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.
Are Schools Negative Recruiting Against Villanova on the One-and-Done Issue?
NEW YORK — Jay Wright was talking to a recruit recently when he told the kid, “Give me a negative about Villanova.”
Keep in mind, this is the same Villanova that won the national championship in April by taking out Kansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina en route to the NCAA title.
“There are no negatives about Villanova,” the recruit told Wright. “I love the school, I love the program, I just know that you guys try to win college basketball games and you don’t want guys to go to the NBA.”
“Wow,” Wright told the recruit. “I appreciate your honesty so much.”
“But that’s when it really hit me,” Wright told me at Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden. “We want guys to go to the NBA, we really do. We just want them to enjoy their time in college and that’s all it is.”
It’s got to be somewhat hard to negative recruit against Villanova at this point. They’re coming off the program’s second NCAA championship since 1985, everyone in the business respects their coach and his “Wright Way” and the Wildcats were the unanimous pick to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Big East title.
But let’s face it: Villanova isn’t synonymous with one-and-done culture the way Kentucky and increasingly Duke are. So if you’re going to negative recruit against them, that might be the way to go.
“No one’s said anything negative about us,” Wright said when asked directly if schools were negative recruiting against Villanova. “It’s just kids’ perception out there that if I want to go to college and play for one year and go to the NBA, that’s not the place to do it. That’s kind of the perception because they’re seeing seniors or seeing [junior guard] Josh Hart come back. When we’re talking to kids, they’re still interested in us but they’re saying, ‘I have to decide whether I can go somewhere for one year and get out and go to the NBA or I’m going to come to Villanova and be there for a couple years.’
“I say to them, ‘No, you don’t have to decide that,” Wright added. “You just have to decide, ‘Will I be happy in college? And ‘If I’m there for two years, will I be happy? Will I enjoy it? If I’m there three years will I enjoy it?’ And we’re going to work hard to get you to the NBA but we want you to enjoy college.”
When Villanova — or anyone for that matter — goes up against Kentucky (or Duke) in a recruiting battle, it can be an issue.
Quade Green, the Class of 2017 point guard from Neumann-Goretti (PA) and the PSA Cardinals AAU program, is considering Villanova along with Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse and Arizona, all schools known for one-and-dones.
Asked if that was an issue in Green’s recruitment, his high school coach Carl Arrigale said, “Not at all. I don’t think Quade looks at himself as a one-and-done kid.”
Villanova assistant Ashley Howardtold me at the Final Four that Villanova just hasn’t had the “litmus test’ yet of a potential one-and-done player coming into the program.
“If it fit we would take those guys but we just haven’t had the litmus test yet,” Howard said. “If we had a guy that came in and it was the right fit at the right time then I think we would be able to do it.”
For those who consider themselves one-and-dones, Wright concedes Kentucky has the edge. But he wants to get his message out.
“I think John [Calipari] has proven that they do a great job of that,” Wright said of the Kentucky coach. “And if that’s your goal, to go out and get out as quickly as you can, that’s probably the best place to do it.
“I’m just saying if your goal is to go to college, enjoy college and try to go to the NBA, I want that to be us. And it’s a fine line. And we have to find the right people that fit. Josh Hart is coming back this year and he’s enjoying it. And if he would’ve decided to go last year, we would’ve supported it. So I just want every guy to be like him.”
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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.