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Villanova Basketball 2021 Player Recap: Collin Gillespie

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A devastating late season injury derailed what was set up to be a perfect senior send off for Villanova’s captain.

NCAA Basketball: AFR Hall of Fame Tip-Off-Virginia Tech at Villanova David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Big East regular season title, three times. Big East Tournament Champion, twice. All-Big East Team, twice. Big East Play of the Year. NCAA Champion. All of that, and we still would have felt cheated had Collin Gillespie not suited up next season for the Wildcats. Villanova’s senior captain marshalled his team through a challenging season all to be deprived of the opportunity to play for yet another conference tournament title and NCAA tournament championship. Thankfully we don’t have to live in a reality where Gillespie doesn’t get the chance he deserves to finish on his terms.

Collin Gillespie Career Stats

Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2017-18 32 1 14.4 1.3 2.9 45.2% 0.4 0.7 63.6% 0.9 2.2 39.4% 0.8 0.9 80.0% 0.1 1.2 1.3 1.1 0.6 0.1 0.4 1.4 4.3
2018-19 35 35 29.4 3.3 8.0 40.9% 1.1 2.4 47.6% 2.1 5.6 37.9% 2.2 2.7 83.9% 0.3 2.0 2.4 2.8 1.1 0.1 1.5 2.7 10.9
2019-20 31 31 34.1 5.0 12.3 40.6% 2.7 6.0 45.7% 2.3 6.3 35.7% 2.9 3.5 81.7% 0.2 3.5 3.7 4.5 1.2 0.1 1.9 2.3 15.1
2020-21 20 20 33.4 4.5 10.4 42.8% 2.4 5.0 48.5% 2.1 5.5 37.6% 3.0 3.6 83.3% 0.6 2.7 3.3 4.6 1.0 0.0 1.6 1.6 14.0

Senior Year Breakdown

Coming into his senior season, the bar was set high for the Wildcats and their decorated senior leader. Villanova returned four starters, added a dynamic guard to the mix via transfer, and needed to dole out more playing time and more opportunities to the bottom half of the roster. While it should come as no surprise, Villanova’s captain did what all the great players do when choosing between himself and his team — He chose the team.

Collin Gillespie took two fewer shots per game, scored a point less, and saw his overall usage rate, a measure of how often a possession ends with a player shot, drop from 24.5% to 22.0%. Villanova’s point guard sacrificed scoring opportunities so that his younger teammates, namely Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, and Caleb Daniels, would all have the confidence and experience they needed to step up when it mattered most late in the season.

Gillespie took the opportunities he had and made the most of them, improving on his scoring efficiency and distribution. The Wildcats lead guard saw a nearly 2% uptick in 3PT shooting percentage as a result of getting easier looks from beyond the arc. In his junior year, 28.6% of Gillespie’s 3PT shot attempts were unassisted compared with just 19.5% this past season. The Co-Big East POY also improved on his shooting from inside the arc, raising his 2PT percentage almost 3% by way of a 5.7% increase in his field goal percentage on 2PT jumpers. The stats just confirm what we saw with our eyes: Collin Gillespie looked more comfortable scoring the ball this season than he ever has.

Where Villanova’s senior guard improved most this past season was in his passing and playmaking. Gillespie assisted on 26.6% of all shots when he was on the floor, and improved his assists slightly to 4.6 per game. He did this all while taking care of the ball, dropping his turnover percentage from 12.2% to 11.7%. There are only three players in all of Division 1 basketball to have an assist percentage that high and a turnover percentage that low. Three.

Moreover, Gillespie made his teammates better and was a fixture in all of Villanova’s best-rated five man lineups. The All-Big East First Teamer was an instant offensive floor raiser whenever he was running the show, compiling a 122.3 offensive rating.

Collin Gillespie Teammate Chemistry

Teammate Team Off Eff Team Def Eff Team Eff Margin Above/Below Average
Teammate Team Off Eff Team Def Eff Team Eff Margin Above/Below Average
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 116.9 101.6 15.3 4.0
Justin Moore 117.5 101.3 16.2 4.8
Jermaine Samuels 119.8 105.9 14.0 1.6
Caleb Daniels 115.2 97.6 17.7 2.7
Cole Swider 124.4 96.6 27.8 8.0
Brandon Slater 113.5 98.8 14.8 3.6

Meanwhile, when any of the top six Wildcat contributors were paired with Collin Gillespie the tandem recorded a positive team efficient margin. Most importantly, each of his teammates was better than they were on average when they played with Gillespie rather than without him.

Looking Ahead

I could spent a paragraph or two here discussing how Gillespie can improve on his Co-Big East POY campaign. I could go on about drawing more fouls. I could say something about improving his finishing at the rim. I could mention his slip passes to the roll man. I won’t go into that though, because Collin Gillespie is going to be better next season. That’s what happens every year, anyway.

Also, there’s only one thing on his mind.

Championships. That’s it. That’s why Collin Gillespie is back. As documented above, Collin Gillespie has won just about everything he can win, but he’s coming back for one more season to win and to do it on his terms. Buckle up folks, this should be fun.