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!
I'm beginning to sense a theme here: people love championships. Who knew?! Ryan Arcidiacono (98%), Kris Jenkins (76%), Larry Hennessy (69%), George Raveling (53%), Gary Buchanan (80%), Malik Allen (84%), John Pinone (84%), and Harold Jensen (73%) all advance to Round 2. Today's first round match-ups include 4 more Champions (NIT included).
Wright Region: 4) Kyle Lowry vs. 13) Mouphtaou Yarou
Kyle Lowry: A member of the '06 Elite Eight team, Lowry is 35th in steals all-time.
Despite only playing at Nova for two seasons, Lowry was an instant success and supreme talent. As a starter in his sophomore season he recorded 77 steals, the 2nd most in a single season in school history. He went on to be a first round NBA draft pick and has been named to multiple All-Star teams over the past 10 years. He currently plays for the Toronto Raptors, who just happened to host another Villanova alum.
Mouphtaou Yarou: A member of three NCAA teams ('10,'11,'13), Yarou is 11th in rebounds, 11th in blocks, and 58th in scoring all-time.
Yarou came to Nova as a very raw talent, having only started playing basketball as a teenager. His development was even more difficult as he fought illness for the first part of his freshman year. But by the start of his sophomore season he was in the starting lineup and quickly became an elite shot blocker and rebounder. Heading into his Senior season, "Mouph" added a mid-range jump shot to his arsenal, and used it to score over 1,000 career points. In fact, Yarou is one of only eight Wildcats to record 1,000+ points, 800+ rebounds, and 100+ blocks over their career. He still plays professionally in Europe.
Wright Region: 5) Darrun Hilliard vs. 12) Allan Ray
Darrun Hilliard: A member of three NCAA teams ('13,'14,'15), Hilliard is 11th in steals, 27th in scoring, and 31st in assists all-time.
Hilliard was the ideal player for Jay Wright's system. Always putting team and system first, and never afraid to shoot it up or sleep in the streets, he developed from a 3-star prospect to a second round NBA draft pick. But he didn't just develop himself, his hard work and leadership set the example of what it meant to be a Villanova Basketball Player for the classes behind him that would go on to win the NCAA Championship. As a junior, Hilliard and teammate Daniel Ochefu were Co-Big East Most Improved Players. The following year he lead the Wildcats in scoring and was named the Big 5 Most Outstanding Player. Hilliard, AKA Bethlehem Steel, was drafted by Detroit and still plays for the Pistons.
Allan Ray: A member of the 2006 Elite Eight team, Ray is 7th in scoring and 20th in steals all-time.
Ray was a member of the heralded class of '02 that also included Foye, Fraser, and Sumpter. A prolific scorer, Ray is one of only eight Wildcats to score 2,000+ points during their career. He could score from anywhere on the court, and often did, leading Nova in scoring during both his sophomore and junior seasons. In his senior year, he was named first team All-Big East and averaged a career high 18.6 PPG. After college he would play in both the NBA and Europe.
Severance/Kraft Region: 3) Bob Schafer vs. 14) Jack Devine
Bob Schafer: A member of the '55 Sweet Sixteen team and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Schafer is 4th in scoring and 28th in rebounding all-time.
Schafer was a tenacious player on both ends of the court, and his statistics back that up. In just 3 varsity seasons he became the first Villanova player to score over 2000 points. Possibly more impressive, he pulled down over 600 rebounds as a 6'3" guard. He was named an All-American as a junior and would go on to play professionally after college.
Jack Devine: A member of the '55 Sweet Sixteen team and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Devine is 3rd in rebounding and 42nd in scoring all-time.
Devine was Schafer's teammate and fellow product of the Philadelphia Catholic league. Named a captain in his junior season, he quickly became one of the school's best ever rebounders. Devine is one of only five Wildcats to score over 1,000 points and corral over 1,000 rebounds. After college, he would return to Villanova as an assistant under Jack Kraft. He was also the head coach of the Freshman Team, where he mentored future Nova stand-outs like Bill Melchionni and Jim Washington.
Severance/Kraft Region: 6) Bill Melchionni vs. 11) Joe Lord
Bill Melchionni: A member of the '65 and '66 NIT Final Four teams and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Melchionni is 18th in scoring all-time.
