Phil Booth

Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers on Saturday hosted their most interesting and talented pre-draft workout group so far.

National champions and Villanova products Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were reunited while the team also brought in projected first-round pick Grant Williams from Tennessee and fringe first-rounder Louis King out of Oregon.

Not surprisingly, Paschall, who will likely be a second-rounder, Williams and King all stood in the portion of the workout open to the media. 

‘I can’t get away from this kid’

Paschall and Booth have been teammates since Paschall transferred to ‘Nova from Fordham in 2015.

Both went from being role players on the 2018 national championship team to being the leading scorers on last year’s squad. They didn’t lead a repeat effort, but still managed to win the Big East and a Tournament game.

“I think what’s interesting about their group is that they kind of have to accept progression of roles throughout their career,” Sixers senior director of scouting Vince Rozman said. “With Eric, he came in from Fordham and kind of played fifth fiddle [in 2017-18] to their four NBA guys and they move on and he accepts a more dominant role in the offense and started making plays off the dribble. …

“I don’t know how they do it, but they all kind of excel in all of them.”

Paschall and Booth have worked out for a bunch of teams and the process has kept them apart for longer than they’ve been in years.

But there was definitely something special about being reunited in a workout for the Sixers.

“My agent told me, ‘Yeah, Phil is in your workout,’” Paschall said, “and I just started laughing because I can’t get away from this kid.”

While it’s a cool story, make no mistake, there is real interest.

“They’re just really good players,” Rozman said. “We can sell it that way, but we need talent and Villanova and Temple and St. Joe’s and these schools bring them in, they all have really successful college careers and it’s fun to watch.”

That is especially the case with Paschall. While Booth will likely go undrafted and have to fight his way to an NBA roster spot, Paschall will get drafted at some point. There are even those that think he could sneak into the backend of the first round.

With four second-round picks, including selections at Nos. 33 and 34, Paschall would make a ton of sense for the Sixers. He has NBA size, is a decent shooter and is a winning basketball player. Even beyond the actual success he had with the Wildcats, Paschall is a player who just makes winning plays. 

With his experience, it’s possible he could help the Sixers right away.

“I think I’d fit in well,” Paschall said. “I think they’re a very well-rounded team and I could just hop in and help contribute immediately. Just being older and more physical and being able to catch and shoot and just make plays.”

A talented group

Williams and King are both incredibly intriguing prospects, but for very different reasons.

Though Williams is just 20, he played three years with the Volunteers. He’s solidly built at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds and his basketball IQ is off the charts. The biggest question surrounding Williams is the position he’ll play at the next level.

He’s not at all concerned.

“I’ve never really believed in positions much because in this league nowadays it’s not what you play on offense, it’s what you can play on defense,” Williams said. “No matter how big or small you are, if you can guard multiple positions and be versatile, I feel like you have a place in this league.”

Williams could be a target for the Sixers at No. 24, though Rozman admitted he’s not even sure where exactly Williams would play.

Like Paschall, King could be a fit with one of the team’s four second-round picks. King, out of Jersey City, New Jersey, was a one-and-done player with the Ducks. 

There’s plenty to be intrigued about with King. He’s 6-foot-8 and features a seven-foot wingspan while being able to play on the perimeter. He shot 38.6 percent from three in his lone season and may have quick enough feet to hang with guards. 

He admitted he had to put on weight — as his zero reps on the bench at the combine indicates — but a switchable 3-and-D wing would be on every team’s wish list.

The Sixers are no exception. 

“He’s really skilled,” Rozman said. “He has great size. He can handle and kind of make plays off the dribble … His shot is obviously very, very attractive and projectable. He’s here for a reason. There’s no doubt.”

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Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

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USA Today Images/Noah K. Murray

Villanova beats Seton Hall to become first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournament titles

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Villanova became the first team to win three consecutive Big East Tournaments, beating Seton Hall 74-72 on Saturday night behind seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and key contributions from freshman Saddiq Bey.

Seton Hall star Myles Powell, guarded closely by Booth, missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that could have won it. Booth was called for traveling as he tried to corral the rebound, however, and the Pirates got one more chance with 0.4 seconds left. Anthony Nelson's long inbounds lob bounced off the backboard and was slapped away by the Wildcats, who got to party on the Madison Square Garden floor yet again.

"This one is special, very special. This team has taught me so much," Booth said during the postgame ceremonies at center court. "These young dudes are like a fresh breath of air for me, being around them."

The 25th-ranked and top-seeded Wildcats (25-9) were in the Big East final for a fifth straight year, and have won four of the last five championships. The only loss during that span was to Seton Hall in 2016, and Powell and the third-seeded Pirates (20-13) gave Villanova all it could handle once again.

