As reported by VUHoops’ Brian Ewart earlier this week, the Wildcats depart on Sunday for exhibition games in Paris followed by the EuroJam tournament in Amsterdam. Villanova.com interviewed Jay Wright about the upcoming trip and included these quotes: "We have had a chance to practice together as a team and now we'll have a chance to play some quality competition. There will be some shared experiences we can look back on and that's very important for a team that is this young. I think this will help us determine everyone's role when we come back in the fall. Maalik Wayns, Isaiah Armwood, Dominic Cheek and Mouphtaou Yarou are going to have to develop into leaders for us. They need to improve in areas like that on this trip. For the young guys, like JayVaughn (Pinkston) and James Bell, they are going to be getting their first significant playing time. Maurice Sutton will have a chance to show how he can help us. And we'll get to learn a lot about the freshmen, see how they interact with the team. We have had some great practices and this will be our first chance to go against someone else. Without this trip, it could take longer for this group of individuals to become a team. That's going to be cool to see."
ESPN’s Dana O’Neil wrote another fine feature on Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston the week. She writes, "On Tuesday, he will slide into his Villanova basketball uniform for the first time, a year late and a lifetime wiser. On Sunday, Villanova departs for a nine-day trip to Paris and Amsterdam. "I’m nervous and excited,’’ Pinkston said about the trip. "It just feels so good to be back, playing with my teammates again.’’ Because the case against him is still pending, Pinkston couldn’t talk specifically about the incident, but there is little doubt the legal run-in has left an impression. Under the suspension, he wasn’t allowed on campus nor could he have any official contact with his teammates. Yet he said he never felt ostracized. "My teammates still made me a part of everything they could,’’ Pinkston said. "We’d meet up at local spots off campus or wherever. They went out of their way to make sure I was included." Plenty of people -- especially Nova -- thought the punishment was harsh. "I was upset when I first heard the outcome, but I brought it upon myself,’’ he said. "The Villanova family helped me get through everything and I wasn’t going to not be a man of my word. I had the option to leave, but it never really crossed my mind. It was really hard sitting out and watching my teammates play, not being able to help them when they might have needed it,’’ Pinkston said. "Now it’s just so great to be back with them, playing.’’
Mike Kern of Philly.com writes, "James Bell is being counted on to play a significant role for the senior-less Wildcats, who will be incorporating four freshmen and another projected starter, JayVaughn Pinkston, who had to sit out his first season because of a university-mandated suspension." About the ‘Nova’s upcoming trip to Europe, Taj says, "It's a preseason to the preseason. It'll be a great time for us to get closer, as teammates and brothers. We have to count on each other, set the foundation for how we want to play. It's going to be fun, but we can't go in with the mind-set that this is a vacation. Nobody wants to go over there and just lose. We want to get some good things done. Everyone has something they can bring to the table. It's a chance to see how we all handle different situations."
One new Wildcat freshman making the trip to Europe will be forward Markus Kennedy. With a hat-tip to our own Brian Ewart, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News tweets that "as Villanova gets ready to depart for Paris and Amsterdam, Marcus Kennedy with his newly reshaped body-- is the most advanced of 'Nova's freshmen. "Mike Sheridan of Villanova.com writes, "In an age where information is nearly instantaneous, Markus Kennedy has come to know well the value of patience. His hoops dreams have, you see, taken him on a unique journey to places he never really envisioned as a youngster growing up in the Philadelphia area." Mike goes on to recount the rationale underlying the various stops Kennedy made in his high school career, including Monsignor Bonner (Upper Darby), St. Patrick’s (NJ), Living Faith Academy, (PA), The Winchendon School (MA), and Brewster Academy (NH). "Anything you could think of that could happen to somebody in high school," Kennedy says now, "happened to me. I had a crazy commute. My school closed. And I had my coach leave. The good part is that my last year at Brewster Academy was the best year I had. Villanova coach Jay Wright understands the perception that stops at multiple schools can create. But he is convinced that once the Nova Nation gets to know Kennedy, it will have a better understanding of how well he fits into the fabric of his new home. Kennedy has seamlessly been absorbed into the Wildcat family. He took classes in the second summer session and has been logging plenty of time in the Davis Center gym, learning all he can from fellow big men Mouphtaou Yarou, Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Sutton. There have been plenty of weight training workouts under the watchful eye of strength coach Lon Record too. And, in the last week or so, there have been a series of actual Wildcat practices as the team tunes up for its tour next week of Paris and Amsterdam. In these early sessions, Kennedy has seen time at the four spot and is learning what it takes to compete at the college level. He is well aware that so much of the foundation of this Villanova program is predicated at the defensive end and is doing his best to adapt to this reality. In the workouts, Kennedy has showed a knack for finding the open man and soft hands. "The biggest thing is to play hard every possession I'm out there," he says."
