[Reporting from Martha's Vineyard, MA .... Updated --Dakari Johnson ]
Updated July 25th .... Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports reports that big-man Dakari Johnson, one of the top players in the class of 2014, has listed Villanova among the colleges he is considering, along with Kentucky, Syracuse, Georgetown, Xavier, Louisville and Ohio State. Johnson recently transferred to Monteverde Academy (where James Bell once played), following his former St. Patrick's coach, Kevin Boyle. Borzello writes, "Johnson is a 6-foot-10 force in the paint that can score with his back to the basket and dominate the boards with his size and strength." ESPN ranks him as the top center and #2 overall player in the Class of 2014. ESPN writes, "Dakari is a true force whenever he steps on the court. He plays up a grade in the 15 & Under division and he is still dominant. He has a strong body and good hands. His feet and footwork are good for a player so young. He is an excellent scorer inside and his teammates make a concerted effort to get him the ball in the paint. He scores mostly off short face up shots in the lane but will show an occasional post move scoring over his left shoulder. Johnson is an excellent rebounder with his big body and strong hands." ScoutFocus.com describes Dakari as "a 6-9 240 pound monster" who is "the best player in the class of 2014." [Editor's Note: too early to get excited, but it's OK to dream]
Opening Bell … Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly writes, "James 'Taj' Bell returned to Villanova from Europe with much more than he left with. After 2 1/2 weeks playing for the U.S. national team in the FIBA Under-19 World Basketball Championships, he returned with the intelligence and wisdom and savvy he accumulated by playing basketball against some of the best young players in the world on an international stage. "It was a great experience," Bell said Thursday. "I try to bring what we did over there back here – playing hard every play, being a leader on the court, always having a positive attitude. It’s an experience not everybody gets to have, but everything I learned over there, I want to bring that to everything I do here. Bell’s main role was defending the top perimeter player on the opposing team, and it’s his ability as a perimeter defender that sets him apart from most players."I got to guard the best player on pretty much every team we played, and that was a great challenge and a great experience," he said. "Everything I did out there put me in a better position out there to help our team." Commenting on Villanova’s upcoming five exhibition games in France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in August, Bell says, ""It’s going to be great going over there as a team. "It’s great for the entire team but especially the freshmen, because it puts them in a great position – they’re getting the foundation now and then they can build on it. Our team is so young, and once the season starts, they’ll all be ahead of the curve, because they’re learning it now instead of later, and that will enable us to move faster once the season starts."
NCAA rules allow any team going overseas during the off-season to practice 10 times during the summer. The first of those practices for Villanova were held on Wednesday and Thursday at the Davis Center.
Hat-tip to Honey Badger …. Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, "James Bell experienced the good and the bad playing with Team USA in the under-19 world championships. Bell called the coaches' decision to start him "a shock" but that there was nothing like hearing his name announced representing his country. He dealt with the minutes in the most upbeat way possible. "You've just got to stay positive, keep your attitude the same," he said, adding that Villanova coach Jay Wright "tells us a lot to control what you can control. "I think I learned a lot over there. If something doesn't go your way or isn't the best situation, what can we get out of it? You've got to keep a good attitude. It really affects everything. An experience like that, losing two games and getting fifth instead of the gold, that affects you. But you've got to just move on and know that you did everything you could." Wright said Team USA coach Paul Hewitt, a former Villanova assistant, told him Bell made the team because "he did all the little things - defense, rebounding, hustle plays. While he admits "honestly, I'm not sure" what his role will be with the Wildcats this season, Bell said his approach won't be different from last year."Whatever my role would be this season, whether it be to score, or whether it be to be the best rebounder or the best defensive player, whatever Coach needs me to do, that's what I'm ready to do."
Shawshank Redemption … Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com also reports, "After seven months barred from setting foot on campus, seven months working in a King of Prussia warehouse, seven months dealing with his legal trouble, the powerfully built 6-foot-7 JayVaughn Pinkston quietly returned to the team Wednesday, when Villanova ran the first of 10 summer practices that the NCAA allows because the Wildcats are playing a series of exhibition games in Europe next month. How did he look? Coach Jay Wright smiles and shakes his head. "He didn’t play in any leagues or anything," Wright said Thursday. "He would go over to Competitive Edge (gym) and shoot around sometimes, but he hasn’t played at all. But we’re watching him yesterday, and, man, it doesn’t seem like he’s lost much at all." Villanova hasn’t made Pinkston available for interviews yet, but on Thursday, Wright and teammate Taj Bell spoke about getting the talented 19-year-old back."I’ve known JayVaughn since I was 13," Bell said. "Losing him last year was big, but he’s excited to be back. He’s doing the right thing, his head is in the right place, he’s doing everything he’s supposed to and more, and just having him around is great. ... He knows he never wants to go through anything like that again." How talented is Pinkston? "I know one thing," Bell said. "I would hate to play against him." "It just makes you feel good to see him out there and realize that he’s learned a great lesson and he’s come out the other end better for it," Wright said. "It’s just nice to see it. "We’d see him in the spring, you could see a guy that was struggling. He’s going to work every day, he’s working in a warehouse, he can’t play, he can’t come on campus, so you could see a guy that was struggling. Now you see him walking on the court, he’s so happy."Pinkston is probably the most versatile player Wright has recruited in his 11 years on the Main Line. He’s quick and nimble enough to play guard, powerful and physical enough to play in the post. "His versatility is amazing," Wright said. "As a coach, you have a guy like that -- he can literally play from the one to the five spot, and we’re going to use him at the one some this summer, because (freshman) Tyrone Johnson, our backup point guard, broke his foot, so he’s going to be able to come on the trip but he can’t play. "So we’re going to give JayVaughan some time at the point, because after Darrun Hillard, he’s our next-best ball handler. His versatility is invaluable. He’s going to be a big part of what we do."
