Villanova Wildcats

Villanova future unclear for Brunson, but Booth expected back at 100 percent

Villanova future unclear for Brunson, but Booth expected back at 100 percent

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Two big questions facing the 2017-18 Villanova Wildcats concern the future of guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth.

The verdict from coach Jay Wright is no news on Brunson and good news on Booth.

Brunson, a first team All-Big East pick as a sophomore this year, is expected to decide soon whether he'll enter his name in the 2017 NBA draft pool.

Even if he does, he can withdraw after the combine, much like teammates Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins did last spring, as long as he doesn't hire an agent.

Booth, who scored a game-high 20 points in Villanova's championship game win over North Carolina last March, was limited to three games as a junior this year and didn't play after the Western Michigan game on Nov. 17 because of lingering knee pain.

First the good news.

Booth, who projected as a starter this year, should be 100 percent for the start of next season.

Booth averaged 7.0 points per game last year. He shot 46 percent from three the last 13 games of last year as 'Nova rolled toward the national title and was money in the NCAA Tournament -- 57 percent from the field and 56 percent from three.

Wright said Monday Booth finally resumed practicing late in the season, and the results were encouraging.

"I am very confident that Phil will be 100 percent," he said. "Right at the end of the season we got him practicing, and he looked great. Kind of like Donte (DiVincenzo) last year. We didn't get Donte back till the end."

DiVincenzo was limited to nine games in 2016 and was granted a redshirt year by the NCAA. It's expected Booth will be granted a redshirt year as well and retain junior eligibility going into 2017-18.

As for Brunson, Wright said he hasn't yet spoken with the sophomore point guard or his family about Brunson's future but will have that discussion soon.

"I'm going to sit down with Jalen and his parents in the next day or so here," Wright said. "They're great people, they're intelligent, they're very straightforward. It'll be easy. Jalen's dad works in the NBA, he's got a great feel, so they don't really need my advice, and I trust any decision they would make."

Jalen's father, former Temple star Rick Brunson, was a nine-year NBA veteran and is currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brunson averaged 14.7 points per game, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game and shot 54 percent from the field this season. His 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio was third best in the Big East, and his shooting percentage was 50th in all of NCAA Division I and third best in the Big East.

"Sandra and Rick Brunson, the parents, are such smart, level-headed people that I trust what they do with their son," Wright said.

"I really do. Sometimes you have people who aren't that experienced, so I feel like I have to protect them, but not in this case. Much like Josh Hart's parents last year, they're really solid, bright people. We're lucky that way."

Wright said he has no idea which way Brunson is leaning.

"You know what, I don't know," Wright said. "They could go either way. They could say, 'Hey, it's been a long year, we know he's coming back, so let's just rest him up and get ready [for next year],' or they could say, 'Let's look at the process and see how it plays out,' or they could say, 'Hey, he's close to graduating anyway, let's go now,' which wouldn't be a bad decision either."

Brunson is rated by various experts as anywhere from a mid- to late-first-round pick in this year's NBA draft.

If Brunson does leave early, the heir apparent at this point could be incoming freshman Collin Gillespie, who starred at Archbishop Wood in Warminster.

Both Hart and Jenkins participated in the NBA combine last year before withdrawing their names and spending their senior seasons at Villanova.

Hart said he hasn't spoken to Brunson yet about his future but would be happy to.

"If he decides to go through that process and all that, I definitely would be someone that would talk to him just about my past experience with it," he said.

"If he wants to hear my perspective, I’ll definitely help him out with that. … I'm not going to intrude in any of that. If he wants to talk, we live together. He can just go across the hall."

James Madison shows why it's No. 1 in FCS with win over No. 11 Villanova

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USA Today Images

James Madison shows why it's No. 1 in FCS with win over No. 11 Villanova

BOX SCORE

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Bryan Schor threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and defending FCS champion James Madison beat Villanova 30-8 on Saturday to set a conference record with 18 straight victories.

The Dukes broke Richmond's Colonial Athletic Association mark, set from 2008-09. James Madison hasn't lost to another FCS member since the second round of the 2015 playoffs against Colgate.

James Madison built a 13-0 lead at halftime after holding Villanova to just 58 yards with three sacks and an interception. The Wildcats pulled to 16-8 early in the fourth but Schor connected with David Eldridge for a 29-yard score. Brandon Hereford capped it with his first career pick and touchdown with 1:57 left.

Terrence Alls made seven catches for 83 yards for James Madison (6-0, 3-0), which hosted ESPN's College Gameday for the second time.

The popular pre-game program aired for the eighth time from a FCS location. It helped draw the second-largest crowd in school history with 25,993.

Jimmy Moreland made an interception on Villanova's third play of the game and James Madison got to the Wildcats' 5 before settling for a 3-0 lead. Clayton Cheatham extended it 13-0 by catching an open pass over the middle and breaking tackles near the end zone for a 23-yard score.

Schor went over 5,000 career passing yards in the first half.

Freshman Kyle McCloskey started the second half at quarterback for Villanova (4-3, 2-2). He threw for 15 yards and added 43 yards on the ground. The Wildcats, who entered allowing just 13.2 points per game, were held to 174 total yards.

College Gameday
The ESPN crew was also live from James Madison in 2015 in front of more than 12,000 fans. The game against Richmond drew a Bridgeforth Stadium-record crowd of 26,069.

Up Next
Villanova has a bye week before hosting Elon on Oct. 28.

James Madison plays at William & Mary next Saturday.

Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

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AP Images

Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

Jay Wright will recieve the John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching" honor in 2018. The award goes to coaches who personify legendary coach John Wooden's standards of coaching success and personal integrity.

Wright will be honored on April 6 at the College Basketball Awards in Los Angeles.

Wright has 23 years of coaching under his belt with his last 16 coming at Villanova. In his last 13 seasons on the Main Line, the Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times, including a national championship in 2016 with a thrilling 77-74 victory over North Carolina.

Wright and his squad begin the 2017-18 season Nov. 10 against Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center.