Mike, Brian and Chris have earned a well-deserved weekend off after providing outstanding and timely coverage of several breaking stories over the course of this week. It was another great week for Villanova basketball and football recruiting. It was a better week for the new Big East, adding a great new commissioner, two great broadcasters for Big East basketball games, and placing third in NBA draft selections. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Villanova’s Mouph Yarou did not hear his name called on draft day. One ‘Nova basketball great retired, while two others-- Messrs. Cunningham and Sczcur -- had weeks to remember. Finally, with regard to a much debated topic here on VUHoops, is it possible that Fr. Peter was right about football after all? This is the most extensive VWIR ever, so settle in for a long read!
Nova Lands Bridges ... Terry Toohey of the Delco Daily Times writes, "Great Valley's Mikal Bridges, a 6-6, 185-pound wing guard/forward from Malvern, made five unofficial visits [to Villanova], but the last one this month really wasn't necessary. Bridges always wanted to be a Wildcat and he got his wish when he made a verbal commitment to the Wildcats this week. "It's my dream school," Bridges said. "I've always liked Villanova, and when I got up there I really got to like the coaches and the players. It's the only place I've ever wanted to go." Bridges is considered a rising star in the Class of 2014. He is ranked 73rd in the Scout.com 100. Andy Edwards of The Reporter writes, "Once considered a high-major prospect at best, he burst onto the national scene during a spectacular junior season in which he displayed a scintillating all-around floor game and averaged 19.5 points and 11 rebounds per game, leading the Patriots all the way to the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals."
Booth Watch ... Ryan Hood of The Baltimore Sun reports that Villanova target, Phil Booth, "is spending this week in Union, N.J., at Nike's Point Guard Skills Academy featuring some of the top high school and college point guards in the country." Phil's father, Phil Booth Sr., talked about his son, "Almost to a fault, Phil can be unselfish because when you play with older guys, you've got to make the right pass, you have to take the right shot, you can't just come down and jack up a lot of shots." Booth boasts 17 scholarship offers, was an All-Baltimore Catholic League first-team selection as a junior this past season and was named the Mark Amatucci Defensive Player of the Year. He is the No. 63 prospect nationally in the 2014 class according to Scout.com. The four-star recruit says Georgetown, Indiana, Missouri, Temple and Villanova have shown the most interest, but he won't name five finalists until later this summer. The plan is to pick a winner in the fall."
Ja'Quan Drops 31 ... If you want to see Villanova target Ja'Quan Newton in action, this video was published last week showing highights of Ja'Quan scoring 31 in the NBPA Top 100 Championship.
Johnson Starting to Turn Heads ... Scott Phillips of NBC Sports writes, [Villanova target] Robert Johnson wasn't the biggest name among guards heading into the NBPA Top 100 Camp, but the Virginia-native played well throughout the camp and will be a player to watch this summer when coaches are out in full force. Johnson doesn't have many of the elite schools in the country taking notice, but he does have his fair share of perennial power programs. There are also a few schools currently recruiting him harder than the others. "I'd probably say Villanova, Wake Forest and Alabama (are on me the hardest)," Johnson said. This week, Johnson will also see a few campuses for unofficial visits, including one of the schools currently on him the hardest - Villanova. "I'm taking an unofficial to Villanova on the 26th," Johnson said. "I know there's a good winning tradition at Villanova and they have a lot of good guards; guards that were similar to the way that I play and my size so I think that's a good opportunity."
Tally Splits the Uprights ... Rick O'Obrien of the Inquirer writes, "Cardinal O'Hara's Steve Weyler, a strong-legged placekicker and punter, has committed to play his college football at Villanova. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, who has handled the placekicking duties for the Lions the last three seasons, also received interest from Army, Harvard, Miami, and Stanford. Marc Narducci of The Inquirer reports another big signing for Coach Tally - "Alex Padovani, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver and free safety from Hammonton, who missed most of his junior season to injury."
What Was Jay Thinking? ... The following were a few of the more noteworthy tweets from Coach Wright this week: "Great to have #Villanova legend Alvin Williams and our new assistant coach @AshleyHoward17 here today! Also got to spend some time today with another #Villanova legend Mark Plansky as we kick off Week 2 of camp!" (June 24). "Getting ready for Day 2 of #Villanova Basketball Camp with Casiem Drummond @CoreyStokes24 @MoeSutton25." (June 25). "It was a great treat for us to have Coach Rollie Massimino visit our camp yesterday! Welcome to new #BigEast Commissioner Val Ackerman - brings great understanding of basketball from work with NBA, WNBA, @usabasketball. Love days like today at Davis Center when so many alums are in the house: @RRedding15 @THEleekAllen30 @Klow7" (June 26) "Sending a pair of Happy Birthday shout outs to #Villanova legends @GeorgeRaveling and @THEleekAllen30. Fox Sports 1: "Onions"! Gus and Raf - no one has more passion for college basketball!" (June 27)
Johnson with Onions ... NBC Sports' Raphielle Johnson writes, "Bill Raftery [will] serve as lead Big East game analyst, teaming with the incomparable Gus Johnson on regular season and all Big East Men's Basketball Tournament game." ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?!? This is duo we've been dreaming about for years. It's never been more important than right now for the Big East to find a way to continue to remain nationally relevant, because there's not much in this world that is better than an exciting game with major implications being called by these two." [Editor's Note: Fox also announced its first day of Big East action, a five-game marathon on New Year's Eve, including a very big game for Villanova at Butler at 7:30PM.]
