A new league was born this week, but lost one its brightest stars two days later. The pundits increasingly are picking Villanova as a sleeper to contend for the basketball crown in the league's inaugural season. A top recruiting target is sweet on Villanova, while a 'Nova reserve player has found success playing for the Croatian U-19 team. We learned this week that Coach Rollie almost wasn't at the helm of the Cats during its 1985 championship run, while a two-sport 'Nova great is tearing it up for the Cubs' farm team and is again an All-Star. Expectations are high for the gridiron Cats, with two preseason All-Americas on the roster. It's the middle of summer, but there is still plenty of news to entertain Villanova's most ardent fans (that's you if you were wondering; why else would you be visiting VUHoops.com on a holiday weekend in July?)
Best Trio in Big East? ... Trevor Lowry of RantSports.com writes, "Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jayvaughn Pinkston were the three leading scorers on the team this past season and all three of them will be back for yet another year. Believe it or not, this could be one of the best three-man combos in the Big East in the 2013-14 season."
Cats Have Legitimate Shot At Big East Title? ... Scott Gleason of USA Today writes, "It wouldn't be a huge surprise if either Xavier or Villanova came away with the Big East title. The Wildcats bring back point guard Ryan Arcidacono, who could have a breakout season after averaging 11.5 points last season. Junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston (13.3 points a game) will be one of the best players in the league, while Darrun Hilliard (11.4 points a game) also gives Villanova plenty of offensive firepower."
Mouph Will Be Missed, But ... Bucks Local Sports reports, "One of the more promising elements Villanova's success last season is that it was accomplished by a group that returns largely intact in '13-14. Yarou is the only one of the top seven Wildcats in minutes played who has moved on and Villanova adds the services of Dylan Ennis, who redshirted after transferring from Rice, along with new arrivals Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds to the equation."
Will the Real Mislav Please Stand Up? ... VUHoops' MikeJ reports that Croatia is 5-1 in the FIBA U19 World Championships, losing only to Spain. Mislav Brzoja is the only Villanovan playing in the tournament, starting at shooting guard for Croatia. He is averaging 14.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 2.2 apg. As a freshman for Villanova last season, Mislav averaged 0.1 ppg, 0.4 rpg and 0.2 apg playing on 2.6 minutes per game.
What Was Jay Thinking? ...Here's a few of Coach Wright's more noteworthy tweets this week: "As we begin new chapter of @bigeastmbb today let's give a #NovaNation welcome to #Butler #Creighton #Xavier. (July 1) " ... "Been a great U19 World Championship for our man Mislav Brzoja - fourth leading scorer in tourney! Go Croatia - except against USA! (July 2)." ... "Congrats to Brad Stevens as he heads off to coach the Boston Celtics! (July 3)."
What Do Villanova and Hershey Have In Common? ... VUHoops' Chris Lane reports that 6-3 shooting guard Robert Johnson unofficially visited Villanova on Monday. "On the backs of commitments from Mikal Bridges and Tim Delaney, bringing Johnson into the fold appears to be a high priority for Jay Wright this summer." Chris concluded that the visit was a good one, citing tweets from Johnson saying "Villanova was sweet ... s/o to NovaNation," and "I had an official Philly cheesesteak for the first time in years ... it was loveee." ESPN rates him the nation's #25 shooting guard in the class of 2014, saying "Johnson is a combination guard that is more of a shooting guard because of his ability to knock down open threes, hit mid-range pull ups and get to the rim on the break where he can finish with either hand. Johnson is simply a smooth shot maker."
Ja'Quan Shines ... Jeremy Treatman of Liberty City Press writes about Villanova target Ja'Quan Newton, "a 6-foot-5-inch guard and the top-ranked area player in the 2014 class, has erupted this off-season for AAU squad Team Final. He scored a game-high 29 points in the 75-72 loss to the seniors in the Chosen Game on June 21. "He's really stepping up and becoming a leader," said Neumann-Goretti coach John Mosco. "He is working on his game every day, and on his shot. He is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now."
Bridges ‘Yes' Means entil ‘No'? ... Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop writes, "After not getting much attention this spring, [Villanova target] Bentil will be back playing on the Under Armour circuit, and at Reebok Breakout Camp this July after a strong performance at NBPA Top 100 camp. His game remains the same, and his ranking dropped due to his spring. Now at No. 74, he has some room to make up and a chip on his back. The four-star recruit is hearing from Georgetown, UCLA, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Marquette the most. With Mikal Bridges to Villanova, that likely takes them out of contention for Bentil, who is still not set on a school just yet, but could be ready once the July Live Period ends." IAElites.com released its video of Villanova Bentil '14 at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
Package Deal? ... James Pennington of SBNation writes, "Class of 2014 college basketball prospects Isaiah Whitehead and Ja'Quan Newton indicated in a pair of tweets Friday they may be a package deal when considered college choices. CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello confirmed that plan with a text message received from Whitehead on Friday. The biggest schools the guards have common scholarship offers from are the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Syracuse Orange, though Whitehead told Borzello other possibilities are out there and it "could be anywhere."
