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.
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Villanova Wins Big East Tournament As Hart Looks to Cap Incredible Career
By DENNIS CHAMBERSNEW YORK — In the era of “one-and-done” college basketball players, legacies like JoshHart‘s rarely get the chance to blossom.
The 2017 Big East Player of the Year decided to return to college for his senior year after capturing a national championship as Villanova’s leading scorer. As a result, Hart’s choice to keep his amateur status allowed him the opportunity to do what few college basketball players do nowadays — repeat as national champions.
As the Wildcats cut down the nets Saturday night at Madison Square Garden after defeating Creighton 74-60 in the Big East Tournament final, Hart’s résumé will read as follows when he enters the NCAA tournament for one last ride: four-time Big East regular season champion, two-time Big East Tournament champion, two-time Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Big East Player of the Year, and National Champion.
Hart’s résumé includes all of this while also holding the chance to add another national championship at the top of the list. Simply put, the senior would leave his time at Villanova as one of the most decorated players in college basketball over the last decade.
Choosing to return to college was a decision Hart and his family made together. Turning in his extremely successful senior campaign suggests his decision was the correct one. JayWright stressed the diligence the Hart’s made their decision with during a recent Big East conference call.
“He and his mother and father handled the draft process last spring solely by themselves,” Wright said. “With the coaching staff and BakerDunleavy, our assistant did a great job handling it with them. It was as intelligent a process by them as I’ve seen. The decision was simple, there was no guaranteed first-round pick, there was a chance but nothing guaranteed. And they said, ‘Hey, a degree means more to us and Josh’s opportunity to improve as a player and get his degree means a lot to us. but the process worked perfectly for them.”
Entering Saturday’s championship game, Hart was projected as the No. 35 selection in the upcoming NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com. While not the first-round prowess Hart hoped to gain himself by returning for his senior year, the collection of accolades he’s accrued this season coupled with another national title may do the trick.
Getting picked in the first-round would be nice, but that won’t determine his success at the next level, according to his coach.
“He probably improved his draft stock a lot, to a first-round pick probably,” Wright said. “But more importantly I think a year’s maturity, a year’s work on his game ensured that he’ll be in the NBA as a mature young man with a college degree able to handle his business. he’ll show up for work every day on time, committed. I think he can have a long career because of that.”
Spending four seasons in college just isn’t common nowadays, especially if the player goes on to win a national title as the team’s focal point. But Hart isn’t a common player. Throughout his career, he’s remained coachable and committed to getting better, a trait Wright cannot say enough about.
“It’s amazing,” Wright said. “He was the tournament MVP as a sophomore, and he’s better in every aspect of the game. He’s such a better player, which is amazing if you think about it, that he won it and he’s better in every aspect of the game … He’s just done everything. I think he’s a complete basketball player. I think he’s the best, most complete player in the country.”
Villanova will take their star player and championship savvy core — KrisJenkins, JalenBrunson, DarrylReynolds, and MikalBridges — into the NCAA tournament as defending champions and potentially the No. 1 overall seed.
The awards, the ceremonies, the praise is all appreciated and accepted by Hart. But with the swan song approaching in his illustrious career, he’s not focused on what he’s done but what can he still do.
“I don’t think I will for another month or so,” Hart said about looking back at his accomplishments. “A lot of that comes from (Wright). He wants us to keep getting better. He wants us to keep being coachable … I’m not thinking about that right now. I’ve got one month left of my college basketball career, and I can’t think about that now.”
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