With the 2017-18 college basketball season looming right around the corner, it is time for Independent Philly to take a look at what is in store for the defending Big East champions (both regular season and tournament), the Villanova Wildcats in the upcoming season. After talking to several of the Wildcat players at Media Day yesterday at the Davis Center, listening to Coach Jay Wright’s remarks, and observing part of the practice session, we are as ready as they are for the season to start.
What is Missing- For starters, Josh Hart, the first-team All American, is now playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he was a first-round draft choice. Likewise, Kris Jenkins, “Big Smoove”, the hero of the 2016 NCAA championship game, and Darryl Reynolds have moved on. And, perhaps, equally important, no home games this coming season at the Pavilion, which is undergoing major renovations, and where the Wildcats’ record has been extremely impressive. Instead, the majority of the home schedule will be played at the Wells-Fargo Center this season.
Who is back? The Wildcats return some outstanding players, including Jalen Brunson, the Big East preseason player of the year, and one of the best lead guards in the country, NBA prospect and defensive leader Mikal Bridges, and Eric Paschall and Dante DiVincenzo, both of whom were major contributors and blossomed last season. Also returning, after missing most of last season with knee pain, is Phil Booth, the leading scorer in the 2016 National Championship game. Dylan Painter, a 6-10 frontcourt player who filled in when Reynolds was hurt last year, is back as well. One other returnee is Tim Delaney, who has missed a lot of time with injuries the past two seasons.
Who is New? Pre-season Big East freshman of the year, Omari Spellman, headlines the “new” faces on the team. Spellman was compelled to sit out last year and take a redshirt due to an NCAA ruling. Spellman made the best of the redshirt situation by working out a lot with Graduate Assistant Henry Lowe while the team was on the road. “It was hard not being able to play in games but I definitely learned from it and I think I definitely turned it into a positive coming out of it. I learned a lot about how serious the game is,” Spellman said. Other new faces include Dhamir Crosby-Roundtree, from Neumann Goretti high school in Philadelphia, Collin Gillespie, the Philly Catholic League player of the year, and Jermaine Samuels, a highly recruited player from Massachusetts.
Who is on the Bench Crew? Returning are Denny Grace, Tom Leibig, and Matt Kennedy. New to the Crew is junior Peyton Heck, from Wilmington, Delaware. We spoke quickly with DiVincenzo, Samuels, Bridges, and Spellman and you can check that out right here:
Jay Wright, the recently announced recipient of the 2018 Wooden Award Legends of Coaching, has a blend of seasoned and proven veterans and promising newcomers to utilize in the 2017-18 season. Referring to the team’s depth, Wright stated, ” I have had people asking about the size of our team last year. Last year we really only had seven guys.We couldn’t play our usual fast tempo aggressive play due to our limited depth. But our depth this year will give us the chance to press more the way we want to, play faster like we want to, and lets us be more aggressive on defense and we hope to be more aggressive overall this year too. ” Once again, Villanova is the pre-season pick by the 10 head Big East coaches to capture the regular season Big East title.
Villanova fans have a lot to be optimistic and hopeful about regarding the 2017-18 Villanova Wildcats. If injuries can be avoided, it looks like another successful season is on the horizon. The Villanova faithful do not have to wait long before the season gets underway. On November 1st, Villanova will play the Drexel Dragons at Jake Nevin in an exhibition game as part of a benefit for hurricane victims. The men’s team game will be preceded by a match between the Villanova and Drexel women’s team game. The season officially opens November 10 when Villanova hosts the Columbia Lions at the Wells Fargo Center, in an 8:30 PM start.
[Photos by D. Jacob Miller Photography]
[Article by Stephen Miller]
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