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.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Defending champion Villanova shows its experience in NCAA Tournament first-round win over Saint Mary's

usa_jermaine_samuels.jpg
USA Today Images

Defending champion Villanova shows its experience in NCAA Tournament first-round win over Saint Mary's

BOX SCORE

HARTFORD, Conn. — Villanova got off to a slow start in defense of its NCAA championship against a determined, defensive-minded Saint Mary's team that came in confident after a season-defining win.

But the Wildcats, a No. 6 seed in this NCAA Tournament after an up-and-down season, have one thing no team in the field of 64 has: a pair of leaders who have won two national titles.

 NPhil Booth scored 20 points, fellow senior Eric Paschell added 14 and Villanova held off 11th-seeded Saint Mary's 61-57 on Thursday night.

"We're growing, our young guys are growing, but we have two seniors who do everything for us, on and off the court," coach Jay Wright said. "We're just so lucky to have them."

Sophomore Jermaine Sameuls added 12 points for the Wildcats (26-9), who led for almost 33 minutes, but never by more than eight points.

"The tempo was excruciating," Wright said. "We felt going in we were going to have to grind with them."

The Gaels used the same slow pace to upset Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament, and it gave them a chance against Villanova (26-9) in a tense opening-round matchup.

Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts each had 13 points for Saint Mary's (22-12). Ford's basket in the lane after a few nifty moves got the Gaels within six points at 61-55 with 34 seconds left.

After Paschell missed a foul shot on the other end, Fitts cut the deficit to four points with a leaner in the lane. The Gaels had two more chances in the final seconds, but Fitts hit the rim on a 3-point attempt and Villanova freshman Saddiq Bey stole the ball from Ford in the final seconds to seal the win.

"We had a few games this year where we put the press on and were able to get back in the game," said Ford. "And if we get a few of those loose balls, or maybe make a three when we were down four, I think it's a different game."

Saint Mary's led 30-28 at the half, but Booth scored the first five points after intermission during a 12-3 run that put the Wildcats up 40-33. He had 12 points and five of his six assists in the second half.

"We weren't doing that bad, actually," Booth said. "It was more that they were playing very well and we were trying to match how they were bringing it. I think we just had to take it to another level, because they were playing at a high level."

Big picture

Villanova: The defending champions are in the tournament for the 14th time in 15 seasons and improved to 14-1 since 2016.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels are 4-6 in opening-round games in the NCAA Tournament and 5-10 overall. Saint Mary's has advanced to the Sweet 16 once in the modern era when it beat the Wildcats in 2010. There's a reminder of that run in the hallway outside the locker room that the players see as they walk out to practice each day in McKeon Pavilion.

Empty arena

The game tipped to a relatively empty arena, but it wasn't because nobody had bought tickets.

Fans of the Wildcats, many of whom made the 4-hour drive from Philadelphia to Hartford, Connecticut, were lined up along with Gaels fans behind metal detectors as security emptied the arena from the afternoon session.

"You worry about those things, you know?" Wright said. "We have a lot of guys in the NCAA Tournament for the first time thinking, `This is the NCAA Tournament?' There's no one in the stands."

By halftime, the 16,000-seat XL Center was nearing capacity, but some frustrated fans were sill filing in.

From distance

The game was billed as a battle between one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams in Villanova against some of the nation's best perimeter defenders. In the end, the Wildcats finished 8 of 20 from behind the arc, while Saint Mary's was 8 of 22.

On the boards

The taller Gaels won the rebounding battle 33-29 and 10-5 on the offensive end. The Wildcats didn't have an offensive board until the second half and that led to an 11-4 advantage for Saint Mary's in second-chance points. Wright said this year's team was hurt by the transfer of 6-foot-9 Dylan Painter, but is going to have to find a way against taller opponents.

Up next

Villanova will play No. 3 seed Purdue in the second round Saturday.

Villanova's X-factors, chances at history in 2019 NCAA Tournament

usa_nova_villa_ncaam.jpg
USA Today Images

Villanova's X-factors, chances at history in 2019 NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament tips off Tuesday night with the start of the First Four in Dayton. There are a couple prominent Big 5 storylines as college basketball takes center stage for the next three weeks. Namely, Villanova is trying to do something that hasn't been done in 44 years: win three national championships in the span of four years.

Then there's Temple's Fran Dunphy coaching in his 17th and final NCAA Tournament before stepping down at the end of the season.

Here's a breakdown of what lies ahead for the local teams.

Can Villanova make history?

The Wildcats are back in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time in the last 15 years under Jay Wright. They arrive with plenty of momentum after winning their third straight Big East Tournament last week at Madison Square Garden. Villanova is riding a ridiculous wave of postseason success — since the 2016 season, the Wildcats have a 26-2 record in Big East and NCAA Tournament competition.

Now they set out to win a third national championship in the last four years. That hasn't been done since the UCLA dynasty in the mid-1970s.

Villanova is flying under the radar compared to previous years in terms of contending for a national title. The Wildcats are the 6-seed in the South Region and will play St. Mary's on Thursday night in Hartford, CT. St. Mary's comes into play with a 22-11 record after a shocking win over then-No. 1 Gonzaga in the WCC championship game last week.

Villanova is battle-tested and has one of the premiere coaches in the country. The Wildcats are led by two terrific seniors in Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, two guys with tons of NCAA Tournament experience. Those are the positives.

The biggest negative? Villanova's lack of depth. Wright's rotation essentially shrunk to six players during the Big East Tournament.

Sophomore Jermaine Samuels and freshman Saddiq Bey are the X-factors. Both Samuels and Bey have had their moments this season and were critical to Villanova's success last week. If Samuels and Bey can step up to complement Booth and Paschall, the Wildcats will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

Fran Dunphy's last stand

Dunphy has pretty much done it all during a remarkable career. A standout player at La Salle, he received a master's degree from Villanova and has served as the head coach at both Penn and Temple. His "Mr. Big 5" nickname is well deserved.

He had tremendous success during his 17 seasons at Penn, winning nine Ivy League titles and going to nine NCAA Tournaments. Dunphy carried that success over to Temple, winning three straight Atlantic 10 Tournaments from 2008 to 2010. He has led the Owls to eight NCAA Tournaments during his 13 seasons as head coach.

The one thing missing from Dunphy's resume is success on the sport's biggest stage. He has a 3-16 career record in the NCAA Tournament. Dunphy's Owls will try to improve that record on Tuesday night against a Belmont team that won 26 games this season.

Dunphy is a great coach, terrific man and has been a wonderful ambassador for college basketball. It would be a great story if Temple sends him out with a nice run in this NCAA Tournament.