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Villanova, Let's Get Bold: Play The Freshman

If you missed Part 1 of the 'Get Bold' series where we discussed Jay Wright and the 'Burn Offense', check it out here.

While it's definitely been noticeable in the Jay Wright regime at Villanova, it's a very widespread trend in college basketball these days - protect your freshman. Unless you're a Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley or Kyrie Irving type that is going to come in and dominate for day 1, you're probably not seeing major minutes.

The big question for me - why? Sure, most players go from being the man at the high school level to more of a supporting role - but that doesn't mean they can't handle it. Look at Scottie Reynolds. He was an All-American, but he was given a big chance coming onto a team that wasn't expected to be elite by any stretch of the imagination. And he delivered and helped carry the Villanova Wildcats program from the Randy Foye-Allan Ray-Kyle Lowry days to where we are today.

And guess what? We're back in that situation again this coming year. We lost 3 stalwarts in Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena - and Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood have been solid, but they haven't lived up to the (maybe unfair?) hype that surrounded them coming in.

So now we've got 4 fresh faces coming to campus (5 if you include JayVaughn Pinkston) and in my opinion, it's time that Jay Wright unleashes the freshman hounds for this coming season.

Let's talk about each of the newcomers and what they can bring to the team after The Jump.


F JayVaughn Pinkston

The New York product was suspended last season after being arrested for his role in an off-campus fight at a Villanova fraternity party where he was charged with 2 counts of simple assault. Pinkston performed well in pre-season according to Jay Wright and was expected to get some solid minutes in his maiden campaign.

A year later, Pinkston seems to be somewhat of a forgotten man (I myself even sometimes forget him) but he's an exceptional player who will add some much needed toughness to the team. He's a bit undersized at forward, but also a bit bulky for a true guard, so he should be interesting to watch this year. But there is no doubting his talent. He should see major minutes this season assuming the year off didn't rob him of his skills.


G/F Darrun Hilliard

Hilliard was the 4th and final commitment of the 2011 class, and he's probably the least well known of the bunch as well. Hilliard isn't a big star on the AAU Circuit, but he was a star for his high school team this past season, winning his area's Player of the Year award for the second consecutive season. 

The book on Hilliard is that he isn't the flashiest guy on the court, but he's got a well-rounded game and a high basketball IQ. Basically, the kind of guy that isn't going to score 30 a night, but he can probably help right away because he's not going to be overwhelmed by everything that is happening on the court. The problem for him is that he's playing in the one area where Villanova isn't dying for help. With Dom Cheek and James Bell returning, along with Ach Yacoubou coming in with him, it's crowded on the wings.


F/C Markus Kennedy

He was originally part of the 2010 class, but Kennedy delayed his enrollment to Villanova and attended Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Rumours of academic and conditioning issues reminded some fans of Casiem Drummond, but Kennedy has given the double-bird to his doubters this past year. All reports have him getting in killer shape and developing his already advanced game even further in leading one of the top teams in the country.

Kennedy may not be the most athletic big man, but he's a horse on the boards, he's an elite passer out of the post, and he finishes well at the hoop. Defending Big East caliber centers may be an issue initially for him, but that's what Yarou and Maurice Sutton (right?) are for. I'm expecting a huge year from Kennedy, who should get big, big minutes with the graduation of Pena.


PG Tyrone Johnson

Johnson, of famed Montrose Christian, which produced current 'Nova players Yarou and Armwood, might have the toughest job next season. He'll be playing behind a seasoned vet in Wayns, but he's really the only  other true point guard on the roster. So ready or not, he's going to see a lot of playing time - early and often.

The thing is - Johnson is probably ready for this challenge. If you've been following us here at TNB for a while, you'll know that Johnson has produced some highlight reel here and here and was the floor general of one of the strongest high school teams in the country. While his jump shot isn't below-average, his biggest ability is his handle and his ability to get in the lane and finish either with the shot or the pass.

Although he's currently out with an ankle injury, he'll be recovered in plenty of time for the season and should be the primary backup to Maalik this coming season.


SG Achraf Yacoubou

Yacoubou was named an ESPN Rise All-American with his classmate Ty Johnson as he produced a quiet, yet strong senior year in high school. Yacoubou is billed as a streaky, but can-kill-ya-when-hes-on type of shooter - and most are expecting him to be one of the primary outside threats this year with the graduation of Stokes.

As discussed earlier though, it's a crowded situation on the wing, but Yacoubou's size should allow him to effectively play the 3 when Jay Wright decides to make it small. Hilliard's ability to play spot-minutes at the point may give him the quicker route to playing time than Ash but as the only guy with the rep as a shooter, Yacoubou may find his way onto the court quickly, although I wouldn't expect major minutes out of him.


What it comes down to is that Villanova lost 3 guys who would regularly play 30+ minutes a night - and between the three of them did the majority of the scoring and rebounding as well. That's why Villanova is expected to have a down year, but at the same time Villanova hasn't seem to hit it's expectations in a while. They're either exceeding low expectations or they are flat-lining when they have high expectations.

There's 5 immensely talented, albeit green, players on campus preparing for the season. Some of them will be forced into major minutes by necessity, while others may have to earn their spot at crowded positions. All I ask is that these players get the chance to prove themselves, that they see the bright lights and don't shy away.

Villanova basketball has been a bit broken the past 2 seasons - as we discussed the other day with Jay Wright's in-game strategy, it's time to make the bold decision and buck the trend of protecting your younger players.

Trial by fire, I say. What about everyone else?