The Villanova Wildcats are in the midst of a great revival. Dormant on the national scene for the past few years, Jay Wright has resurrected the program behind a collection of very athletic players that sport a high basketball IQ and a team-first attitude.
That recipe for success looks to be the long-term plan going forward, as Wright's recruits for 2014 and beyond sport many of the same traits as the current roster. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Better yet, the incoming players should be able to adequately replace the skill sets of departing veterans James Bell and Tony Chennault, something that should allow Wright to not change much going into 2014-15.
Below are profiles of Villanova's incoming basketball recruits.
Phil Booth, 6'3" 170 lb. guard
Phil Booth is a combo-guard from Baltimore, Maryland. He played his high school basketball for Mount St. Joseph, and his AAU ball for Team Takeover. Though Booth is a big name in the fertile DMV recruiting grounds, he chose Villanova over offers from Georgetown, Indiana and Temple. Booth fits the mold of the typical Villanova guard - he can score, distribute the ball, and play tough defense.
"They’re getting a quality young man with a good personality who is very capable as a student and as a player who can help them win in a variety of ways," MSJ head coach Pat Clatchey said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. "He can play a number of positions both offensively and defensively, he’s a high-caliber shooter and decision maker, and a good athlete. He’s solid fundamentally with a high basketball IQ."
In the same interview with The Sun, Booth explained why he chose Villanova among other schools in his huge offer list. "That was the coaching staff I liked the most and I think it’s the best place for me," Booth said. "With Jay Wright, that’s Guard U. He lets the guards play."
With Tony Chennault departing after this season, look for Booth to immediately step into the backcourt rotation and compete for playing time with Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis.
Mikal Bridges, 6'6" 180 lb. small forward
Mikal Bridges is a small forward from Malvern, PA. He plays his high school basketball for Great Valley, and plays his AAU ball for the Philadelphia-based Team Final. Bridges is considered a late-bloomer by most recruiting services, having seen his stock soar while playing with Team Final on the Nike EYBL circuit. Playing in the public Ches-Mont League, instead of the more heralded Philly Catholic League, did not help his cause either.
"People say that I play with low competition," Bridges said in an interview with Big East Coast Bias. "My coach tries to schedule tough teams and we try to play them to see how we look. When we go to playoffs the competition gets tougher, and as you see from last season, we went pretty far. So, it's not like we're weak."
In the same interview with BECB, Bridges spoke about why he chose Villanova over offers from Penn St., Seton Hall and Virginia Tech among others. "I picked Villanova because first it's a great school academically and the coaches are excellent. I like them a lot and that was a huge part [of the decision]."
"They're just great guys and I can tell they love to win and prepare me to be the best I can be."
James Bell's graduation will leave a gaping hole in point and rebound production, not to mention removing one of the team's best defenders and long-range shooters. Bridges may be raw, but his length should allow him to contribute immediately on the defensive end - possibly playing at the top of Villanova's 1-2-2 press. His willingness to hit the boards and his three-point range should also be valuable assets as he works to refine his offensive game.