NEWARK, N.J. –– Villanova coach Jay Wright had never seen James “Taj” Bell play until Bell’s mother reached out during his sophomore year at Orlando (Fla.) Montverde Academy.
“We said, ‘Look, we see you’re rated high but we’ve got to go see you play,'” Wright recalled. “We can’t do anything until we see you play. And we went to see him play one time and we said ‘Yep, we’ll take you. We love you.’ It was real simple. That was it.”
Wright loved the 6-foot-5 freshman even more Tuesday night after he scored a career-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a critical layup in the final minutes, to give No. 15 Villanova a 60-57 victory over Seton Hall at The Prudential Center.
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**In a recruiting note, Dakari Johnson, Austin Colbert, Jason Boswell and Ryan Rhoomes were all at the game, as was St. Patrick principal Joe Picaro. Jeff Robinson of Seton Hall and Corey Fisher of Villanova both played there.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.