Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Jay Wright has become associated with an offense predicated on four guards and one big man.
But the Villanova coach has employed that technique in the past out of necessity, not preference.
“It’s never been my choice to be a four-guard offense. Just they were the best players,” Wright said last Friday at Howard Garfinkel’s ‘Clinic to End All Clinics’ at Manhattan College.
This year Villanova’s five best players should include 6-1 Corey Fisher, 6-5 Corey Stokes, 6-7 Isaiah Armwood, 6-8 Antonio Pena and 6-10 Mouph Yarou, giving the Wildcats a more traditional look on offense.
“It’s what everybody else would call traditional but we would still say they’re our five best players,” Wright said. “We could play two guards and three forwards a lot.”
Led by AP All-America Scottie Reynolds, Villanova finished 25-8 last season, 13-5 in the Big East. The ‘Cats were ousted by St. Mary’s in the second round of the NCAAs.
With Reynolds now playing professionally in Italy, the leadership burden will fall to seniors Fisher (a Bronx native), Stokes (Bayonne, N.J.) and Pena (Brooklyn).
“I’m impressed with their growth over four years; all three of them are ahead of schedule to graduate,” Wright said. “And now we’re back in school, how they’re running workouts. I think you’re going to see different guys. I think you’re going to see really mature guys that aren’t your typical ‘It’s about me players.'”
Fisher appeared to be about himself when he dropped 105 points in a summer league game in The Bronx but he said he would continue to make his teammates at Villanova better.
“I’m gonna play the same way I’ve played for three years,” he said in an interview last month. “I think I kind of established myself as being one of the best point guards in the country. Without my teammates, I wouldn’t be that. I ain’t gonna change. I’m not gonna go out and try to score 105 every time. I’m just going to go out and try and make my teammates better.”
Armwood and Yarou, former teammates at Montrose Christian, stand to benefit if they can stay healthy all year.
Armwood missed the last third of the season with a knee injury, while Yarou came back after missing the initial part of the season with Hepatitis-B.
“Up front we have a chance to be a really big team,” Wright said.
Hence, the return to a more “traditional” offense.
Maurice Sutton, a 6-11 redshirt sophomore, adds more length and height up front.
And 6-7 Brooklyn freshman JayVaughn Pinkston will “also be a big part of what we do,” Wright said.
Pinkston dominated New York City opponents last season and if he can work himself into shape, could be a contender for Big East Rookie of the Year honors.
“We’re very impressed with him,” Wright said. “He’ll come off the pick-and-roll. He’ll handle the ball. He’s doing a good job.”
Pinkston figures to get time in the backcourt behind Fisher, Stokes and sophomores Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek.
“He’s learning all the little things now,” Wright said. “How to defend, how to guard pick-and-roll, how to help off the ball, how to play on the perimeter defensively, how to run the floor every possession.
“He might not look like a superstar early, but I think when he gets that he’s got a chance to be great.”
Pinkston needed to get his body in shape and so far, Wright is happy with his progress.
“He has done everything we asked him to do,” he said. “I am so proud of his approach as a freshman. He’s just coming with the attitude that, ‘Tell me what I need to do, on the court, off the court.’ He’s doing well academically. I’m really pleased with him.”
Freshman guard James Bell could miss the entire season with stress fractures on both tibias. “It’s going to be a matter of is he out for the season or do we bring him back halfway through the year,” Wright said….Wright coached against Rutgers coachMike Rice in the NCAA tournament when Robert Morris squad nearly upset the ‘Cats in the first round. Asked what Rice brings to Rutgers, Wright said: “He’ll bring energy, toughness. He understands Big East basketball. His team at Robert Morris played like a Big East team, just like a smaller Big East team….I think he’ll fit in well and his teams will be prepared right away for how you have to play to be effective in the Big East.”.. Wright, whose club reached the Final Four in 2009, likes Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and Georgetown in the Big East, but he also thinks St. John’s and Seton Hall will be improved because of their experience. “You tend to go for names and who’s hot, but what you forget about is how valuable experience is,” he said. “And those two teams have great experience. It doesn’t matter that they have first-year coaches because those players, once the game starts, have been in those situations for four years. So they’re going to be very good.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.