This month we're having an NCAA style tournament to determine Nova Nation's favorite Villanova Basketball player of all time. Be sure to check back each day as voting continues!
Despite a loaded Massimino Region Play-In Pool, Mark Plansky ran away with the victory securing 38% of the vote. He's the 5th player in our tournament to advance to the Play-In Round today. We've got some compelling match-ups including three sets of teammates, a pair of shot blockers, and two stellar point guards. Let's get to it!
Wright Region: 16) Mike Nardi vs. Dwayne Anderson
Mike Nardi: A member of the 2006 Elite Eight Team, Nardi is 13th in assists, 27th in steals, and 39th in scoring all-time.
Dwayne Anderson: A member of the 2009 Final Four Team, Anderson is 36th in steals all-time.
Our first match-up is a pair of gritty, tough players now turned coaches. Nardi is currently a member of the Villanova staff while Anderson is an assistant coach on a Penn State staff that's almost entirely former Wildcat players and coaches. But their current positions aside, these players made their mark at Nova with their toughness, grit, and not to shabby shooting from behind the arc either.
Nardi was a member of the 4 guard team with Foye, Lowry, and Ray that won the Big East regular season championship. A big part of that was the match-up with UConn during which Nardi hit a huge momentum three after having sat out the previous two games with tonsillitis. His grit and clutch shooting were a big part of that team's success.
Anderson developed into a key contributor and starter his senior season, during which he helped lead the team to the 2009 Final Four. Two key plays that post-season really portrayed why he was such a fan favorite. First, Anderson played harder than anyone on the court. That was made especially evident anytime he went for one of his "Superman" steals. Second was his awareness and positioning, which set up his game winning shot in the Big East Tournament.
Severance/Kraft Region: 16) Jim Huggard vs. Ed Hastings
Jim Huggard: A member of the '59 & '60 NIT teams and a Villanova Hall of Famer, Huggard is 49th in scoring all-time.
Ed Hastings: A member of the '71 NCAA Runner-Up team, Hastings is 36th in assists all-time.
While neither of these great point guards played together, they both had a connection to a school other than Villanova. Hastings was a Hall of Famer at Monsignor Bonner High, while Huggard was the high school's head coach in the late '70's. But when it came to Villanova, each player made their mark both on the court during their playing days and off the court later in their careers.
Huggard was a Philly native who lead Villanova to their first two appearances in the NIT. A Co-Captain and team MVP in his senior season, he would go on to be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. He would continue to stay with the sport in various ways, but most prominently he was a long time referee in the Big East. I'd have to assume he may have let one or two calls go Villanova's way.
Hastings only played 6 games of the teams 1971 season in which they fell to UCLA in the Championship, but he would go on to be one of the team's leaders in assists. After his basketball days, he would join the Villanova faculty and serve as a spiritual leader both for the basketball team and the University.
Lappas Region: 15) Brooks Sales vs. Ron Wilson
Brooks Sales: A member of the '99 NCAA Team, Sales is 9th in rebounding, 9th in blocks, 27th in steals, and 60th in points all-time.
Ron Wilson: A member of the '94 NIT Championship and '95 Big East Tournament Championship teams, Wilson is 17th in blocks all-time.
These two Villanova bigs were corner stones in two very pivotal points in the programs history. Wilson was a key member of the mid-90's team that brought Villanova its first NIT and BET Championships, while Sales was a team leader during the transition into the Jay Wright era. These two stood out as shot blockers who had some outstanding finishes at the rim.
Sales was able to work his way into the starting line-up mid-way through his freshman season, and that change helped propel the team into the 1999 NCAA Tournament. Sales lead by example, finishing Top 10 all-time in rebounds and blocks, as well as exhibiting all the core values of what it meant to be a Villanova basketball player. This lead to him winning the inaugural Villanova Basketball Award in 2002. After a decade playing in Europe, Sales joined Villanova's coaching staff as the Director of Student-Athlete Development.
Wilson was the big man down low to the stellar back-court of Kerry Kittles, Alvin Williams, and Eric Eberz. He anchored those teams alongside Jason Lawson which became known for staunch, stingy defense. With him protecting the rim and his back-court scoring seemingly with ease, they went on to win the NIT tournament in '94 and the Big East Tournament the following year. After college, Wilson joined the Harlem Globetrotters before heart surgery ended his playing career. Now, Wilson is a teacher and coaches the JV team at Bonner/Prendegrast.
Lappas Region: 16) Rafal Bigus vs. Brian Lynch
Rafal Bigus: A member of three NCAA teams, Bigus is 15th in blocks all-time.
Brian Lynch: A member of two NCAA teams, Lynch is 25th in steals and 29th in assists all-time.
These teammates shared the court for three years, two of which ended with trips to the NCAA tournament. While both took a back seat to stars like Allen and Celestand, they were each hard working contributors. That's what made them fan favorites. Strangely enough, they would both head back to Europe where they've lead successful careers.
Bigus was a native of Poland, who only came to the US half way through high-school. While he had to pick up a new language and culture, he was a massive raw talent on the court. And when I say massive, I mean 7'1", 275 lbs. Even at that size, he was able to skillfully run the floor and was an excellent passer in the post. After Villanova, Bigus spent some time in a developmental league before returning home to play in Europe.
Lynch became a consistent starter his Junior season, and proved to be an excellent offensive weapon inside and outside the arc. He improved as a defender, and was very quick with his hands on both ends of the court. After college he played in Europe where he met and married tennis star Kim Clijsters. Lynch stepped away from basketball to raise his family, but recently returned to coaching with Limburg United and was named the Coach of the Year in 2015.
Massimino Region: 16) Gary McLain vs. Mark Plansky
Gary McLain: A member of the '85 NCAA Championship team, McLain is 10th in assists and 37th in steals all-time.
Mark Plansky: A member of the '85 NCAA Championship team and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Plansky is 24th in assists, 30th in rebounds, and 47th in scoring all-time.
While these teammates were only together for one year, it was a pretty special year. Gary was a senior and Mark a freshman on the 1985 NCAA Championship team that upset Georgetown. That win will forever live on as the greatest upset in college basketball history.
McLain was part of the "Expansion Crew", a stellar recruiting class that also included future Villanova Hall of Famers Ed Pinckney and Dwayne McClain. They would take Villanova to the NCAA tournament all four years of their college career, including making the Elite Eight in their first two seasons. McLain was the starting point guard during their NCAA Championship run, but it would later come out that he used cocaine during the Final Four. He's since turned his life around and now works to help recovering addicts in Florida.
Plansky was just a freshman on that championship team, but he would go on to start for the next three seasons. In his senior season he lead the Wildcats back to the Elite Eight and was named the Big East Conference Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Plansky, known as a great shooter and an aggressive defender, was inducted into the Villanova Hall of Fame in 2009.