Villanova basketball has become used to veteran laden teams over the Jay Wright era. They have been battle tested, and groomed to be the best representatives of Wright’s complex systems. This approach has been vital behind the ‘Cats wild success over the past few years. While Nova’s 100th season will include celebrations of the past, this years’ team will be led by the future of the program.
With the departures of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, the Wildcats find themselves without a senior on scholarship. This shifts the spotlight to Wright’s fifth ranked recruiting class according to 247sports.
Villanova’s ceiling this season depends on how much of a contribution they get from their quintet of freshmen. Through circumstances that include injury and progression, the two newcomers that will bear the brunt of the load early are Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore.
Coach Wright will not have the luxury of bringing these two along slowly, this will be a baptism by fire. Both Moore and Robinson-Earl are not afraid of the task.
“They’re going to play a huge role,” said junior Jermaine Samuels.
Robinson-Earl enters the Main Line as the crown jewel of the class of 2019, turning down Kansas to play for the Wildcats. The 6’8” forward clocked in as the 16th ranked prospect in the country, one ahead of his teammate Bryan Antoine.
“I enjoyed the coaching staff, they were all in,” said Robinson-Earl on why he picked Villanova. “Some colleges gave you a call here or a call there from different guys, but I really appreciated how they (Villanova) all gave me the same message,” he added.
The freshman forward played an integral role in the offense during the scrimmage against USC on October 18th, leading the way with 20 points and nine rebounds. “It was nice to get a game under our belt, we just need to keep working hard,” he stated. “I’m just grateful for my teammates since they were able to find me when I was open,” he added.
Robinson-Earl was named Big East preseason freshman of the year earlier this month, but he’s not letting that dictate his expectations. “Those accolades do not mean much to me,” he said. “I feel like it’s more important winning the big east and focusing on being a collective unit,” he continued.
The IMG Academy product should continue the line of new age big men of recent years such as Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall. “I look at myself as more of a hybrid than a traditional forward,” he stated.
Robinson-Earl should find himself as a key member of the offense from the start for the Wildcats, who will be without Booth and Paschall’s combined 36.1 points per game from a season ago.
The USC scrimmage was not a fluke, Robinson-Earl will be among the team’s leading scorers this season.
Villanova has had great success recruiting from the state of Maryland over recent years. Nova has benefited from the likes of Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, Phil Booth and Saddiq Bey, all hailing from the Old Line state. Justin Moore is looking to add his name to that list.
“The coaching staff welcomed me in from the first time I met them and the playing style fits me really well,” said Moore.
Moore started the USC scrimmage in place of the injured Collin Gillespie during the ‘Cats trip to Los Angeles. The freshman guard played 35 minutes and shot 3-of-11 on his way to eight points. Much of his time on the floor was at point guard, where Moore only had one turnover during his first outing.
“Just getting to play with each other for the first time was good,” Moore said. “Just learning from the older guys on how to play Villanova basketball since I haven’t been here that long,” was also important.
With fellow freshman Bryan Antoine out through injury as well as a lack of guard depth, Moore is expected to play major minutes this season. The guard is likely to feature as a combo, splitting time as a point and shooting guard. At 6’4” with a lightning quick release, Moore should prove to be a hand-full for defenders this season.
“Just put me out there and I’ll find a way,” he added.
Moore seemed to flash his potential during Sunday’s closed-door scrimmage against North Carolina. The Maryland native torched the Tar Heels for 39 points over 54 minutes on 9-of-12 shooting from deep (you can read more about that in Monday’s Arizin).
The duo of Moore and Robinson-Earl are certainly making impressions on their teammates early. “It’s incredible how far they’ve come along so quickly,” said junior Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. “I feel like Justin kind of has a (Phil) Booth feel to him,” stated Jermaine Samuels.
A program that has often relied on its experience will now have to turn to its youth. There has yet to be a meaningful minute played this season, but the expectations only continue to grow for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore.
“I meet any challenge. I came here to play,” said Moore.