PROVIDENCE — The voice is loud and clear as the words emanate from the mouth of Luwane Pipkins, seemingly non-stop.
The impact that the former University of Massachusetts-Amherst guard will have on the basketball program at Providence College is still in the formulative stage, but have no doubt, the presence of No. 12 in Friartown will be unmistakable.
“He doesn’t shut up, but that’s a good thing — that is good leadership,” PC basketball coach Ed Cooley was saying of the Friars’ fifth-year guard, a transfer from Amherst, who projects to enliven the proceedings on the floor for the Friars, as well as for the assembled Big East Conference players on campus Monday in preparation for the Pan-Am Games.
“I never put a USA jersey on, it means a lot to represent my country for the first time,” Pipkins, one of five Friars among the roster of 15 Big East Conference players putting in workouts at PC’s Ruane Center this week.
The USA Team will compete at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, from July 31-Aug. 4. The multi-sport event features teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Organized by the Pan American Sports Organization, the games are played every four years in the year preceding the Olympics.
The United States has not won a gold medal there since the Michael Jordan-led edition did 36 years ago. The Big East team, which also has Franklin’s Jermaine Samuels (Villanova) on the roster, will play an exhibition game against East Coast Basketball on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at PC’s Alumni Hall.
“Coach Cooley was an open guy, an honest guy,” Pipkins said of seeking a different environment to use his fourth year of NCAA athletic eligibility. “It was a great first visit, I had fun.”
Pipkins was on the calling card of no less than a half-dozen major programs across the nation, including Texas Tech, Gonzaga and Nevada.
“I committed right away. I felt very comfortable in Friartown,” Pipkins said.
Still, walking across campus at first, Pipkins did not know the trademark clerical habits worn by the Dominican Order of priests at Providence College.
“I saw some, but I kept on walking,” he admitted. “I didn’t know what it was.”
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Pipkins is an engine that’s motor never stops, either physically, mentally or verbally.
“You’ve got to be the most loudest, you’ve got to bring it,” Pipkins said of his confident style. “That’s my job, I’m going to keep doing it — I’m going to continue to do it.
“I’m fearless, I’m brave — that’s what I do, I’m from Chicago!”
Pipkins was a three-year starter with the Minutemen, averaging 16 points, four rebounds and four assists per game during his career. He averaged 16 points, five rebounds and four assists last season.
It was Pipkins who spearheaded a 79-78 victory for UMass-Amherst over the Friars in Providence last season. He scored 26 points in 36 minutes, hitting 10 shots from the floor with five rebounds and five assists. Most notably, Pipkins resurrected the Minutemen from an 18-point first half deficit to a 47-point second half, UMass shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Pipkins is clearly the stop-gap solution in the backcourt for the Friars, who lacked direction from their guards last season — freshmen David Duke and A.J. Reeves, Makai Ashton-Langford, Drew Edwards and Maliek White. Minus a Kris Dunn, a Bryce Cotton and a Kyron Cartwright orchestrating the show, the Friars finished 18-16 and had a five-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances end.
Now, Pipkins is assimilating himself into Friartown with Cooley, with Duke and Reeves, with senior forward and All-Big East selection Alpha Diallo and junior center Nate Watson as members of Team USA for the Pan Am Games.
“I felt a connection with Coach Cooley,” Pipkins said of his change in zip codes to Providence. “They kept it real right from the start.”
Pipkins is nursing a sore left knee back to health, wearing a brace to avoid complications. And it is entirely possible that Cooley opts not to use him in Peru for his own physical well being..
“We’ll have to make a decision on him, he’s recovering,” Cooley said. “We (Team USA) can shoot the ball, we can stretch the floor, but we don’t have a dynamic break you down point guard.”
Pipkins’ role with Team USA has to be defined, but he says all of the right things for a backcourt leader.
“Passing more, not trying to force anything,” he said of his elements to personal success. “Having good players around me to do good things.
“I fit in with the whole (PC) program,” he emphasized. “I felt very comfortable with the coaches, the players, the people. I’m building that chemistry, that bond. I feel fortunate to play with these Big East guys, to play for the USA. It means a lot to me, I’m happy to be here.”