ESPN’s Andy Katz reported on teams headed overseas for tournaments in August. In addition to Villanova, four Big East teams were included on Andy’s list -- West Virginia (Italy), Georgetown (China), DePaul (France), Louisville (Bahamas). About Villanova, Katz writes, "The Wildcats are off to France and the Netherlands from Aug. 8-15. Villanova coach Jay Wright said the Wildcats will be a different team, much more inside-oriented. JayVaughn Pinkston, who was suspended from the team last year for an assault on another student, is back and will need to be a force this season. Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, James Bell and Maalik Wayns can show plenty of leadership on this trip, too."
The Week in Review post on July 30 included the recap of a story published by the Star Tribune about Theresa Neal, the widow of former Villanova great, Howard Porter. Coach Wright forwarded the link to the post to Ms. Neal, who sent this reply: "To Jay: Good luck on your European Travels. Play hard and have fun! Much love to you and the team (and your family). To Ed’77: I continue to be eternally blessed by the many people who continue to hold pleasant memories of Howard and who continue to keep me in their thoughts. Howard would be humbled by your remarks. Thank you for the kind words regarding the Star Tribune article. It's important that we all find a way to invest in the lives of our young people. I can only hope that I can make a small difference in and beyond my community. How exciting it is to be caught up with VUHoops.com. I've now made your site one of my "favorites". Although I'm separated by miles, Villanova is ever present in my life and household. One of Howard's rituals was that he would post each season's Villanova basketball schedule on our refrigerator, which was more of a reminder to me that on the dates games were televised he was unavailable until after the game ended (smile). To this day, the refrigerator still has some of those old magnetic schedules and at the beginning of every season the schedule is posted on the refrigerator. In keeping in his ritual, I'm more than likely very near the TV cheering on the Wildcats. Always, Theresa"
BleacherReport lists their Top 15 recruiting classes for 2012. They rank Villanova’s incoming class at #2 behind Indiana, writing, "The Villanova Wildcats are once again bringing in an excellent recruiting class, this time in the 2012 class. The Wildcats have had three recruits commit to them, including Center Daniel Ochefu, who is ranked No. 21 in the ESPNU Top 100. Ocheu will be joined by PG Ryan Arcidiacono (No. 35) and SF Savon Goodman (No. 55), both of whom are stellar players as well. The Wildcats could also have a few more top recruits on the way because there are three more recruits considering them, the best of who is Amile Jefferson, who is ranked No. 26 in the nation. The Wildcats are looking to return to glory with this class, although it can't get much better."
NBE Basketball’s Brian Bosworth writes, "The 17U brackets at Hoop Group’s End of Summer Classic featured some familiar names along with some newcomers as many young players were playing up. The NJ Playaz were the big winners capping their successful summer with a triple overtime victory in the platinum bracket final over New Heights. Players from those teams and others stood out on this day." Mr. Bosworth singled out ‘Nova recruit Savon Goodman (NJ Playaz/2012). About Savon, he writes, "Goodman had one of the best performances I’ve seen out of him all summer on the last day of the live period. He was up to his usual tricks of cleaning both backboards, running the floor hard, and finishing with authority at the rim. Those skills have defined his game and will make him a fan favorite at Villanova. Today he mixed in some perimeter skills that I hadn’t previously seen from him. Goodman knocked down numerous jump shots including some corner 3s and once he established the jumper used a shot fake to explode past defenders to the rim. If he can continue improving his perimeter game and become a full time small forward, Goodman would jump his game up to a different level. He has NBA athleticism but only the size to contribute at small forward at that level so it will be interesting to track his progress in this area."
OregonLive.com reports that "the fifth annual Nike Global Challenge tipped off on Friday and features the Top 30 American high school players broken into three regional teams battling the international elite from Brazil, Canada, Taipei, Germany and Puerto Rico. Past Global Challenge alumni have included this year’s number one draft pick Kyrie Irving and Washington Wizards star John Wall. Villanova recruit, Daniel Ochefu, was selected to play for Team USA Midwest. Oregonlive.com writes, "Ochefu can score inside and has a solid midrange jump shot. His basketball IQ sets him apart from other big men and it shows in his passing ability and decision making particularly on the defensive end. He is an excellent shot blocker and a smart team defender."
- In Friday's opening round on Friday, Ochefu’s USA Midwest team defeated Germany 103-58. Ochefu scored 10 points on 5-6 shooting, had 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 steals and 2 assists in 20 minutes of play. USA Midwest next takes on USA West Saturday night, and if victorious, plays for the Championship on Sunday.