Szczur an All Star ... The News Sentinel reports that Matt Szczur was one of six players from the Tennessee Smokies selected to play in the Southern League All-Star Game on July 17. "Szczur is hitting .300 (90-for-300), tied for fourth best in the league and second in hits. The 23-year-old outfielder is second on the team in both RBIs with 37 and stolen bases with 17."
Rollie Could Have Been Coaching the Clippers, Not the Cats, in 1985 ... Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports reports, "Clipper general manager Paul Phipps attempted to hire Villanova coach Rollie Massimino in 1983 [two years prior to Villanova's only national championship] to coach the Clippers. However, "after meeting with Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, Massimino called Phipps and said "I'm sorry, but I'd never work for that son of a bitch. Ever." Check out the Yahoo story if you want to know why.
How Kittles Became a Net ... Dan Feldman of NBC Sports had an interesting story about VUHoops Hall of Fame player Kerry Kittles in a story entitled, Brad Stevens trying to escape loooong run of college coaches failing in the NBA. He writes, [Nets coach] John Calipari was a familiar trope: the overbearing college coach who tried to remain overbearing in the NBA. Maybe Calipari could have overcome those issues if he had just drafted Kobe Bryant in 1996." However, Kobe did not want to play for the Nets and threatened to play in Italy if they drafted him. Calipari wouldn't take the risk of having his first draft blow up on him in his own building." He took Villanova's Kerry Kittles with the #8 pick in the draft.
Speaking of Kerry ... Kerry was visiting his old Nets team in their new Brooklyn home this weekend.
Not that Hall of Fame, the Other One ... Villanova.com reports that Villanova head women's basketball coach Harry Perretta was recently inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Delaware County Chapter. During his 35-year Villanova career, Perretta has guided the Wildcats to a 638-404 record, 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, six WNIT berths, and national rankings in the Associated Press poll.
Two Cats on Preseason Gridiron All-America Team ... VUHoops' Brian Ewart reports that two Villanova Wildcats were included on TSN's 2013 preseason All-America football team. "Antoine Lewis, a defensive tackle, was a First-Team selection on defense. Dan Shirey, who will start at either Guard or Center on the offensive line, was picked on the Third-Team offense after sitting out the 2012 season."
I'm Sure Their Parents Care ... Villanova.com reports, "On the first official day of operation for the new BIG EAST Conference the Villanova volleyball team announced its schedule for the upcoming season. Villanova will open conference play at home against Georgetown on September 28."
Big East Redux ... VUHoops MikeJ reports, the new Big East was officially launched on July 1, featuring seven teams from the old Big East -- Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul, and three new teams -- Xavier, Butler, and Creighton. In a letter from Val Ackerman, the Commissioner of the new league, she writes, "What's old is new again as we return to the BIG EAST's roots and the vision of founding Commissioner Dave Gavitt, who created the conference in 1979 to showcase outstanding basketball, spirited competition and passionate rivalries. Now, nearly 35 years later, the BIG EAST is poised to build on its heritage and bring a new wave of excitement to the student-athletes, coaches, students, faculty, administrators, alumni and loyal fans of its ten distinguished schools." VUHoops' Brian Ewart writes, "While the Catholic 7 took the name 'Big East' with them when they left the conference, the American Athletic Conference is sending the signal that they too carry the Big East tradition."
Brad Bolts Butler for Beantown ... Brad Stevens left the job he loved, agreeing to a six-year, $22 million contract to become head coach of the Boston Celtics. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports writes, "Brad Steven's departure to Boston isn't doomsday for the Butler program. Brad Stevens made Butler a national phenomenon by taking them to back-to-back title games, but he didn't build that program. Barry Collier, who is currently Butler's AD, did. He took them to three NCAA tournament appearances in four seasons in the late '90s."
Trip in Training For Big East Debut ... This is the first in a ten-part series documenting the rigorous training regiments now underway for each of the ten team mascots from the new Big East to get ready for their inaugural season. We will proceed in alphabetical order, beginning with Butler's bulldog mascot, who goes by the name of Trip. Hat Tip to Brian Ewart
Hoyas Take a Peak ... NBC Sports' Terrence Payne reports, "John Thompson III and the Georgetown Hoyas landed a commitment from four-star small forward L.J. Peak. Rivals ranks Peak No. 82 overall in the Class of 2014."
Big East's First All-America Walk-On? ... NBC Sports' Terrence Payne also reports that "After Creighton's Grant Gibbs received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, Creighton had one too many scholarship players for the 2013-2014 season. The solution? Head coach Greg McDermott will pay full tuition ($30,000-$40,000) for his son to attend Creighton for his senior year. That's right, Dougie McBuckets - the All-American forward - is now a walk-on."