New Big East Commish Wears Dresses ... "The Big East today announced the appointment of Val Ackerman, a pioneer with nearly 25 years of experience as a high-level sports executive and a passionate advocate for the values of amateur athletics, to serve as the first Commissioner of the newly reconstituted, 10-team Big East Conference. The Big East, which will be headquartered in New York City, will officially commence operations on July 1, 2013."
Dante Redux ... FoxNews reports, "The Minnesota Timberwolves have exercised the one-year option on forward Dante Cunningham's contract for the 2013-14 season. Cunningham posted career highs in scoring (8.7 ppg), rebounds (5.1 rpg) and assists (0.8 apg) while appearing in 80 games, including nine starts, during the 2012-13 campaign. Minnesota president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. "We all saw last year how he fits in really well with coach Adelman's style and system. His versatility, energy and ability to knock down the open jumper are all reasons we feel he is an invaluable piece to our team." Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Nova Hoops Great Retires ... Brandon Parker of the Washington Post writes, "[Former Villanova basketball great], George Leftwich, will retire after more than 50 years as a basketball player, a coach, and for the past eight years an athletic director at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington DC. As a player at Villanova, he helped lead the Wildcats and their renowned zone defense to two wins in the 1962 NCAA tournament. By most accounts, Leftwich appeared on his way to the NBA until a car accident that following summer. While on a trip to West Virginia, an oil truck sideswiped his car, sending Leftwich out the door and into the street, badly injuring his knee. Leftwich elected to let his knee heal naturally, effectively ending his shot at the NBA. After helping the Wildcats to the 1965 National Invitation Tournament title game, Leftwich eventually became the varsity coach at Carroll in 1968." Hat tip to Bob Cosgriff
Coach Jones ... The Floyd County Times reports, "Sarah Jones, who spent six seasons as a student-athlete and graduate assistant at Villanova University, has joined the Morehead State University women's basketball staff as an assistant coach. Jones appeared in 88 games for the Wildcats and was a co-captain her senior season in 2011-12."
Hail Szczur ... The News Sentinel reports, "Matt Szczur doubled on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the 14th inning Tuesday night to give the Tennessee Smokies a 7-6 Southern League victory against the Jackson Generals at Smokies Park. Szczur went 3-for-6 in the game." Marcus Fitzsimmons of the Daily Times adds, "Entering Tuesday's game Szczur was hitting .296, fifth by average in the Southern League, his 83 hits stand second to only Kevin Kiermaier's 90 for Montgomery. Has solidified himself as a great leadoff option for Tennessee. The Smokies have "Hail Szczur" shirts currently on sale in the Stadium Club House Shop."
Big Ben ... Brad Wells of SNB's Stampeed Blue writes, The Colts Coach Pagano was asked about [former Villanova football great] Ben Ijalana's status with the team. Said Coach Pagano, Ben's just got to stay healthy. Poor kid's just been snake-bitten. He's got talent. He's big and athletic. Nobody has faced more adversity than Ben. He's handled it like a pro. He's come back and he's kept that ax swinging. As long as you keep that ax going, that tree will eventually fall. So he'll show up to training camp, be healthy, hopefully stay healthy, and have an opportunity to show everybody what he can do. I'm eager to see that." Hat Tip to Xyznova
Young on the Farm ...Tom Layberger of MainLineMediaNews reports, former "Villanova hurler, Pat Young's overall numbers in 14 starts for ‘Nova this season did not raise eyebrows: 2-8 with a 4.81 ERA on a team that went 14-40. However, he did whiff 76 batters in 82 1/3 innings and it is his lively arm coupled with his size (6-7, 221) that attracted the attention of major league scouts. The San Francisco Giants selected Young in the 13th round of the first-year player draft earlier this month. Young left for the Giants training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. last weekend. While his fastball registered as high as the mid-90s on cold days when gripping a baseball can be a chore, Young knows he needs to refine his repertoire in order to become a prospect that can scale the Giant's organizational ladder."
Ty 2.0 ... Darryl Slater of Aiken Standard writes, "Tyrone Johnson is South Carolina's most interesting newcomer. Johnson isn't an elite perimeter shooter, and Coach Dave Martin wants him to work on developing a mid-range game, rather than slashing to the basket so often. But Johnson's size is a welcome addition. "Ty understands angles," Martin said. "He might not be the most gifted athlete from a side-to-side or speed (standpoint), but his mind allows him to get to the right spot most of the time. That's what you've got to have."