- In Saturday's Semi-final round, Ochefu’s USA Midwest team (2-0) defeated USA West 121-101. Ochefu scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting, had 10 rebounds (including 5 offensive) and 3 blocks in 20 minutes of play.
- Sunday Final: The starters got most of the minutes as USA Midwest (3-0, Champion) defeated a tough Canada team (2-1) by the score of 99-94. Tony Parker got most of the minutes at center for USA Midwest, with Daniel Ochefu seeing only 12 minutes of PT in the finale. Ochefu scored 4 points on 2-5 shooting, but grabbed 5 rebounds, three of which were on the offensive glass. Over the three day tournament against top competition, Ochefu averaged an impressive 10 PPG on 72% shooting from the field, 9 RPG, and 2 BPG in 17 MPG.
NBE Basketball’s Matt Whitfield writes, "Contrary to what was reported recently Amile Jefferson stated to NBE yesterday at the DC Assault-Big Shots event that he has not narrowed his list down to eight schools and as he is taking the recruiting process very seriously. "Ah no, not really," responded Jefferson when asked if he’d narrowed his list down to eight schools. "I’m still pretty wide open with the recruiting process. We’re hoping to get some visits in and try and narrow this list down." Jefferson did mention that he’s looking to take some visits to some East Coast schools in the coming months. "We’re hoping to get a visit to NC State and while we’re down there maybe visit Wake Forest. Get up to Maryland. Hopefully get up to Pitt. And right now that’s pretty much it. Maybe get a visit in to Ohio State as well," said Jefferson. I have been talking to Alabama lately and my father has been talking to St. John’s," said Jefferson. St. John’s might be an appealing option for Jefferson as one of the members of Steve Lavin’s highly rated incoming recruiting class is a close friend of Jefferson’s. "We’re not going to make any quick or rash decision. I’m going to be there for four years. It has to be a place where I can honestly feel comfortable on and off the court." Whatever program does get him is likely going to have to beat out hometown program Villanova for his services, as Jefferson has many friends on the team now and in the future, including Class of 2012 commits Savon Goodman and Daniel Ochefu. "Those guys have been my friends for a while. We played in the same league for a long time, so when we make a decision they’ll definitely have some influence, but I still have to make the decision for myself. But I would love to play with those guys. Each and every one of them I have become close friends with." Expect Villanova to be in the mix until the end for Jefferson. Jefferson is also a great student so expect that to weigh in to his process, as he’ll likely look for the best of both worlds."
Kim Farricker of TheSportsJury.com lists ‘Nova coach, Jay Wright, among a list of seven veteran coaches with something to prove in 2011-2012. About Jay, she writes, "Jay Wright has done a great job at Villanova so far. He led the Wildcats to a Final Four in 2009. However, the last two years his teams had faded down the stretch and chemistry appeared to be a major issue. Their record of 9-9 in the Big East is respectable, but the big three have all graduated. Once you slip in the Big East, climbing back to the lead of the pack is a tough task. The incoming class is average at best. If Villanova has a subpar year could he be gone?" Selected others making her list were St. Joe’s Phil Marteli, SMU’s Matt Doherty, Indiana’s Tom Crean, and Siena’s Mitch Buonaguro. [Editor's Note: this article was not worthy of publishing beyond its ability to generate a good laugh.]
The Washington Post reports that Gonzaga rising junior, Nate Britt, is being recruited by several top schools, including Villanova, Georgetown, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas and Maryland. "When the Adidas Invitational kicked off the start of the "live" recruiting period, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams sitting in a row of chairs behind the far baseline, not far from where Georgetown Coach John Thompson III was sitting. In the corner stood Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski with assistant Steve Wojciechowski. Also among the crowd was Villanova’s Jay Wright. Britt tried not to gawk at the A-list coaches waiting for his game to start. He had spoken with many of them on the phone or when visiting their campuses in previous weeks, but it was different seeing their faces in the stands
ESPN reports that "The NCAA's Leadership Council wants to deregulate electronic communications as part of an overall overhaul of Division I men's basketball recruiting. The committee says, in a release posted on the NCAA's web site, it has reached a consensus on several parts of the package. Among possible changes are: Allowing juniors to begin making official visits after the NCAA championship game is played; deregulating the types of communication allowed between coaches and recruits; allowing unlimited communication after Aug. 1 for soon-to-be juniors and allowing two weekend evaluations during non-school related events in April. Those evaluation periods would have some restrictions. The committee has not yet signed off on any summer recruiting changes. It hopes to present a final proposal to the Board of Directors in October."