clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Villanova is approaching a recruiting crossroads

New, comments

The Wildcats are targeting many five-star talents

Kansas v Villanova Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With two national titles in three seasons, Villanova has received the “blue blood” designation from many college basketball pundits, tossing the Wildcats’ name around as a perennial contender along with the likes of Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas.

But while “blue blood” is one descriptor those schools share, another had eluded the Wildcats for most of Jay Wright’s tenure — a “destination.” As college basketball’s heavyweights have fought it out over the last decade for high-priced recruits, Villanova has mainly taken on four- and three-star players with the occasional 5-star talent here and there.

Part of this is program preference, as the Wildcats have found great success with next-tier players. But there is the myth surrounding the program that Villanova cannot develop NBA players. With the success of two Kyle Lowry, and the potential of four first-round picks in June, including one lottery pick, that narrative will soon change. That change begs a new question — will Villanova’s rosters change accordingly?

Even before what should be a monumental draft for the Villanova program, its access to top talent across the country is becoming greater. The Wildcats have found themselves included in the Top-10 lists of national five-star recruits Isaiah Stewart (2019) and Nico Mannion (2020). Another five-star, Scottie Barnes (2020), says Villanova is among the school’s recruiting him the hardest, although the ‘Cats have yet to offer. Jay Wright has also offered five-star Josh Green (2019).

All four of these national recruits, have one-and-done potential, which hasn’t necessarily aligned with Villanova in the past, but not for a lack of trying. “Well I want them, we just haven’t gotten them,” Wright told Sports Illustrated in 2017. This season Villanova boasts at least a pseudo-one-and-done in Omari Spellman, who played just one season but was on campus for two.

However, Wright has also expressed caution when it comes to recruiting top-tier players. He has often mentioned that the brief down year in 2011-12 was partly due to missteps in recruiting following the 2009 Final Four appearance.

”Last time we didn’t take the responsibility of explaining - we didn’t do a good enough job of explaining to our recruits what our culture was and what we expected before they got here,” Wright told Philly.com in 2016. “We were just overly excited about the quality of players we could get and thought we could figure it out once they got here.”

In many ways Wright and Villanova are at a crossroads in recruiting. Their current offers and Wright’s comments about one-and-done players certainly suggest they will pursue and perhaps even get commitments from some of the top players in the nation. But how much will they sacrifice to do so? Will the Wildcats go full Duke and shift from four-year guys to one-and-done players or will they try to only get top-tier players who fit in their system?

Their first two post-title commits (Justin Moore and Eric Dixon) suggest more of that blend, but it’s too early to tell now. Much of the recruiting work for 2019 was done before the championship in April, and the potential of multiple first round picks in this month’s NBA draft will give Wright a new angle to play in recruiting.

What seems clear is that soon Villanova will have its first true one-and-done, lottery pick-type player of the Wright era. It might not happen in 2019, but the day is coming given the level of the program and its recruiting targets. Whether that opens the floodgates or not remains to be seen, but some sort of Villanova roster evolution appears to be on the horizon.