The Villanova Wildcats are grappling with their emotions following the aftermath of Collin Gillespie’s injury, while preparing for a road game with the Providence Friars and the postseason.
“Next day, next game, next man up for us,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “... Providence is always ready for a battle. We have great respect for them, and we’re expecting a very difficult game.”
It might be easier said than done. Less than 24 hours earlier, a MRI confirmed the worst, that the Wildcats will be without Gillespie for the remainder of the season.
“It was devastating, he’s the emotional leader of our team,” junior forward Cole Swider said. “He does so much for our team, and we felt it when he wasn’t on the court. It took us a little bit of time to adjust.”
As tough as it was to witness it and still have to play on, Wright feels a bit of relief knowing that Gillespie’s injury wasn’t as drastic as a torn ACL, which could take approximately a year to fully recover from.
“When he stood up on the floor, he said to me, ‘I’m good. I can play,’ and then I saw his knee just give out when he did that,” said Wright, thinking back to the moment of Gillespie’s injury. “So, I knew it was serious, but I didn’t know what it was. We were just hoping it wasn’t ACL for him. When I heard MCL, I was happy for him, because I know he’ll be back at 100% by June with this injury.”
This season, Gillespie, a Bob Cousy Award finalist, averaged 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He shot 42.8% overall and 37.6% from deep.
“I spent a lot of time with him yesterday, a lot of time with his mom and dad,” Wright said of Gillespie. “He’s an amazing kid. His spirits are incredible, considering what he’s facing. He’s a mentally tough kid. One of the concerns I have is that he’s so mentally tough, you want to monitor him and make sure he’s as good as he seems.
“He was at practice with our guys this morning, coaching them up. He’s been great. He will be around the team for this travel, and we’re trying to get surgery scheduled as quickly as possible. I know he’ll be with us tomorrow, but where we go from there, I don’t know yet.”
According to Wright, Justin Moore will get the nod at point guard.
“Justin will definitely starting at point,” he said. “From there, there will be a lot of experimentation. We got to have a good practice today. We got to work on it. We got to meet yesterday. We watched film and met as a team and discussed all the different situations. A lot of different people will be playing the point besides Justin when he’s out of the game.”
“You can name ‘em,” Wright said. “Seriously, we’re going to try a lot of point guard by committee.”
With Gillespie out, Wright says the ‘Cats might play with more balance.
“I hope it doesn’t change our style of play,” Wright said. “Now, obviously, (Gillespie) was a big part of everything we did, so probably, we will play with more balance. We play through (Gillespie) a lot, but we’ll probably play with more balance. I guess that would be the change.”
The Wildcats are ready for the challenge. They’re 16-4 overall and 11-3 going into Saturday’s matchup with Providence, which is scheduled to tip-off at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Although they’ve already locked in the No. 1 seed for next week’s Big East Tournament and secured another regular season title, they are ready to rise to the occasion.
“I think we’re gonna respond great,” senior co-captain Jermaine Samuels said. “Everybody’s accepting the role and accepting the responsibility that their roles have increased. We have to continue to make plays for each other. Nothing changes, we still have to go out there and play Villanova Basketball together.”