PROVIDENCE — Al Durham feels just as comfortable playing at The Dunkin Donuts Center as he did at Michigan, The Ohio State, or his former collegiate residence at the University of Indiana.
“I came here wanting to become a better player,” the 6-foot-4 fifth-year senior said, having been in the starting lineup for coach Ed Cooley in all seven games this season. His value to the Friars is his ability to distribute the ball (25 assists) and play plenty of minutes (averaging a team-high 35).
“In particular with Justin (Minaya, a South Carolina transfer) and Al, they’re getting comfortable, they’re still learning how to play,” Cooley said. “He played in the Big Ten, they’ve got to get more comfortable and they’re getting there.”
Durham started all 26 games that he played in with the Hoosiers last season, averaging 11 points and nearly three assists per game, logging an average of 32.5 minutes.
Durham follows former University of Indiana players Delray Brooks and Emmitt Holt to Friartown, and that Big Ten-to-Big East history played a role in him listening to Cooley’s plea to come to Providence.
“Since I’ve been here, people remind me all the time of them (Brooks, Holt) coming here,” Durham said. “Being part of that club is unique.”
Durham was on the floor for 39 minutes in Saturday’s 85-71 victory over St. Peter’s for the Friars (6-1), hitting all nine of his free-throw attempts to finish with 11 points. Moreover, he was a facilitator as the Friars shot 68 percent (25-for-39) from the floor and converted on 29 of 31 free throws.
The Friar senior frontcourt of Nate Watson (23 points on 8-for-12 shooting) and Noah Horchler (25 points on 9-for-10 shooting) combined for 17 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots.
“Al (Durham) showed some great senior leadership,” praised Cooley. “We had an advantage in front of the rim and it showed. We had a little bit more synergy with the ball with Al. Because we’re a senior-laden team, our team has been in 200-300 practices, they’ve been in 100-plus games; I expect that out of seniors.”
Durham scored a Friar-high to date 24 points against Northwestern and dished out a season-best seven assists.
“I just don’t want to mess up,” Durham said of his role in protecting, distributing and scoring the ball in his short time as a Friar. “It’s important that I play well and do the best that I can for the team.”
Durham has reached double-figure scoring in all seven games as a Friar. While he has not been happy with his overall shooting (39 percent) and his 3-point shooting (28 percent, eight made), he has committed just 11 turnovers in the extensive time with the ball in his hands.
“I had a lot of people tell me that they (Brooks, Holt) had good careers here at PC, so that definitely gives me a boost to play well,” Duham said. “I’m looking forward to playing in the Big East.”