They hail from different places and backgrounds, but they all came together for the Jordan Brand Classic Regional Game back in April.
It was a prequel of sorts for Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, and Jermaine Samuels. The three Villanova commits were all placed on the same team. At one point in the game, Gillespie threw up an alley-oop pass, which Samuels finished with ease. It was possibly a glimpse of what’s to come for their futures.
Although Cosby-Roundtree didn’t get to play in the game due to a stress fracture, their excitement didn’t slow down for a second. After the Jordan Classic, their next stop--Villanova.
“Those guys are like my best friends,” Samuels said. “My relationship has definitely grown since I got a chance to meet those guys.”
The three freshmen, who were standouts in their own rights, arrive at Villanova with high hopes. While the collegiate game is much more physical and demanding compared to high school, they seem to be taking things in stride so far.
“They’re adjusting well,” said Villanova forward Mikal Bridges. “It’s hard coming from high school and adjusting to this, but they’re doing a real good job and keep getting better and better everyday. I feel like all three of them--the main thing they can do is play hard for us and they just have to struggle with that at a young age, but as they mature and stuff then everything else will come to them.”
Gillespie, probably the most under-the-radar out of the three, was under-recruited for most of his time at Archbishop Wood (Pa.). A projected Division II prospect after his junior year of high school, he bursted onto top schools’ radars his senior year, acquiring the attention of a handful of high-major Division I schools.
Following a double-double performance against Our Savior Lutheran (N.Y.), Villanova assistant coach Ashley Howard took note of Gillespie and eventually extended the Philly-area local an offer. The last of Villanova’s 2017 recruiting class to commit, Gillespie topped of his amazing high school senior season by leading Archbishop Wood to a lopsided win in the state championship game.
Although only a two-star recruit according to ESPN, his teammates rave about his performance during practice, praising his competitiveness and drive. So far, he’s looking like anything but a low-tier prospect.
“Collin, he’s definitely mature for his age,” said point guard Jalen Brunson. “I compete against him every day. I’m pretty sure no one really had high expectations for him coming in, but he’s great. From the things I’ve seen online, I don’t know where they got that from, he’s a tremendous competitor.”
His one classmate, Cosby-Roundtree, might have seen this coming. The two have history, from both playing in the Philadelphia area throughout high school over the years. Gillespie even dropped 42 points on Cosby-Roundtree’s team during one of their last matchups.
Now, Gillespie’s cross-town rival turned teammate, Cosby-Roundtree brings his raw talent to Villanova’s freshman class.
Cosby-Roundtree is also coming off a great senior season. Coming from an accomplished Neumann-Goretti program, the four-star big man was the first of the three freshman to commit. Cosby-Roundtree brings a unique skillset and attitude for learning to the team. He has put in a lot of work this past summer in effort to improve his jump shot. The 6-foot-9 power forward’s athleticism will contribute to Villanova’s depth up front.
“He’s really been working hard this summer,” said Brunson, about the Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) product. “He’s shooting the ball a lot better.”
The Philly natives come in with a third freshman, Massachusetts standout Jermaine Samuels to round out Villanova’s freshman class.
Samuels brings a useful energy to the team that can give them a boost once he fully adjusts to the pace of college basketball. The highest-ranked freshman of the three, Samuels brings some skill at the wing positions. A solid defender, Samuels’ impeccable athleticism allows room for tremendous growth and improvement. Another four-star recruit, the former Rivers School guard has the ability to take it to the rim and knock down a few perimeter shots, making him easily adaptable at various positions. He looks to contribute right away in any aspect that he can.
“Play hard and the rest will follow,” said Samuels, echoing some of his older teammates —Mikal Bridges and Donte Divincenzo. “I see myself as an energy guy giving these guys life no matter if we’re up or we’re down, I’m going to come in the game and do what I can.”
Gillespie, Cosby-Roundtree, and Samuels are eager to learn and contribute to the team. They look forward to getting out there with the rest of the guys and doing their part. These three will seek to be valued first-year contributors, and so far, so good.
“They’ve come in very respectful of the program, very coachable, talented,” said head coach Jay Wright. “Like most freshmen, physically not on the same level as the other guys--they get banged around a little bit. They’ll get a little stronger through the year. They’ll get a little more used to the physicality, and I think that’ll determine what kind of year they’ll have by the end.”