Brandon Slater’s slow and steady progression continued in his third year in the program, as he improved on his sophomore year numbers in almost every area. His minutes per game jumped from 11.5 to 16.8, but he became a key rotation player in the second half of the season, averaging 21 minutes per game over the final 11 games of the season.
Slater played the role he was expected to play this season, providing help off the bench as a primary defender on opponents’ top scorers, and being a low usage spark on the offensive end. Early in the season, his lack of offensive production and tendency to break down on the defensive end resulted in a lack of trust from Jay Wright. Slater played just four minutes in the November 28th loss to Virginia Tech, watching from the bench as the starters grew tired and blew a late lead down the stretch.
Slater became much more comfortable on the defensive end in the second half of the season, providing shut down defense on players like James Bouknight and Chandler Vaudrin that led to key Villanova wins in the second half of the year. In games against more athletic teams like Baylor, St. John’s, and Georgetown, he played critical minutes while some of the other rotation members struggled to survive on the defensive end.
Slater’s production was far from consistent on the offensive end, but he started to show some flashes of promise. Although most of the makes were in garbage time, Slater went 10-24 from 3, which was a remarkable improvement on his career 3-26 mark coming into the season. More importantly, he showed an ability to attack closeouts and get to the rim and finish, especially when he could get to his left hand. He was impressive at turning some defensive deflections into easy buckets in transition and he consistently made good decisions with the ball, only committing 8 turnovers in 421 minutes.
(Note: Also led the team in monster dunks included in the One Shining Moment video)
With Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and his 35 minutes per game departing the rotation, frontcourt depth becomes the primary question mark for the 2021-2022 Wildcats. Brandon Slater’s continued development will play a big part in trying to fill that huge gap.
Defensively, he’ll continue to be asked to be a primary shut-down defender but will also have to be more of a contributor as a rim defender and rebounder. Continuing to try to add to his thin frame will be critical this offseason.
In his fourth year in the program, Slater will have to show more than promise on the offensive end. After Collin Gillespie went down in early March, Wright looked to Slater to pick up some of the slack, playing season highs of 29 and 31 minutes in their next two games against Providence and Georgetown. Despite playing well defensively in those two games, Slater failed to provide any help on the offensive end, as the Cats dropped a pair of 1 possession games. In total in those two games, Slater went 1-8 from the floor and 1-5 from the free throw line, for just 4 total points.
It’s very possible that Slater is going to find his minutes in the high 20s next season as Jay Wright tries to piece together a frontcourt rotation. Wright won’t need Slater to average double figures, but he will need consistent production to keep defenders honest and provide space to operate for Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, and Jermaine Samuels. Knocking down some open 3s in big spots, improving on his career 52% free throw percentage, and being active on the weak side with cuts and offensive rebounds will be critical for Villanova to return to Final Four contender status.