Cole Swider took his knocks in his first season as a Wildcat, but Villanova freshmen often do, and in Villanova fashion they seem to come back stronger the following year. The Providence, RI native came to the Main Line with high expectations, but his first go of it with the Wildcats was marred by streaky shooting and an ill-timed hand injury. Still, there were times Swider showed flashes of his potential as a defense-disrupting stretch forward and that bodes well for next season and beyond.
Cole Swider Season Stats
Breaking Down Year One
Cole Swider arrived at Villanova as the #39 recruit in the country, #9 at his position according to Rivals. Ideally, in year one, the lanky power forward could play next to a more traditional big and stretch the floor with his three point shooting ability.
When the real games began, it was clear the Swider would get some run in the rotation ahead of Dylan Painter and Brandon Slater, but not much. The St. Andrews High product appeared in Villanova’s first 13 games before sitting out the first conference game against Depaul. During that stretch, Swider was used sparingly, averaging just 11 minutes per game and getting the majority of his playing time when the Wildcats were in control of the outcome.
Swider’s big performance came in his Providence homecoming, a closely contested Villanova road victory. Villanova’s freshman power forward played 11 minutes in the game, going 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from 3PT range. The 10 point scoring effort came in a game where Villanova needed every last point to win, and the output was his second most of the season, one point fewer than the 11 points he put up against Canisius.
The minutes fluctuated over Swider’s next three Big East games before a broken bone in his shooting hand forced Swider to the bench. The Villanova stretch forward would next appear in a March game against Butler and play in all three conference tournament games. In the Big East Tournament, Swider played a total of 25 minutes, going 1-4 from the floor and scoring 5 points. Swider appeared in Villanova’s crushing defeat to Purdue, hitting a three and earning a trip to the line in eight minutes.
Projecting a young player is no easy task, but Cole Swider seems built for Coach Jay Wright’s system and Wright happens to be a master developer of talent, so the future is bright. Despite shooting just 28.3% on his 46 3PT attempts, Swider has a smooth, quick release and his height allows him to get his shot off over smaller players. He has the size to match up on the block as well, and projects as a power forward or small ball center if he can improve his rebounding rate and begin to challenge shots inside.
As with most freshmen, many of Swider’s weaknesses came to the forefront when he took the court against collegiate opposition. The aforementioned rebounding was an issue, as Swider ended up with the worst rebounding rate among all the Wildcat frontcourt players. Defensively, Swider displayed good effort but struggled to stay in front of his man one-on-one, frequently getting beaten off the dribble. Offensively, his game was limited to catch-and-shoot threes, but he demonstrated craftiness at times with the shot-fake to create a short jump shot.
With the departure of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, Villanova will be desperate to find offense and Swider will have his chance in the rotation to show his value. In a best-case scenario, Villanova’s rising sophomore forward would come off the bench and see minutes into the low twenties as a scoring forward. This best case scenario only comes to fruition if he can prove to Wright and staff that he can hold his own on the glass and stay in front of his man. With more than a half year to condition and improve his game, Swider should contribute to Villanova’s 2019-20 season, and most importantly, be key part of their future.