I don’t think this claim will shock anyone, but Nova basketball its pretty bad this year. As in end our 7 year streak of tournament appearances bad. Some outspoken people have asked for Jay Wright to be fired, saying he has never developed as an X’s and O’s couch and now his recruiting is slacking. Others have said that we’re not as skilled because of our lack of seniors. I have a different theory.
Basketball is, first and foremost, a team sport. Though some people(Kobe) may frequently forget that fact, winning basketball games is about much more then having one singular star. Or as Miami and Kentucky learned last year, its also more important then having multiple stars with a couple of scrubs around them. Basketball teams are most effective when they are built on quality players from the top to the bottom. You have your stars in the lineup, but then you also have solid bench guys who are skilled enough to get the starters some rest. That is where Villanova has been struggling.
The frightening part however is not our lack of depth in general, but where it comes from. In the recruiting process, Jay Wright might not be Coach Cal, whose shady yet effective recruitment techniques have led to almost as many star players as it has vacated wins(42 by the way), but he is certainly capable of signing top ranked recruits. Our team’s shortcomings lie in a much more discomforting place: player retention. Since my freshman year(2008), we have lost Malcolm grant(transferred before I got here), Cassiem Drummond(transferred that year), Taylor King(may have been kicked out), and Isaiah Armwood(transferred last year). Thats four players(possibly three) in for years who fell in love with Villanova and its basketball program while in high school, only to come to the realization once they got here that they would rather sit out a season to play anywhere but here. Even if you exclude Taylor King, thats still a troubling amount of players who were unhappy being role-players under Jay Wright’s system.
Malcolm Grant is probably the biggest loss of all those players, but each had an impact on our team. Grant went on to become a skilled guard and leader for Miami, a player we certainly would have loved to have last year as we collapsed down the stretch, but his decision to leave after the ’07-’08 season left Jay with a single available roster spot for the next season, one which he did not expect to have. Entering the recruiting game late, the best player Jay had a chance of signing was Maurice Sutton, the lowest rated recruit Villanova has had in years. The others were all serviceable role players who left seeking more playing time elsewhere, deciding they would rather be a star on a lackluster team then play minor minutes here on a tournament team. We have two walk-ons on our team this year due to the loss
This may not seem that worrisome, but you don’t see players transferring from the Duke’s, UNC’s, and Kentucky’s at such a high clip. Players are happy just to wear those jersey’s on the court and be part of the storied franchise. Bench players at those schools relish their 5-10 minutes of playing time a game knowing that they have a chance to make a deep run come March Madness. Our bench players don’t have those same feelings. They’d rather get out while they can and finish their college years playing in obscurity at Marist, Concordia, or George Washington. That is much more frightening then any lack of offensive plays or second half scoring.