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SlamOnline Previews #5 Cats

jay_wright_villanovaSlamOnline.com’s Joey Whelan posted an outstanding review of Villanova’s prospects for next year supporting his preseason ranking of the Cats at #5. About next season, he writes, "Perhaps the biggest difference from last season to this one will be the addition of two more stellar outside threats in King and Cheek as well as the arrival of a true pass-first point guard in Wayns.

Yarou and Sutton might be the pieces that the team needs in order to handle more physical teams inside and the returning guards all have at least three seasons of experience under their belts now. All of those factors add up to the potential for another very special season and a potential repeat trip to the final weekend of the season."

I found the most original and insightful aspect of Mr. Whelan’s article to be his player assessments. I condensed his comments as best I could in the paragraphs that follow, but warn you that it is still a long read yet well worth the time. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!

“It’s been a while since the roster has featured a true post man with talent, but that’s exactly what Mouphtaou Yarou will give them. At 6-9, 235 pounds, the freshman already has the size and strength to handle himself in the post against Big East competition. Yarou spent the summer working out with several college players in hopes of adding some polish to his post game, but while his offensive skills develop, his build and athleticism will still allow him to be an impact player from an early point in the season. Expect to see a fair amount of garbage points and impressive rebound totals from the newcomer in the non-conference schedule

Redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton had a year to bulk up and add a little bit of weight, reportedly now packing close to 220 pounds onto his spindly 6-11 frame. The Maryland native has the length and agility to be a solid interior defender, altering shots in his area while also crashing the glass.

Antonio Pena looked solid for stretches during the first half of last season only to see his playing time dwindle as the year progressed. [He will be] the fourth or fifth option on the floor. Pena should see a slight bump in his numbers next season with some additional minutes and his athleticism which allows him to step away from the basket on occasion.

Isaiah Armwood carries slightly under 190 pounds on his 6-7 frame, a fact that will make it very tough for him to operate consistently in the post during the Big East schedule this season. Where the potential for stardom rests is with Armwood’s ability to operate at a high level away from the basket for a player his size. He has great handles, is very athletic and though his shot is streaky at this point, the youngster has more than enough ability to develop into a player who can shoot off the dribble and connect from the perimeter. Still, fans just may have to be patient for the time being.

Scottie Reynolds will be the top dog not only in the backcourt, but likely on the team period, as the top returning scorer on the roster. The Virginianative is very much a shoot first guard and has never been a true point at the college level simply because of the fact that Villanova has so many guards who can handle the ball on the perimeter. There aren’t many defenders in the Big East who will be able to contain him from getting to the rim on a regular basis, but if he doesn’t improve his shot, life will be easier for opponents who will be able to play him for the drive.

Corey Stokes was the most efficient scorer on the ‘Nova roster last season, the problem was he only got about eight shots per game. Stokes knows how to run the floor well and keep proper spacing to set himself up for open looks when cutting to the basket. When left alone to break down defenders, he does a great job of creating off the dribble then connect on pull up jumpers. His taller frame also makes him a touch match up for smaller guards since he is crafty enough to create space, but big enough to shoot over pesky defenders who stick with him.

Corey Fisher builds his game around his speed. In spot up and isolation situations, the more often than not will put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim as well since his perimeter shooting is still lacking somewhat at this point. He shows good mechanics overall, but for whatever reason, his percentages from beyond the arc actually fell slightly last season.

Dominic Cheek will have a couple of inches on most two-guards he’ll be matching up with this season. The newcomer has the type of versatility that will allow him to line up as a small forward as well. Cheek has fantastic range on his shot despite a unique shooting form and can go to work in isolation situations as well. Early on, the freshman may not be the kind of player to take over a game, as he often times seems content to get his points within the framework of his team’s offense - as he gets more comfortable though he will assert himself more. One of the more endearing qualities of his game is the toughness with which he plays defense and attacks the glass. Cheek has good length and really gets after opposing players in the opposite end of the floor.

Maalik Wayns is a super quick point guard. The 6-1 floor general could see a good amount of time right away as the one thing the ‘Cats have been lacking lately is a true point guard and Wayns is one of the more talented passers in his class making him a prime candidate.

Taylor King is a big time scorer, with a deadly perimeter shot and a strong 6-6 frame that will allow him to rebound as well. As a freshman in the ACC, King tied a Blue Devil freshman record by draining six three-pointers on his way to 27 points in a win over Eastern Kentucky. Even if all King does is set up camp on the perimeter and shoot from deep he will be a major weapon for Villanova who has plenty of guards capable of driving and kicking. The transfer could be the type of weapon capable of keeping the Wildcats in games down the stretch with his shooting prowess. “