Villanova Wildcats

Mikal Bridges to enter NBA draft

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Mikal Bridges to enter NBA draft

Villanova star swingman Mikal Bridges will bypass his senior season and enter the NBA draft, the redshirt junior told ESPN Tuesday morning.

Bridges, who stands at 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, will likely be a lottery pick. He'll intrigue NBA teams as a three-and-D guy who can defend multiple positions.

"My success has been because of a lot of hard work and a lot of patience," Bridges said. "My first year in college, that was the longest time I ever sat out. Villanova and the coaches helped me to build a really strong work ethic. I didn't have as much of an ethic my freshman year, but I was pushed a lot by my coaches and that helped get me to become the player that I am."

He's expected to go around pick No. 10. That should intrigue Sixers fans since the Lakers' pick — which should finally convey this season — is likely to land around there. We outlined how Bridges would be a perfect fit alongside Joel Embiid and company last week (see story).

Along with being crowned as a national champion, Bridges was awarded the Julius Erving Award as the nation's top small forward. He was also named third team All-American and first team All-Big East.

“Mikal has been an exemplary student-athlete during his four years with us at Villanova,” Jay Wright said in a statement. “His work ethic and willingness to accept coaching have helped him grow steadily in his time here. He’s a great teammate and leader. I’m confident he will enjoy a very successful professional career.”

Bridges averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and shot 44 percent from three during his junior season. He'll receive his degree in May.

Villanova's Jalen Brunson wins Wooden Award as player of the year

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Villanova's Jalen Brunson wins Wooden Award as player of the year

LOS ANGELES -- Jalen Brunson of national champion Villanova and A'ja Wilson of South Carolina won the John R. Wooden Award as national players of the year Friday night.

They received their trophies during the fourth annual College Basketball Awards in a nationally televised show from The Novo in downtown Los Angeles.

Brunson also claimed the Bob Cousy point guard of the year award, having averaged over 18 points while helping Villanova win its second national title in three years. Brunson claimed a slew of honors, including The Associated Press men's player of the year. He helped the Wildcats spend a nation's-best eight weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this season.

Brunson is the second player to win the national title and Wooden Award in the same year, and the first Wildcats player to earn the Wooden honor.

"It really truly does mean a lot," he said. "There's been so many great players that have come through Villanova. Being the first one is something I take great pride in."

Wilson helped South Carolina to its first title last year and averaged 22.6 points and 11.8 rebounds for the team this season before the Gamecocks lost to UConn in the NCAA Tournament regional final. She was also the AP women's player of the year and is expected to be the first pick in the upcoming WNBA draft.

Wilson finished her college career as South Carolina's scoring and blocks leader.

"I'm just blessed to win this award," she said. "This is something huge, this is something deeper than basketball."

Villanova's Jay Wright received the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching honor.

Other winners were:

• Purdue's Carsen Edwards won the Jerry West shooting guard of the year for his team-leading 18.5-point average to go with 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. West presented his namesake trophy.

• Angel Delgado of Seton Hall received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar center of the year. He was the Big East's top rebounder for the third time in four years, averaging 11.8 rebounds. He also averaged 13.6 points.

• Villanova's Mikal Bridges received the Julius Erving small forward of the year for a season that saw him average 17.7 points and shoot 51 percent from the field.

• Deandre Ayton of Arizona accepted the Karl Malone power forward of the year award from the Hall of Famer. He was the Pac-12 player of the year and led the league in rebounding. The 7-foot-1 freshman had 24 double-doubles, the most in school history.

Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

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Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

What Villanova has done in recent years is nothing short of amazing. Only Florida, who won back-to-back titles in 2006-07, has won as many national titles in as short a period of time in the last 25 years in men’s college basketball. The Wildcats are elite. They are a “blue blood” program. They are right there with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas. They also have so dominated city play that they have completely separated themselves from their Big 5 brethren. As a Temple grad, that last sentence hurts. But so does the truth.

And as it did two years ago when Jay Wright’s team won the championship, the “debate” of whether Villanova is a “Philly” team or not, has reared its parochial head. This one is right up there with the dumbest debates I’ve ever heard. We do provincial like no other area but even by Philadelphia standards, this one is ridiculous. Let’s start with proximity. Villanova’s campus is a stone’s throw away from the city limits. We’re not talking about State College here. Just to put it into perspective, if you cross City Avenue on St. Joe's campus, you’re in the suburbs.

'Nova’s squad has a lot of local flavors. Wright is a Council Rock North grad. Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, all rotational players, are all local. Jalen Brunson spent his early years in South Jersey.        

I get if you graduated from one of the other Big 5 schools, of course when your school plays Villanova, you want it to lose. That’s a given. I’m not one who even says you have to root for them when the Wildcats are making a deep tournament run. Full disclosure, I do root for all the local teams when not playing Temple, come tourney time. Winning has not made Wright brash and arrogant as it did his mentor, Rollie Massimino. He values the tradition of the Big 5 and what it means to the city. But to claim they’re not a “Philadelphia” team comes off small and in some cases, strikes as bitter and jealous of Villanova’s success.

The fall of Nerlens
The great Nerlens Noel was suspended by the NBA for five for violating its anti-drug policy. Meaning this was Noel’s third positive test. This is a guy who in the offseason reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million deal from Dallas. Noel, who always valued his ability far more than any NBA executive or talent-evaluator, wanted a max deal. Dallas had no interest, neither did any other NBA team. He ended up signing a one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer. Noel averaged 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 30 games this season. Many of which he was a DNP — Coach's Decision.

When the Sixers dealt him at the trade deadline last year for Justin Anderson and what turned out to be two second-round picks, there was much outrage in these parts that they didn’t get enough in return. Turns out they did. Noel’s offensive game is greatly limited. He is a good defensive player, far from elite. And for a 6-foot-11 guy, he has never averaged more than 8.1 rebounds per game in his career. He’s not on the bust level of Jahlil Okafor, but he’s closer to him than he is special.