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From small things, big things will one day come: Joe Cremo’s path to Villanova

From a small town in upstate New York and a school not necessarily known for its basketball tradition, Cremo has waited for this moment to take a big leap for Villanova and the Big East.

NCAA Basketball: Albany at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In the Wizard of Oz, a wide-eyed Dorothy famously states “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

Graduate transfer Joe Cremo had a similar experience the first time he stepped foot on the floor of the Finneran Pavilion and experienced his first Hoops Mania.

Hailing from Scotia, N.Y., Joe Cremo came from small beginnings. His hometown has a population of 7,700—a bit over the Pavilion’s max capacity but nearly not enough to fill half of the Wells Fargo Center.

He was not ranked as a recruit when he committed to Albany, the only school to show interest in him, becoming a part of its 2015 recruiting class. That anonymity didn’t last long during his time in the New York state capital. The sharpshooter progressed during each of his three seasons as a Great Dane, increasing his points per game from 10.5 as a freshman to 17.8 as a senior.

As his numbers grew over his last three years, so did his status along the college basketball landscape. The 6-foot-4 guard sparked a frenzy in the spring when he announced his intent to leave Albany with Villanova, Kansas, Creighton, Texas and Gonzaga all interested.

Ryan Bowman/VU Hoops

In early May, he made his final decision to come to the Main Line. Why?

“Culture,” exclaimed Cremo, when asked why he picked the ‘Nova Nation for his final season in college basketball.

The newest Wildcat also expressed his desire to “be a part of something bigger than myself.”

A star at Albany, Cremo was ready to join a family, a machine that had won two National Championships in three years to the tune of teamwork, unselfishness, and of course—attitude. It’s a perfect marriage of sorts, as Cremo’s three-point shooting should not go unnoticed in Villanova’s “shoot ‘em up, sleep in the streets” mentality. He shot a staggering 45.8 percent from long range last season.

However, he wasn’t on Villanova’s radar—at least, initially.

“Someone from Joe Cremo’s family or something reached out to us,” Jay Wright said. “We weren’t really looking at him before that.”

That expressed interest was enough to get the gears turning on the Main Line.

“He just fit everything we would want a senior at Villanova to be,” Wright said. He then noted Cremo’s maturity and intelligence, along with his unselfish nature.

As the first graduate transfer in the Jay Wright era, the Cremo addition is somewhat uncharted territory for the ‘Cats. He would only be able to play one season. It seemed a bit off-brand for a team relishes in the patient growth and work across a number of years. Wright made an exception, but communicated that he doesn’t see the Wildcats dipping into the graduate transfer market again due to their focus on developing players.

As a three-year captain in high school and a standout at Albany, a leadership role is far from foreign to Cremo. With the void left by the four former Wildcats now in the NBA, Villanova’s No. 24 will be looked at to step up.

“We liked him as much for his leadership and as an addition to our chemistry,” said Wright.

The redshirt senior has only been a member of the program for a short period of time, but it seems as if he’s meshing well with Jay Wright and company’s rigorous philosophy.

“One thing you can control is your attitude on the floor. It’s a next play mentality,” said Cremo, with the same nuance as a grizzled Wildcat veteran. It clearly did not take long for that to set in.

The role expected of Cremo for the upcoming season will most likely mirror what the ‘Cats expected from Donte DiVincenzo last year (before he exceeded all expectation and did this in the National title game). Joe will most likely start the season on the bench, though we’ve seen in the past that the Wildcats like the thought of a “sixth starter”.

Cremo stated his willingness to do “whatever the team needs” in order to win.

When asked about his strengths, the 21-year old communicated his “versatility off the ball” as well as his ability to help “spread teams out”. Those words should be music to the ears of Nova fans everywhere.

Last year, Cremo shot 42 percent of his field goals from beyond the arc, connecting on 76 out of 166 of them (45.8%). His number of makes is only nine less than the Big Ragu’s total of 85 made threes last year, even with Cremo taking 56 less attempts from deep. Of course the level of opposition that the two faced last season differed, but the up-state New Yorker’s efficiency will be intriguing to follow all season.

Much of that efficiency comes from the technique that Cremo possesses. He has an incredibly quick release that allows for him to operate in slivers of space, rather than relying on trying to get completely open.

When asked if he modeled his approach after any particular player he stated, “Honestly, I look at a lot of different players. There’s not one player in particular, but I’m always trying to learn.”

With a release as fast as lightning, ‘Nova Nation will quickly learn to not blink when Cremo has the ball in his hands.

While scoring is certainly his strong point, his distribution isn’t all that far behind. Cremo averaged 3.8 assists per game last season, good for fourth in the America East Conference. Just as important as the assists themselves, the facilitator clocked in at a 1.9 assist/turnover ratio which ranked him second in the conference. Protecting the ball will only enhance the trust by the coaching staff in Cremo, and should allow for a smooth transition into Villanova’s system.

While the addition of Joe Cremo was the first of its kind as a grad-transfer, he is not the only transfer on the roster. Eric Paschall also made the move to 800 Lancaster Avenue after starting his career in New York at Fordham University.

“Those guys grow up following the Big East” said Wright on what it has been that has drawn him to two New Yorkers as transfers to the program. “We don’t have to explain our program to them” he added.

“I hope he’s as effective as Eric Paschall,” Wright said.

‘Nova Nation will be too.

“We’re taking it one day at a time” said Cremo about his expectations for playing in the Big East, a conference he watched extensively growing up.

“I grew up a Syracuse fan, but I’ve got my new team now,” Cremo said.

Good choice.