Nova Notebook, the occasional feature focused on the Villanova Wildcats, looks ahead to Thursday night’s National Basketball Association Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
On Thursday night a process months and years in the making will come to a conclusion for four key members of the 2018 NCAA national champion Villanova Wildcats. Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman have all traveled the country in recent weeks to work out for National Basketball Association franchises with an eye towards this year’s draft.
“You really don’t talk to them as a group now,” noted Villanova head coach Jay Wright in looking ahead to Thursday night’s festivities, televised nationally by ESPN. “Each one of them is their own little business. Each one of them is in a different situation. They’re all in good situations, but none are exactly the same.
“Omari is a young guy who I think is being drafted on potential. Mikal and Jalen are more established players. Donte has carried the momentum of the end of our season into his workouts. It’s such a totally different situation for each of them.”
Bridges – whom most mock drafts list as a likely selection anywhere from picks 7-12 in the first round – will be at Barclays Center. So too will DiVincenzo, the Most Outstanding Player at the 2018 NCAA Final Four.
Wright will join those two in Brooklyn. It will be his first time on site at the draft since 2006, when both Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry were first round draft selections. Members of his coaching staff will be on hand too.
“I think it’s time for us – the Villanova staff – to be low profile and let these guys have their day,” Wright stated.
It is, of course, an exciting time for all four players. There is speculation that as many as three or four could land in the first round. Yet Wright believes each of the individuals are cognizant of the fact that there are usually twists on draft night. Projections don’t always become reality.
“They all know that on draft night trades can be made, international players can be picked, and that things happen beyond their control,” Wright noted. “They are prepared to know that anything can change on draft night.”
For the Villanova program, this is uncharted territory.
“It just shows that you’ve got four really talented guys,” noted the Wildcats’ head coach. “That’s why we won – because we have four really talented players who are good guys. I think teams see they have the potential to grow and potential to be really good teammates.
“There’s no secret to why we won last year. We had really good players – and there are some still left here.”
There is a sense of pride too as this quartet gets set to take its next basketball step.
“They’re leaving the nest and it’s really rewarding to see how they leave,” stated Wright. “Omari’s the youngest – you worry about your youngest the most. Mikal and Jalen are the oldest and you’re very secure in who they are. Donte is a mature guy too.
“We’re very proud of the type of men they are as they leave, and how they have developed as players. We’re confident that they’re going to be successful at the next level.”
For Wright and the rest of the Wildcats, Thursday night puts the wrap on a most hectic spring in the aftermath of the title claimed in San Antonio.
“Before Donte and Omari had agents, our staff had to set those workouts up and did a great job of it – Kyle Neptune, Arleshia Davidson, George Halcovage and Mike Nardi,” said Wright. “They were setting up the trips. It was a lot of work for our staff, but it was enjoyable work. You’re helping to set guys up for their next step.”
When Villanova won its 2016 NCAA national title, the spring months were busy but there was less uncertainty than there has been this time.
“This has been completely different from 2016. We knew then we had a good group coming back and we had two graduates – Arch and Daniel with three walk-ons, who were getting jobs on Wall Street. This time, we were working with these guys on the draft while we were also trying to recruit.
“This has probably been the craziest offseason we’ve had. But we’re excited to watch these guys take their next step..”
- Mike Sheridan