NBA Ready? …. Tyler Ingle of NBADraft.net includes Maalik Wayns in his list of sleepers the 2012 NBA draft. He writes, "Maalik Wayns established himself as a legitimate scoring threat in his sophomore season at Villanova, managing to score 13.8 points per game despite having to share the perimeter with Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Wayns is a speedy point guard that is at his best in isolation situations. He possesses the first step needed to get into the paint and the creativity to finish once he gets there. His aggressive scoring mentality is a double-edged sword as he ends up taking quite a few questionable shots (40% shooting from the field), but also gets to the free throw line a lot (5.2 FTA). With Fisher and Stokes out of the way, Wayns will get all the opportunities he needs to potentially have a breakout season."
If Only ‘Nova Played on Blacktop … In a game that ESPN called the 'game of the decade,' NBA stars, dignitaries, and celebs converged on the Dyckman League streetball showdown between Ooh Way and Team NIKE. Eldon Khorshidi of SlamOnline reports that former ‘Nova star, Corey Fisher, returned to the scene where he attained legendary status after scoring 105 points in a streetball game last summer. In front of a 4,000-person crowd at Monsignor Kett Park in New York City (the event was sold out at a capacity 1,400 seats), Fisher’s "Ooh Way Records handed Team NIKE its first loss of the season, 66-61. With the win, Ooh Way improved to 6-0, while Team NIKE fell to 5-1. Corey "Fisher Price" and former Big East standout, Dwight "Top Shelf" Hardy, led the Ooh Way with 16 and 17 points, respectively." ESPN posted a video of the game highlights.
Break Fix By October … Mike Kern of Philly.com reports that "Villanova freshman Ty Johnson is expected to be fully healed in time for Midnight Madness' opening practice in October after undergoing surgery to repair a broken metatarsal bone in his left foot suffered in a pickup game. Freshman Darrun Hilliard is now the backup. Jay Wright told Kern that he also may use 6-7 forward JayVaughn Pinkston at that position."
Jay the 16th Smartest Coach? … ESPN’s Dana O’Neil surveyed 15 head coaches, including Jay Wright, asking "Who is the smartest coach in college basketball right now?"Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was selected by one-third of the coaches, including Jay Wright. Said Jay of Coach K, "He’s got it all. He’s a great X’s and O’s coach. He has the personality. He’s a great motivator and he develops his players.’’ Other coaches receiving votes were John Calipari (13% of votes), Jamie Dixon, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Brad Stevens and Mark Fox. Jay Wright was not cited by any of the 15 coaches surveyed. Dana’s survey also asked what coach was best in late game situations. There was no consensus winner there, but Jay did not make that list either.
Amile the Next Hakim? Hakim Warrick of CSNPhilly.com thinks Villanova recruiting target, Amile Jefferson, could be the next Hakim Warrick. "The similarities are striking. Both players are from Philly. Warrick went to high school at Friends Central, which is where Jefferson will be a senior this season. Both are long, athletic power forwards with a solid face-up game. Warrick won a national championship in college, which is one of Jefferson’s top goals. Warrick now plays in the NBA, which is where Jefferson wants to be in the next few years. Among those schools he’s strongly considering are Temple and Villanova"’Nova is a prestigious school that pretty much speaks for itself," Jefferson said. "It’s a great school that’s done a great job recruiting guys from our area."
Arch-ee-dee-a-con-o … Jeremy Treatman of SlamOnline writes, "There are two people who have trouble sleeping the night before a Neshaminy (PA) High School game: the guy who gets the defensive assignment to guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and the public address announcer. While P.A. guys and fans alike struggle pronouncing Arcidiacono’s name—it’s Arch-ee-dee-a-con-o—no one has trouble seeing the 6-4 point guard’s talent. "He’s so assured with the ball in his hands," says Gregg Downer, head coach at nearby Lower Merion since Kobe Bryant’s days. "He knows how to score, is the best three-point shooter in the area, defends, and at the end of the game he goes to the ball and makes his foul shots."
Rick O’Brien of Philly.com reports that "Arcidiacono has been selected to play in the ESPN RISE Games AAU 11th Grade Boys Basketball Super Showcase. The event is part of the AAU National Championships held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney Resort in suburban Orlando, Fla. Action tips off on July 23, with games airing live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com on July 26 and 27 at 7 p.m."
