seymore explained.