Versatility. It’s something every coach wants, but very few have. Eric Paschall arrived on the mainline as a 6-6 combo guard and ended the 2016-17 season as one of Villanova’s only big men. Such versatility and a team-first mentality defined Paschall’s first season with the Wildcats.
Paschall transferred to Villanova from Fordham after winning the A-10 freshman of the year award in 2014-15. At Fordham, Paschall was asked to do it all as he was their go-to scorer and one of their primary ballhandlers. He used 27.30 % of his team's possessions, and 30.40% of the team's shots. These high usage numbers resulted in inefficient shooting percentages as Paschall was asked to take far too many shots as a freshman. He averaged 13.3 field goal attempts per game while shooting 41.9% from the field and 31.5% from three-point range.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, Paschall appeared set to play the 3 with the ability to be an undersized 4 at times. With the ridiculous NCAA ruling coming down on Omari Spellman, EP was thrusted into a full-time role as one of the team’s main big men along with Darryl Reynolds.
Did Eric Paschall meet or exceed expectations in 2016-17?
Paschall arrived on campus with some decent hype from his freshman of the year campaign. When evaluating his play in the 2016-17 season, the numbers appear underwhelming. He averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game.
The glaring areas of concern were his outside shooting numbers, turnovers, and fouls. He shot 27.9% from three (31.5% at Fordham) and 69.5% from the line (79.4% at Fordham). While it’s hard to make excuses for these declines, one explanation could be that he never got into a rhythm from the outside due to his new role as a mainstay on the block. He attempted less than half as many threes than his freshman year at Fordham and nearly 60 less free throws. As for the turnovers, Paschall already had issues at Fordham and it may have gotten worse. While his usage decreased dramatically from 29.5% to 18.3%, his turnover percentage actually increased from 15.7% to 16.2%. The last cause for concern is an inability to stay out of foul trouble. Paschall averaged 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes and had 10 games with 4+ fouls. It’s fair to chalk up the foul issues to adjusting to his new role, which forced him to defend bigger opponents often.
One encouraging sign is that he shot 63.8% from inside the arc (compared to 48.8% at Fordham) as he got more shots in the paint. Paschall also did a much better job defensively as his defensive rating (estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) improved from 106.4 to 98.4. He continued his success on the offensive glass as he improved his offensive rebound % from 6.1% to 8.6% and led the team with 16 putbacks.
While his numbers are less than spectacular, given the adversity the team faced this year, it’s fair to say Paschall met expectations. I highly doubt Jay Wright ever expected him to be a full-time 4 man this year, but Paschall answered the call for the good of the team. He fought against bigger opponents every game and even dealt with the absence of Darryl Reynolds for five games. It’s hard to imagine the ‘Cats would have gone 32-4 and won a Big East Title without the sacrifice and effort of Eric Paschall. He should return to his traditional role next year and it will be fair to expect more from him as a junior.