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Villanova Basketball 2019 Player Recap: Phil Booth

Our player recap series ends with the last remaining player to have played minutes in the 2016 National Championship game.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament Final-Villanova vs Seton Hall Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Booth’s Career Stats

2014-15 36 0 14.5 2 3.6 0.563 0.9 1.8 0.485 0.9 1.3 0.739 1.5 1.4 0.3 0 0.8 1.4 5.8
2015-16 40 3 21.9 2.2 6.1 0.368 1 3.1 0.317 1.6 1.8 0.877 2.1 2.1 0.8 0.1 1.4 1.9 7
2016-17 3 3 24 1.7 6.3 0.263 1 3.3 0.3 1.3 1.3 1 1.7 2 0.3 0 2 1 5.7
2017-18 33 31 27.4 3.3 7.4 0.441 1.7 4.4 0.379 1.8 2.3 0.8 3.2 2.9 0.8 0.2 1.4 1.7 10
2018-19 36 36 35.1 6.1 13.9 0.434 2.6 7.2 0.367 3.8 5.1 0.749 3.9 3.8 0.8 0.2 2.3 1.9 18.6

The Breakdown

It’s not so often that National Championship heroes get labeled as mere role players. To outside observers--those that aren’t too familiar with Booth and the Villanova Wildcats--he was just a supplementary piece to National Player of the Year contenders and projected first round NBA Draftees. To Villanovans, Booth was a warrior, overcoming injuries after that 2016 championship campaign to eventually come back and be a prominent player for the 2018 run.

As a fifth-year senior this season, both fans and outside observers were curious to see what the squad would look like now that Booth had his turn to be “the guy.” Just as former teammates before him thrived in much bigger roles, Booth did the same. Not only was he leading the charge as an emotional leader in the huddle, but he was putting up the numbers and carrying the team to victory in a few close calls. He already had the respect of his teammates and fans of the team, but now others outside of the Villanova and Big East landscape were taking notice.

If there were any doubts if whether or not Booth’s knees could handle a huge minutes workload, if he could be a leading scorer, or if he could be a facilitator and create for others--he extinguished them all.

It felt like the only way he would come off the court--if it wasn’t foul trouble--was if someone dragged him off of it.

He averaged 35.1 minutes per game, leading the ‘Cats with 18.6 points per game and 3.8 assists per game.

Booth began the season by putting up 40 points over the first two games, an encouraging sign that he was more than ready to lead the team. After a series of rough outings that started against Michigan and Furman, debates sparked about his shot selection, role in the offense, and minutes load.

Then, he started to turn it up a notch, leading the Wildcats with a 29-point performance at Allen Fieldhouse and in a near-upset of then-No. 1 ranked Kansas. That was only the beginning.

Booth had a dominant second half against St. John’s on Jan. 8, leading a second half push for the lead and eventual win. He took over the game, and the Johnnies had no answer for it. He immediately followed up with a brilliant shooting display in Omaha, pulling up and hitting shots from the parking lot. Both games were in the middle of a four-game streak in which he was able to score at least 20 points a game. At this point, he was also growing more accustomed with being the main facilitator and the player with the ball in his hands the most. According to KenPom, he had a team-high 24.9 assist rate and one of the lower turnover rates at just 14.8.

He came up big for ‘Nova and started to have a penchant for making those tough, contested shots. He proved to be a talented scorer and even when the shots weren’t falling, he had the ability of coming in when his team needed him most--like the Feb. 3 home win against Georgetown, where he was crucial down the stretch.

Booth dazzled in his final home game, one at the Wells Fargo Center, where he went 10-of-15 on the floor en route to a 28-point game. He’d post similar numbers against Xavier in the Big East Tournament, before winning the Most Valuable Player award and helping Villanova achieve the first-ever Big East Tournament three-peat.

Looking Back and Ahead to the Future

It wasn’t the ending Booth had hoped for, but he got to enjoy placing one final stamp on his legacy this season. While the overwhelming narrative seemed to be “rebuilding year,” Booth--as well as his fellow seniors and teammates--got to achieve something that the other recent ‘Cats couldn’t do. They set a new mark for the best start in conference play in program history, as well as capture that third Big East Tournament title to complete the first-ever three-peat. He had his share of highlights, big games, and big moment this season.

Looking back at Booth’s career as a whole, there’s no doubt he’ll be going down as one of the greats. Broadcasters don’t need to remind Villanova fans of his 20-point National Championship performance in 2016. However, one thing that seems to get lost and overshadowed--to make that story even better--is the nagging knee pains and mono he endured during that title run.

During the following offseason, he got his knee all taken care of, but by the time the 2016-17 season rolled around, it was clear that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy. After playing a couple of games, he was sidelined due to the persistent knee issues. Booth attempted to return a couple of different times, but ultimately got a medical redshirt year.

Last season, Booth was excited to assure everyone he would be healthy and although he wasn’t a senior, Jay Wright had said he was one of the most “well-liked and respected” players on the team for the way he handled and persevered through that medical redshirt year. He was seen as a leader and one of the players on the team that most guys looked up to.

Last year, Booth made an impact in the starting five, adding a scoring punch but gaining more of a reputation for his perimeter defense. Then, as the leading man this season, Booth got to put his abilities on full display as an all-around player.

He finishes his career with 1,507 points. His departure feels a tad more sentimental, since he was the last player to actually play in the 2016 National Championship game--and he obviously had a big part in it. He leaves with a decorated career at Villanova that includes four Big East Tournament titles and two national championship rings.

While his teammate Eric Paschall has had a more consistent showing in NBA mock drafts throughout the season--with Booth only appearing sparingly in a few second round projections--a future in the NBA is not out of the question. He could embark on a similar NBA Draft path as Darrun Hilliard, who didn’t appear in mock drafts, but appealed to a NBA team with his workouts and interviews. He’ll be participating in pre-draft workouts, so he’ll have his opportunity to plead his case on the court. If he doesn’t get drafted, he’ll most likely be called for a few invitations to grind his way to a roster spot.

With his attitude and his experience with overcoming virtually every obstacle that had gotten in his way, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on a NBA team.