"Can't thank Phil and Eric for their leadership enough," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "They've been great examples of what a Villanova basketball player is their whole career."

Powell scored 25 points to cap a spectacular three days in Manhattan for the high-scoring guard.

Paschall had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Booth scored 16 and was selected most outstanding player of the 40th Big East Tournament.

Bey, who Villanova fans hope will lead the next wave of championship teams, had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"Our team loves playing here in the Garden," Wright said.

Villanova had a chance to seal it in the final 30 seconds but Paschall was called for a charge when he lowered his shoulder into Myles Cale with 24 seconds left. Powell quickly scored inside at the other end to cut the Wildcats' lead to 73-72 with 15.5 seconds left.

The Pirates sent Paschall to the line with 13.7 seconds remaining and he made the first and missed the second. Seton Hall rebounded and called a timeout to set up a final play with 8.9 seconds left.

Big picture 
Seton Hall: Nelson scored 12 points off the bench for the scrappy Pirates, but other than Powell, they had a hard time finding offense. They did force 14 turnovers. They'll go as far as Powell and a tough defense will take them in the NCAAs.

Villanova: The Wildcats also got key contributions from sophomores Jermaine Samuels (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (six points and seven rebounds). The inexperienced players have provided inconsistent production much of the season, and if Wright's team is going to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats will need more games like this one from the young guys.

"Things were rocky right until the last second of this game," Wright said. "It's been a rocky season."

Up next 
Seton Hall: The Pirates are headed to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, matching a school best (1991-94).

Villanova: The defending national champions will be in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season, but will probably be seeded worse than a 2 for the first time since 2013. Villanova also won the 2016 national title.

Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

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USA Today Images

Villanova rallies past Xavier for OT win, advances to 5th straight Big East championship game

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Phil Booth scored 28 points, Jermaine Samuels hit a trio of critical 3-pointers and No. 25 Villanova rallied past Xavier 71-67 in overtime Friday night to reach its fifth consecutive Big East championship game.

The top-seeded Wildcats, trying to become the first school in the 40-year history of the Big East to win three straight tournament titles, will play second-seeded Marquette or third-seeded Seton Hall on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

In a scintillating opener to the semifinal doubleheader, Villanova (24-9) erased a seven-point deficit in the last 3 minutes of regulation. Booth and fellow senior star Eric Paschall each scored five points in the extra period as the defending national champions held off a determined Xavier squad.

Paul Scruggs scored a career-high 28 points and Zach Hankins added 18 on 8-of-10 shooting for the fourth-seeded Musketeers (18-15), who had won seven of eight. Scruggs, a sophomore guard, also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, carrying Xavier all night with an outstanding performance.

Musketeers leading scorer Naji Marshall was limited to a season-low two points on 1-of-12 shooting, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. He fouled out early in overtime after playing nearly 40 minutes.

Xavier has reached the semifinals in all six seasons since joining the Big East, but its only appearance in the championship game was a loss to Villanova in 2015.

Samuels finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Villanova. Paschall scored 12, including the 3-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead to stay early in overtime.

Booth was one point shy of his career high set against Kansas on Dec. 15.

After trailing by 10 late in the first half, the Wildcats were still down seven with 3 minutes left when they finally made their move.

Samuels sank a pair of 3s, including one that caromed high off the front rim, the backboard and through to trim the deficit to 57-56 with 48.9 seconds remaining.

Hankins hit one of two free throws at the other end, and Paschall tipped in a miss by Booth to tie it at 58 with 7.6 seconds to go.

Marshall was called for a charge as he tried to win it with a floater, but he intercepted Villanova's inbounds pass at halfcourt with 1.6 seconds left and missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, sending this one to overtime.

Scruggs, who came in averaging 12.1 points per game, scored 15 in the first half. He made all five shots from the field, banking in a fortuitous 3-pointer from the left corner high off the glass, to help Xavier build a 34-28 lead at the break.

Big picture 
Xavier: Despite a late push, it appears the Musketeers will miss the NCAA Tournament after making five consecutive appearances and 12 in the past 13 years. They were a No. 1 seed last year, but got off to a slow start this season under first-year coach Travis Steele and couldn't overcome a six-game losing streak in the middle of the Big East regular season.

Villanova: Improved to 13-2 in the Big East Tournament since the 2013-14 realignment. The Wildcats are in the championship game for the 10th time, tying Connecticut for third-most behind Syracuse (15) and Georgetown (13). Syracuse (1986-90) is the only other school to make it in five straight years.

Up next 
Xavier: Will hope for postseason bid Sunday, perhaps to the NIT.

Villanova: Split two regular-season meetings with Marquette in February, with each school winning at home. Also split with Seton Hall, losing 79-75 on the road in the regular-season finale last Saturday.