Villanova Wildcats

Villanova football set for new era with 'Andy Talley 2.0' at the helm

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Dave Zeitlin/CSNPhilly.com Contributor

Villanova football set for new era with 'Andy Talley 2.0' at the helm

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Mark Ferrante walks underneath a huge sign that reads “Andrew J. Talley Athletic Center” every day. His coach’s office is in a suite named after Talley. And Talley himself is just down the hall from him, in his new administrative role at Villanova University.

All of which is to say that Ferrante is not going to be able to escape Talley’s shadow anytime soon.

Luckily for the first-year Villanova head football coach, he doesn’t want to.

“Coach Talley built this thing from the ground up when he got here in ’84 and he did a great job with the program,” Ferrante said Tuesday during his first media day at the Wildcats’ helm after serving as Talley’s assistant at ’Nova for the last 27 years. “If the winning formula and the successful formula is in place, why would you want to change anything? 

“He and I have been together a long time so he’s taught me how to do things, as far as the recruiting aspect of things, as far as running the program, as far as everything he’s developed into the culture of the program. So there are not gonna be a lot of changes from that perspective.”

Surely, though, it must feel different as Villanova prepares to begin the 2017 season — with a road game at Lehigh on Sept. 2 followed by a city showdown at Temple the next week — without Talley running the show?

The common sentiment among players during media day may have been surprising: No, no really.

“I feel like it’s more hyped up on the outside than it is on the inside,” senior linebacker Ed Shockley said. “In here, not much has changed. We still have the same coaches, the same meeting times. Everything is really similar. For us, it’s not really a big change. We lost Coach Talley and that’s a great loss. But in actuality, it’s not that much of a loss because they’re so similar. He’s Andy Talley 2.0 in a way.”

Shockley, a preseason All-CAA selection who led a dominant defense last season, is confident the Wildcats can pick up right where they left off in Talley’s final season, as they charged into the second round of the 2016 FCS playoffs before bowing out to national power South Dakota State.

That was one of 12 playoff appearances for Talley, who won 230 games during his 32 years on the Main Line. And now, judging by the fact that they’ll come into the 2017 season ranked No. 10 in the FCS, the expectations remain just as high after the coaching shuffle.

That said, Shockley did notice a few subtle differences when this year’s training camp opened.

“They’re very similar as far as their coaching styles but as far as their personalities, Coach Talley was a little more old school,” the linebacker said. “Coach Ferrante is a little more in-tune to modern day and what we like now.”

Of course, Talley is still around the program, sometimes even stopping to watch practice, or chat with players in the sparkling new facility that bears his name. That’s not an issue for Ferrante, who occasionally will lean on his old mentor for help.

“We’re not getting away from Andy Talley for the foreseeable future,” he said. “And he has an office right down the hall, which is great. It’s invaluable to have him in the building because there are things that will come up. There have been a couple already. Nothing too crazy but I’ll go in there, sit down, bounce some ideas off him, how he’d handle a situation. To have a guy like that who’s done it, as successfully as he’d done it, I think it’s great to have him around.”

In truth, Ferrante has been learning from Talley for the last three decades. And through much of that stretch, Talley has also prepared Ferrante to be a head coach, paving the way for what’s been a smooth transition (and one that neighbor Penn has shown can be successful with Ray Priore winning a piece of the last two Ivy League championships after serving as Al Bagnoli’s longtime assistant).

In some ways, the only thing that’s different for Ferrante is his official title. And he hopes few other things change — particularly the winning.

“They’ve heard me before,” Ferrante said. “I’ve spoke to the team before. Coach [Talley] put me in as the head coach of situations in years prior to now. I’ve handled banquets. I’ve been to media days. Coach has sent me to head coach’s meetings in his absence for various reasons. I’ve spoke in front of the team to break down a practice or to start a practice or in a team meeting. 

“So for the returning players, they’ve heard that before. Now they’re just hearing it more frequently.”

As key players head to NBA, where does Villanova go from here?

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As key players head to NBA, where does Villanova go from here?

The decisions made by Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman to remain in the NBA draft should ultimately be a good thing for the Villanova basketball program. DiVincenzo and Spellman join college teammates Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson in the 2018 draft class and there's a chance all four of them are selected in the first round. 

Having four players drafted in the first round will do wonders for Villanova on the recruiting trail. The caliber of high school players that Jay Wright recruits want to play in the NBA. Wright could point to the four first-rounders the program produced this year in addition to former players like Kyle Lowry, Dante Cunningham, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono currently playing in the NBA.