Melchionni started all three varsity seasons with the Wildcats, and lead them in scoring his junior and senior seasons. His senior year, he scored over 800 points, close to half his career total. It was the second highest single season scoring effort in school history. Melchionni was a two time All-Big 5 selection, as well as the Big 5 MVP in '65 and an All-American in '66. After college he would go on to win an NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers before heading to the ABA where he played and coached.
Joe Lord: A member of the US Military whose WWII service interrupted his playing career, Lord is 54th in scoring all-time.
Lord was a two sport athlete for Villanova who starred on both the baseball diamond and the basketball court. Even as a point guard, he was a terrific scorer. During his senior season he went for 45 points against Kings Point, the third highest single game points total in school history. He was named an All-American that season. After college he would go on to play professionally and win a championship with the Reading Keys.
Lappas Region: 2) Alvin Williams vs. 15) Brooks Sales
Alvin Williams: A member of the '94 NIT Championship team, the '95 BET Championship team, and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Williams is 3rd in assists, 5th in steals, and 32nd in scoring all-time.
Williams was a great 2-way player who racked up steals on defense and assists on offense. He had many options when distributing the ball including all-time great Villanova scorers like Kerry Kittles, Jason Lawson, and Eric Eberz. Not only did he lead the team in assists for three straight seasons, he could score at an elite level himself. In his senior season he would be named to the first team All-Big East, and later would be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. After college, Williams went onto a ten year NBA career.
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.
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.
Lappas Region: 7) Tim Thomas vs. 10) John Celestand
Tim Thomas: A member of the '97 NCAA team, Thomas played just one season at Villanova before being selected 7th overall in the '97 NBA draft.
While Thomas only spent one season on the Main Line, he was an exceptional talent. In his lone season he averaged 16.9 PPG for the Wildcats, which was second on the team only to senior leader and also future NBA pro, Alvin Williams. Thomas would also finish that season 2nd in blocks and steals, and 3rd in rebounds and assists. Thomas was selected by the Nets before being traded immediately to the Philadelphia 76ers.
John Celestand: A member of three NCAA teams ('96,'97,'99), Celestand is 11th in assists, 16th in steals, and 44th in scoring all-time.
Celestand became the Wildcats leader after the trio of Williams, Lawson, and Thomas left in '97. He would lead the team in assists and scoring in both his junior and senior seasons, as well as finishing Top 2 in steals. He would go on to be selected in the first round by the LA Lakers, and was a member of their 2000 NBA Championship team. Later he would play in Europe before returning to the states as a color comentator and TV personality.
Massimino Region: 1) Ed Pinckney vs. 16) Mark Plansky
Ed Pinckney: A member of the '85 NCAA Championship and the Villanova Hall of Fame, Pinckney is 3rd in blocks, 4th in rebounding, 7th in steals, 10th in scoring, and 36th in assists all-time.
Only 3 players in this competition rank in all 5 all-time statistical categories, but Pinckney is the only one to be ranked Top 10 in 4 of the 5. Throw in the school's first National Championship and it's easy to see why he's a favorite to win it all. Not only did he win the title in '85, he was also an All-American and the Big 5 Most Outstanding Player. He's now one of the 13 Villanova players to have their jersey retired and hung in the Pavilion. After college, he had a successful NBA and broadcasting career.
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.
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.
Massimino Region: 8) Rory Sparrow vs. 9) Dwayne McClain
Rory Sparrow: A member of the '78 Elite Eight team, Sparrow is 6th in assists and 50th in scoring all-time.
Sparrow was one of the great Villanova point guards to come out of the Massimino era. He was a great scorer and facilitator who was as fun to watch as he was difficult to guard. Many fans from that late 70's remember one of his 5 game winning shots that he tallied over the course of his career. After college, he would go on to have a 12 year NBA career and be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame.
Dwayne McClain: A member of the '85 NCAA Championship team and the Villanova Hall of Fame, McClain is 22nd in steals, 24th in blocks, 25th in assists, and 26th in scoring all-time.
McClain was the best athlete on Villanova's Title team and would often amaze fans with high flying dunks and impressive defense. Most fans of any era will remember the iconic image of McClain laying on the court with the ball as time expired to give Villanova its first ever Championship in stunning fashion. He would be named to that year's All-Tournament team, and go on to be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. After college he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers, and would play professionally in the NBA and overseas.