Cheek Sighting ... Former 'Nova player Dominic Cheek will be playing for Larson Ford in the Jersey Shore Basketball League this summer. You can catch his first game on July 1 against Seaview Jeep at 8:45 PM. Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Running in Tara's Footsteps ... Villanova.com reports, "Rising sophomore Kelsey Margey was the individual champion in the 1500 meters at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium this past weekend, where she registered a margin of victory of more than three seconds in the finals on Saturday afternoon."
Scholar Ballers .. Villanova.com reports, "The Scholar Baller program, in conjunction with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) announced the recipients of the Academic Momentum Award, which is based on academic improvement and the impact of that academic momentum on each student-athlete and his or her peers. Villanova Softball junior Ali Lowe and football senior Dan Shirey were each chosen as second team recipients of the award, which honored a total of 63 student-athletes nationwide." Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Long Overdue ... Zach Burrus of CAAFootball writes, "There's a lot to be excited about on the Main Line heading into the 2013 season, a sentiment that was only bolstered when Villanova Football unveiled its new weight room this week." [Editor's Note: The new weight room was largely funded by contributions from former players.]
Slap on the Wrist ... The Wall Street Journal reports, "Oregon football fans breathed a sigh of relief this week when their team, er, ducked major penalties for NCAA violations involving player-scouting services. Indeed, compared with recent punishments against other football programs, the Ducks landed on a financial feather bed. . Oregon's three lost scholarships are worth $93,741. By comparison, Southern California [received a] 30-scholarship sanction for former star Reggie Bush accepting improper benefits. But no program comes close to Penn State in the sheer value of frozen scholarships. Its 90-scholarship penalty for the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse is valued at $3.15 million." Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Was Fr. Peter Right After All? ... Kristi Dosh of ESPN writes, "Conference realignment has ushered quite a few teams into the FBS from FCS, a trend that will continue as schools like Georgia Southern and Appalachian State move to the Sun Belt in 2014. Those schools are likely chasing the dream -- the $40.6 million median revenue in FBS, as compared to just $3.8 million in the FCS -- but a recent study by the NCAA suggests it could be a nightmare. From 1978 to 2010, 19 teams have made the move up. Few of those have seen increased success on the field. Although numerous studies have found revenue increases with a move to FBS, they've also found expenses generally increase at an even greater rate. There's some evidence to suggest being at the top of FCS is better -- both from a financial and student-athlete experience standpoint -- than being at the bottom of FBS." [Editor's Note: Coach Tally is doing his part, and has Villanova football back among the FCS elite.] Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Big East Places Third in NBA Draft ... NBC Sports' Raphielle Johnson writes, "In Thursday's NBA Draft the ACC and Pac-12 shared the top spot in the number of players picked in the NBA draft, with each conference having seven players selected. The "Old" Big East came in third place with six players selected, although only two of the six came from the teams that are part of the new Big East." [Editor's Note: Georgetown's Otto Porter Junior was the third pick in the first round by Washington and Providence's Ricky Ledo (who never played a game for Providence due to academic ineligibility) was selected #43 by Milwaukee). Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse, #11, pick by Philadelphia), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh, #12 pick by Oklahoma City), Gorgui Dieng (Louisville, #21 pick by Utah) and Peyton Siva (Louisville, #56 pick by Detroit) were the other four chosen from the old Big East.]
New Explorer ... NBC Sports' Ron Dauster writes, Auburn transfer Jordan Price has committed to La Salle, and he will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2014-2015. Price, who was ranked #79 nationally by Rivals in the Class of 2012, averaged 5.4 points as a freshman at Auburn, but after missing a month in the middle of the season, Price never returned to form."
Golden Eagles Again Formidable ... NBC Sports' Raphielle Johnson writes, "With a talented five-member recruiting class joining the program this summer, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has the pieces needed to contend for a Big East title. On Wednesday, the Marquette program landed its first verbal commitment in the 2014 class, 6-7 combo forward Malek Harris."
Final Four Numero Uno ...Eric Angevine of NBC Sports reports, "A recent article from Sports Media Watch told us something we already knew: the Final Four is great television, and hugely popular. According to the site, the recent, thrilling NBA finals came in second in viewership in the all-important demographic of males aged 18-49, with an average 7.1 rating over the seven-game series. The Final Four was numero uno in live sports. Both events finished higher than the five BCS Bowl games. The Final Four was tabbed with an 11.4 rating, and an unofficial average of 18.2 million viewers. The BCS games drew an 8.8 with 15.1 million sets of eyeballs trained toward football."
FriarFanatic Lands Gig with ESPN ... ESPN softened the blow of losing Bill Raftery by signing 2013 Providence graduate and long-time VUHoops gadfly, Dan McNamara (aka, "FriarFanatic") this week as Stats and Information Associate. More importantly, FriarFanatic's girlfriend and my youngest daughter, Brianne '13, parlayed her #1 rank in class and summa cum laude honors at graduation into her first job as a teacher in Wyckoff, NJ's Washington Elementary School. Congratulations and good luck FriarFanatic and Brianne!