If you’re like me, you’ve admired just about everything Bryce Cotton has done on the court this season. Whether it’s averaging over 40 minutes a game (apparently that’s possible) in Big East play or just getting to the basket at will despite weighing 165 pounds, he’s been nothing short of incredible.
But I’m also a little late to the Bryce Cotton party. A casual PC fan, I didn’t know Cotton’s whole story until fairly recently
Manny Garcia sure did. He’s been there every step of the way.
Garcia, the owner of the nearly three-year-old Details Barbershop on Dyer Avenue in Cranston, remembers when he started cutting Bryce Cotton’s hair, when the then-18-year-old Cotton was just an unheralded freshman from Arizona trying to get court-time for the Providence College men’s basketball team.
Four years later, Cotton has led PC to its first Big East Championship in 20 years and its first NCAA Tournament since 1997 after an All-American-caliber season, and unheralded isn’t a word anyone would use to describe a player who has emerged as one of the country’s top collegiate guards.
Garcia, 27, who has been cutting hair for years, has had an up-close seat as Cotton’s personal barber since the early days of Cotton’s arrival.
He still cuts his hair, and from then to now, Garcia has seen Cotton’s star grow throughout the state and throughout the nation. But that hasn’t changed a thing between the two who have become fast friends since that first cut in 2010.
Cotton the basketball star becomes Cotton the everyman when he heads to Cranston for his monthly appointment with Garcia.
“The relationship with barbers is different than the relationship with every other person,” Garcia said on Tuesday. “We think of it as friends – it’s always fun, jokes, I always ask about his mom because he’s very close to his mom, and how he’s doing overall.”
In fact, Garcia hasn’t seen a change in Cotton at all, a testament to the Friars’ top playmaker who was second in the Big East in scoring this season and first in the conference in assists.
“He’s the most humble man,” Garcia said. “I give Bryce Cotton so much credit for all the journeys he’s been through.”
By now, everyone has heard about PC’s story – a group of basically six players who play ironman-like minutes night-in and night-out. The Friars upset Creighton in the Big East Championship Game on Saturday, punching their ticket to the Big Dance, where they will be a No. 11 seed and take on No. 6 North Carolina on Friday night.
It’s been a special season for the Friars, and especially Cotton, who has come a long way since coming to PC four years ago because it was one of his only Division I options.
Garcia sometimes has to pinch himself when he watches the man whose hair he cuts and who he jokes around with in the barber’s chair tear up the Big East on a regular basis.
“It shocks me sometimes,” Garcia said. “It hits me when I see Bryce perform pretty well on TV. It definitely really hits me.”
When Cotton arrived in Providence, he found out about Garcia through former PC walk-on Xavier Davis, the son of former Friars assistant Chris Davis.
At that point, the Friars head coach was Keno Davis but he was fired after Cotton’s freshman season.
Garcia remembers that too – and he remembers a little advice he offered up.
“It’s crazy,” Garcia said. “I remember there was a time when Keno Davis left and Bryce Cotton wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay at Providence. I told him, ‘Listen, I know you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your career, but you’ve got to stay in Providence. That’s the only school that really gave you a spot.’ Luckily, he did.”
Garcia has plenty of experience with high-profile clients, as he’s cut hair for players on the Boston Celtics a couple of times, and he routinely cuts players on the New England Patriots. Just last week Chandler Jones and Kenbrell Thompkins came in.
But Cotton is among the most regular clients that Garcia has, coming in once a month. He was scheduled to come in on Tuesday night before taking off for San Antonio, which is where the Friars and Tar Heels will player their NCAA tourney game.
Garcia will be watching, and he thinks PC – with a big game from Cotton – has a chance to pull the upset.
I have no reason to doubt him on this one. He certainly knows Bryce Cotton a whole lot better than most of us.
“I think Coach Cooley was a great addition to Providence,” Garcia said. “I think he’s got those boys on the proper pace. You can tell – they won the Big East, that was huge.”
Win or lose though, it’s a safe bet that Cotton will be back on Dyer Avenue for a cut from Garcia when it’s all said and done.
For four years and counting, that’s been the drill.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Cranston Herald. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.