Villanova Wildcats

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.

Jay Wright during Villanova championship parade: 'This is truly a Philly team'

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Jay Wright during Villanova championship parade: 'This is truly a Philly team'

Most people who packed into Dilworth Park on Thursday probably didn’t expect Jay Wright to give Penn coach Steve Donahue a shoutout. Or talk about the Palestra in the 1960s. Or pump up Phil Booth’s Philadelphia roots so much that he said they have to bring him a soft pretzel after every game.

Whether or not in response to the largely silly debate over whether Villanova is a “Philadelphia team,” the Wildcats coach made his opinion on the subject clear during the team’s national championship parade.

“We are so proud to represent the Big 5, the Big East, and most importantly, the great city of Philadelphia and Philadelphia basketball, which has the greatest tradition in the country,” Wright boomed to the crowd in front of City Hall. “Everywhere we go, when we play in the national tournament, all the Big 5 schools, we root for each other. I was afraid to say this during the tournament but Penn coach Steve Donahue helped us with the scout of Kansas. I didn’t want to say it when we were in the tournament but there’s a tight bond in the Big 5 and we all stick together.”

Now maybe that’s true for the coaches and even some players but it’s doubtful too many Temple and St. Joe’s fans were rooting for Villanova. And yes, the fact remains that Villanova University is located in the Philly suburbs.

But if you do want to wade into the debate, you can also look at the fact that Villanova recruits and develops many local kids, has fans and alums from all around the city, has a storied tradition playing Big 5 schools at the Palestra, and played all of its home games this year at the Wells Fargo Center.

“This is truly a Philly team,” Wright said, before encouraging everyone to throw streamers like they did starting in the 1960s at the Palestra after the first basket of every game.

“We thank everyone at the Wells Fargo Center, we thank the entire city of Philadelphia for coming out and making it a great home for us this year — and home of the national champions.”

Oh and you can also look at where the parade was held — a point 2016 national championship hero Kris Jenkins has been trying to (somewhat saltily) make.


Anyway, walking the parade route on Market Street this year, it was clear there were many people stopping out of their offices to watch and many more who hopped on the train from the suburbs to get there. (After the parade, I overheard a couple of Villanova students yelling, “Where’s Shake Shack?” and “This city is so dirty.”) The crowd seemed a little lighter than the one two years ago (perhaps because of the cold or Phillies opening day) but definitely filled up closer to City Hall. There were plenty of “E-A-G-L-E-S” and “Trust the Process” chants and a crazy amount of people hawking Villanova T-shirts (the price dropped from $10 to $5 when the rally ended).

A few other highlights for those who didn’t go or watch:

• The biggest applause may have been when team chaplain, Father Rob Hagan, was announced. Sister Jean residual effect?

• “I thought you guys would get tired of parades,” Wright said to the #CityofChampions. (Not yet.)

• Mikal Bridges kept his speech short, to which Wright quipped; “He only weighs 185 pounds, he’s freezing.”

• There were “One More Year” chants directed at Bridges. Wright mostly shot it down by saying he’s about to get his degree anyway.

• National player of the year Jalen Brunson introduced title game star Donte DiVincenzo as the “red-headed Italian” before leading a “Di-Vin-Cen-Zo” chant.

• There was a “One Shining Moment” video with only Villanova highlights, which was pretty cool.

• There didn’t seem to be too many signs out there but I did spot at least one interesting one:


Only in Philly?

Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

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Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

Donte DiVincenzo's historic effort in Villanova's championship game win Monday night over Michigan thrust him into the national spotlight. The red-shirt sophomore scored a career-high 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting, putting him squarely on the radar of NBA executives.

Prior to Monday, DiVincenzo was viewed as a solid prospect for the 2019 NBA draft. Now, there's speculation he could leave Villanova for the NBA this year.

There are two schools of thought on what DiVincenzo could and should do. On one hand, his stock may never be higher. Why not capitalize on his newfound stardom and declare now? After all, he demonstrated the full arsenal Monday — athleticism, explosiveness, outside shooting, the ability to play point guard and terrific defensive play.

Then there's the other option, the one that I think will ultimately win out — come back to school for his junior season and be "the man" for the premier college program in the country. DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points this season, but he could showcase himself even more as Villanova's primary scoring option next year and potentially play his way into being a lottery pick in 2019. Right now, he's a fringe first-round prospect. There's no guarantee he'll be selected in the first 30 picks and receive a guaranteed contract.

In addition to being a tremendous talent, DiVincenzo has also demonstrated patience during his time at Villanova. He endured a medical red-shirt as a freshman after breaking his foot early in the season, watching from the sidelines as his teammates won a national championship in 2016. Last two years, DiVincenzo was good enough to start for 98 percent of the teams in college basketball. But he accepted his role as the sixth man for Villanova, providing a spark off the bench that no other team in the country had at its disposal. He's been patient throughout his career, paying his dues along the way. That patience would serve him well if he, in fact, chooses to put off the NBA for one more year.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if DiVincenzo goes through the pre-draft process without hiring an agent, giving himself the option to return to school. But in the end, expect him to come back to Villanova to help the Wildcats take aim at a third national championship in four years.