While Wright's program will reap the benefits of producing NBA talent in the long run, there is no disputing the fact that DiVincenzo and Spellman deciding to leave is a significant blow to the program in the immediate future. DiVincenzo and Spellman would have been Villanova's two best players next season. Two guys capable of leading the Wildcats to a third national championship in four years. 

But their departures bring about a new reality for Wright — his four best players from last year's team are gone and he has only two proven players returning to lead his team into the 2018-19 season. 

The proven returners
Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall combined to start 69 games last season and each played a critical role in winning the program's third national title. Next year will be Booth's fifth in the Villanova program and Paschall's fourth. These are proven performers and, more importantly, reliable leaders for what will largely be an inexperienced team. Booth will be one of the best guards in the Big East next season. Paschall is one of the most explosive athletes in the conference and his improved perimeter shooting last season was a key factor in Villanova winning the national championship.

Other key returners
This group will be the most important variable in Villanova's success next season. Collin Gillespie heads into his sophomore season poised for a big year. He made significant contributions off the bench as a freshman, overcoming an early season wrist injury that sidelined him for the better part of six weeks. A healthy and confident Gillespie will be a huge part of the Villanova backcourt. 

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree rounded out Villanova's seven-man rotation last season. Like Gillespie, he enters his sophomore season with a wealth of big-game experience. Cosby-Roundtree proved his worth last season as a high-motor big man specializing in defensive energy, rebounding and running the floor. He'll now be asked to contribute on a more consistent level offensively.

Jermaine Samuels will play a critical role. Another rising sophomore, Samuels was making strides as a freshman before a broken hand sidelined him for an extended stretch during the beginning of conference play. He was never able to re-establish himself in the rotation once he returned. Samuels has all the physical tools to be a high-level Big East wing player in the mold of Hart and DiVincenzo. Keep an eye on Samuels.

Then there's big man Dylan Painter, who redshirted last season. Painter showed promise towards the end of his freshman season in 2017. The hope is that a year spent working on his strength and athleticism will pay dividends. The redshirt formula has been a big part of Villanova's success. Painter could become the latest example of that. 

The new arrivals
Wright welcomes in his highest-rated recruiting class in a decade. The headliner is five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who originally committed to Arizona but then de-committed in the midst of the FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. Wright is confident that Quinerly will be cleared of any wrongdoing and will be eligible next season. Quinerly should make an instant impact, the next in a long line of terrific Villanova lead guards.

Cole Swider should also see significant playing time as a freshman. Swider is listed as a forward but is more than capable of doing damage from the perimeter thanks to his elite-level shooting ability. Swider is a natural scorer and should be a perfect fit for Villanova's three-point heavy offense. Brandon Slater is the third member of Villanova's freshman class, an athletic wing who will have ample opportunity to play his way into the rotation.

Villanova will also bring in at least one graduate transfer for next season. Joe Cremo has already committed to Villanova after starring at Albany the last two seasons. He averaged just under 18 points last year and shot nearly 46 percent from three-point range. The question is whether Cremo's production will carry over to the Big East level. Wright is hopeful that it will. Look for Cremo to be a key addition to the Villanova backcourt. 

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

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USA Today Images

Donte DiVincenzo latest Villanova player to declare for NBA draft

Another Villanova star is moving on ... maybe.

Donte DiVincenzo has declared for the NBA draft but will not hire an agent, meaning he can test the draft waters but will maintain his college eligibility should he chose to return to school. 

The redshirt sophomore was voted the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player after scoring a career-high 31 points in Villanova' national title win over Michigan. 

“Donte has consistently improved in his time at Villanova through dedication and a commitment to our core values,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “His play this season has created a unique opportunity for him to receive feedback from NBA teams in the draft process. We support Donte fully and our staff will work together with him and his family to help him assess the next step in his basketball career.”

DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. His numbers jumped to 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists 54.7 percent shooting during the NCAA Tournament.

He must decide by May 30 if he will enter the draft or return to school.

DiVincenzo is the latest Wildcat to declare for the draft, as the mass exodus of stars continues for Villanova.

Mikael Bridges and Jalen Brunson have declared and hired agents, marking the end of their collegiate careers, while redshirt freshman Omari Spellman will also test the waters.

On the bright side, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall announced they will both return for next season.