As Villanova prepares for its final opportunity to pick up a strong non-conference win with a big game against Oklahoma on Saturday, there may be a shakeup to the starting lineup.
Projected top 10 NBA Draft pick Cam Whitmore, who has been out due to thumb surgery, also seems to be close to making his season debut. Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said he’s a game-time decision, but also noted that he had the same status last week.
“[Cam] has been in and out of practice,” Neptune mentioned of the star freshman. “He’s been out for seven weeks so every time we have a meeting with doctors. We don’t want to get him back so quickly and then something else happens because he hasn’t been playing. So he will be a game-time decision for the next couple of weeks.”
Neptune “will make the decision [if Cam will immediately start] when we have to.”
He also provided some insight on how Whitmore is looking in practice.
“[Cam is] a talent,” Neptune added some context to Whitmore’s adversity. “He is up against a lot. He is a Freshman. Any Freshman learning a new system is tough. Playing hard just as a freshman, a lot of the time, playing against bigger, stronger, faster — It’s hard. Then [he] hasn’t played basketball in seven weeks. So I don’t care if you’re Michael Jordan and you haven’t played basketball in seven weeks, you’re not going to be tip-top.”
While Nova Nation waits in anticipation for Whitmore’s return, there’s a chance that his classmates start receiving a bigger role.
When asked about freshmen Brendan Hausen and Mark Armstrong, Neptune talked glowingly.
Is there a lineup change coming? Neptune grinned and said, “maybe.”
“[Armstrong] shows at times he’s extremely talented.” Neptune said of Armstrong who may see an increased role moving forward. “He has an extremely quick burst, he’s extremely athletic and his willingness to be coached is something to be added on that as well.”
Armstrong is fresh off of playing a season-high 24 minutes against Oregon, where he tallied six points on 3-of-5 shooting, with two rebounds and a block.
As for the Amarillo Assassin?
“[Hausen is] one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” Neptune said of Hausen after his 15 point performance against Oregon. “Especially if you watch him shoot in the gym by himself, it’s pretty impressive”
It is not just the coaches who notice Hausen’s jumper, senior Brandon Slater was also extremely impressed with what he has seen from Hausen.
“He’s a great shooter, you gotta give him his credit. He works on it and he deserves it,” Slater mentioned after explaining that he has never edged Hausen in a three-point shooting contest. “So when it goes in, you’re not shocked. When he misses, [he’s] gonna make the next two. He shoots like 93%, that’s his average.”
According to Slater, they shoot 100 three-pointers. While Hausen knocks down 93 on average, Slater says his is around 82.
As for the big upcoming game against the Sooners, the Wildcats aren’t concerned with how their tournament resume looks and the implications this game may have.
“We’re not even thinking about that,” Slater explained. “Maybe after the game, but right now, the biggest game is the next one.”
The ‘Cats enter at 2-5 and are eager to break their four-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is 6-1 and haven’t lost since getting shocked in its season opener with Sam Houston State.
“To us, it’s just about the next game, just trying to get better”, Daniels added. “We know how good [Oklahoma is]. Obviously coming off a great (ESPN Events Invitational) championship win, so you just want to play hard and together for 40 minutes, for each other and just practice our habits every single day.”
Although the players do not seem to be too concerned about their tournament resume, unless the Wildcats win 12-plus games in the Big East, this is a must-win if the Wildcats want to compete in the NCAA Tournament.