Bryan Antoine was the other consensus five-star recruit in the Villanova Wildcats’ loaded freshman class, along with big man Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Unfortunately, upon arrival at Villanova, it was revealed that Antoine would need surgery on his shoulder. He played with a torn labrum throughout his senior season, and he underwent a successful surgery in June. The original prognosis was a 4-6 month recovery period, delaying his debut.
There was speculation of a potential redshirt season, with Jay Wright laying down all of his options and mentioning it was a possibility at Big East Media Day, followed by widespread shock and panic. The buzz was defused the following night, at the Blue-White Scrimmage, where Antoine didn’t play, but was seen shooting around, warming up, and Wright giving affirmation that he would not redshirt.
It assuaged Villanova fans’ fears that Antoine would be out of commission. He made his official debut on Nov. 21 in a blowout win over Middle Tennessee State. Antoine played for 19 minutes, scoring nine points (4-of-6 shooting), with one rebound, two assists, and a steal.
His next outing would be in a Dec. 1 win over La Salle, where he scored two points (1-of-2 shooting) in 12 minutes of action. He wouldn’t see any more extended outings for the rest of the season, except for 21 minutes against Marquette on Feb. 1, where he only scored two points off free throws. Antoine’s minutes dwindled as the season unfolded.
He appeared in 16 games, averaging just under six minutes of playing time per outing, as well as 1.1 points, 0.4 rebounds, and 0.3 assists, and a 30.4 percent shooting performance on the floor. It was evident that Antoine was still adjusting to being back on the court, after being hampered by his shoulder surgery, trying to get himself physically and mentally up to speed with the collegiate game.
Questions regarding his minutes swirled around the fanbase, and after the season Wright provided an explanation.
“We kind of redshirted Bryan Antoine,” Wright said. “In retrospect, we should’ve done it before the season started. We discussed it back and forth so much, and he was open to it. And I kind of thought, you know let’s take a chance because he could’ve helped us if we could’ve got him caught up to speed. And I also thought in the end if we make the mistake and he’s not ready, it still gives him the mental incentive to work through his physical rehab, which was important.”
“We were working him out, I didn’t want to say this during the season, but, we were working him out extra, day of the games. If we would’ve had to put him in a game late, he was exhausted because we would treat him like a redshirt.”
There’s no reason to think that Antoine won’t live up to his billing coming out of high school. A torn labrum is tough to recover from, with the challenges mounting as he tries to get back in game shape in the middle of the season, as well as learn the different schemes on the court.
It was a setback, but now be prepared for a comeback.
With extended time to get stronger and grow comfortable within the program, Antoine should be a force as a sophomore. It was a bummer to see things not work out in his freshman season, but the promise is there for 2020-21.
In a conference call last week, Wright envisions a big role for Antoine next year and labelled him as a player to watch for next season.