Philly.com reports that "playing without star point guard Ryan Arcidacono, the PA Playaz advanced to the Sweet 16 of the AAU West Virginia Jamfest this week in Morgantown, West Va. Arcidacono sat out of the tournament due to a sore hip. He said earlier this week that the injury wasn’t serious and that he will play when the team travels to Orlando to compete in the Super Showcase."
Domination in the Desert ... Carl Berman from NetScouts reports that 'Nova commit, Savon Goodman, " had 24 points as the Team Philly 16s beat the Oakland Soldiers 16s, 81-47, to win the The Las Vegas Fab 48 16-under Division championship." Jerry Meyers of Rivals certainly warms the hearts of ‘Nova fans everywhere with this comment on the win: "Kyle Anderson and Myles Davis grab the headlines and were terrific down the stretch, but the Playaz don't come away with a win without Savon Goodman. Besides the fact that Goodman scored the winning bucket on a driving layup, he repeatedly cleaned up messes on the defensive end and on the boards for his team. He projects as a terrific fit in Villanova's guard-oriented system. Goodman doesn't have to have a bunch of touches to be effective."
Arlington, TX in 2014, or Bust ... Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports " Villanova could lure one of the nation's top players in the Class of 2013. Nate Britt, who will be a junior at Gonzaga (D.C.) in the fall, has basketball scholarship offers from Villanova, Georgetown, Virginia, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, and Rutgers. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder recently told the NBE Basketball Report recruiting service he had a special interest in two of those schools."I always rooted for Georgetown and Villanova," Britt said in an article on the NBE website.Britt is regarded as the nation's top point guard in his class by Scout.com. The recruiting website lists him as the 16th-best overall prospect in his class. He's ranked 23d by ESPNU and 33d by Rivals.com."
All Aboard …. Rivals.com reports that Villanova joins North Carolina, NC State, Florida, Georgetown and a long list of other schools that have offered a 2013 scholarship to 6-4, 210 lb. shooting guard Allerik Freeman from Olympic High School in Charlotte, NC. Rivals ranks Freeman #44 nationally; ESPN ranks him #39. ESPN writes, Allerik is one of the more unique players in the Class of 2013. He can play the 2 or the 3. He has the ability to create as a passer. He possesses an exceptionally strong upper body and can best be described as a power wing player. He plays like he's rolling down a hill. His ball handling is an issue that needs to be addressed. Also, his jump shot tends to flatten out and he needs to become a better 3-point shooter. There's no denying that Freeman is an absolute weapon. He's a skilled scorer and facilitator and his body is ready right now to play in college. He's best described as a Marquette-type wing player."
Hen Party at PPL Park …Villanova Athletics announced this week that would tickets for the Villanova vs. Delaware football game, which will be played this year at PPL Park on November 19, become available on July 25 at 10 a.m. for Villanova alumni and friends, one week ahead of their sale to general public. Click here for the "Villanova Alumni & Fan Presale" link.
We’re No. 50! Is that Good? …. Villanova announced that "Following an academic year in which nine different teams earned points for postseason competition Villanova has earned an overall ranking of No. 50 in the final 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. The impressive showing by the Wildcats is the program's highest finish since 2003 and Villanova's fourth-highest standing ever. A big part of the successful year for the Wildcats was the continued success of the women's cross country and track & field teams." For the 17th straight year, Stanford took home the top spot in the Division I field. Ohio State took home second, California third, Florida fourth and Duke fifth. The ACC had four teams finish in the top 10, Duke (5th), North Carolina (6th), Virginia (7th) and Florida State (9th).
"As long as he doesn't take my job." (Dick Vitale) ....Former ‘Nova and Orlando Magic Center, Malik Allen, will attend Sportscaster U from Sunday through Wednesday, a sports broadcasting a program offered at Syracuse University to help NBA players hone their on-camera skills. Other NBA players attending will be Quentin Richardson (Orlando) and Jason Terry (Dallas). CBS’s Dave Ryan and Syracuse play-by-play announcer Matt Park, both adjunct professors Syracuse’s Newhouse School, run the program producing the curriculum and coordinating the instruction and evaluation. Twenty former players have come through the program, including Shaquille O’Neal, who recently retired from the NBA and has signed as an analyst for Turner Sports. The most recent class was in June and featured Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala, Earl Boykins and Matt Carroll. [Editor's Note: This doesn't bode well for my wishful thinking that Malik will return to Villanova as our coveted big-man coach.]
No Regrets .... Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a feature on Villanova football recruit, Nico D’Angelo, who Rivals ranks as a four-star recruit and New Jersey's sixth-best prospect in the Class of 2012. He writes, "Some might argue that Nico D'Angelo committed too early.And with just cause. The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder, who will be a senior at Holy Spirit, was starting to attract attention from Tulane, Buffalo, Rutgers, Temple, and Central Florida. But, "Big-time football, all the bells and whistles, are not really important to me," said D'Angelo. "What I want is a good education and good football.At Villanova, I can get both."His love for the Wildcats program is another reason he chose Villanova."My dad [Franco] went to 'Nova," said D'Angelo, who attended his first Wildcats game in the sixth grade. "My mom [Renee] went there. So it just felt right."