Villanova Wildcats

Villanova Wildcats

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Two big questions facing the 2017-18 Villanova Wildcats concern the future of guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth.

The verdict from coach Jay Wright is no news on Brunson and good news on Booth.

Brunson, a first team All-Big East pick as a sophomore this year, is expected to decide soon whether he'll enter his name in the 2017 NBA draft pool.

Even if he does, he can withdraw after the combine, much like teammates Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins did last spring, as long as he doesn't hire an agent.

Booth, who scored a game-high 20 points in Villanova's championship game win over North Carolina last March, was limited to three games as a junior this year and didn't play after the Western Michigan game on Nov. 17 because of lingering knee pain.

First the good news.

Booth, who projected as a starter this year, should be 100 percent for the start of next season.

Booth averaged 7.0 points per game last year. He shot 46 percent from three the last 13 games of last year as 'Nova rolled toward the national title and was money in the NCAA Tournament -- 57 percent from the field and 56 percent from three.

Wright said Monday Booth finally resumed practicing late in the season, and the results were encouraging.

"I am very confident that Phil will be 100 percent," he said. "Right at the end of the season we got him practicing, and he looked great. Kind of like Donte (DiVincenzo) last year. We didn't get Donte back till the end."

 

DiVincenzo was limited to nine games in 2016 and was granted a redshirt year by the NCAA. It's expected Booth will be granted a redshirt year as well and retain junior eligibility going into 2017-18.

As for Brunson, Wright said he hasn't yet spoken with the sophomore point guard or his family about Brunson's future but will have that discussion soon.

"I'm going to sit down with Jalen and his parents in the next day or so here," Wright said. "They're great people, they're intelligent, they're very straightforward. It'll be easy. Jalen's dad works in the NBA, he's got a great feel, so they don't really need my advice, and I trust any decision they would make."

Jalen's father, former Temple star Rick Brunson, was a nine-year NBA veteran and is currently an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brunson averaged 14.7 points per game, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game and shot 54 percent from the field this season. His 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio was third best in the Big East, and his shooting percentage was 50th in all of NCAA Division I and third best in the Big East.

"Sandra and Rick Brunson, the parents, are such smart, level-headed people that I trust what they do with their son," Wright said.

"I really do. Sometimes you have people who aren't that experienced, so I feel like I have to protect them, but not in this case. Much like Josh Hart's parents last year, they're really solid, bright people. We're lucky that way."

Wright said he has no idea which way Brunson is leaning.

"You know what, I don't know," Wright said. "They could go either way. They could say, 'Hey, it's been a long year, we know he's coming back, so let's just rest him up and get ready [for next year],' or they could say, 'Let's look at the process and see how it plays out,' or they could say, 'Hey, he's close to graduating anyway, let's go now,' which wouldn't be a bad decision either."

Brunson is rated by various experts as anywhere from a mid- to late-first-round pick in this year's NBA draft.

If Brunson does leave early, the heir apparent at this point could be incoming freshman Collin Gillespie, who starred at Archbishop Wood in Warminster.

Both Hart and Jenkins participated in the NBA combine last year before withdrawing their names and spending their senior seasons at Villanova.

Hart said he hasn't spoken to Brunson yet about his future but would be happy to.

"If he decides to go through that process and all that, I definitely would be someone that would talk to him just about my past experience with it," he said.

"If he wants to hear my perspective, I’ll definitely help him out with that. … I'm not going to intrude in any of that. If he wants to talk, we live together. He can just go across the hall."