The past few weeks have been filled with silverware for current and former Wildcats, as Saddiq Bey won NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week in mid-February, and several current members of the team were nominated for nationwide positional awards.
Former Wildcat standout and current Detroit Pistons rookie Bey put up a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds in a 108-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 12. He also shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the behind three point line, making him the only rookie in NBA history to score at least seven three-pointers in a game without a miss.
For his performance, he got the nod for Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the first Pistons rookie to win the award since 1982.
Detroit is looking to expand its young core as much as possible in what is looking to become a very competitive Eastern Conference playoff picture, and Bey could be a big part of making a later season run.
In terms of current Wildcats, The John R. Wooden Award is handed out each year to the most outstanding college basketball player of the year, male and female. It is given to the player who not only excels in the box score at the end of the night, but someone who also demonstrates leadership, sportsmanship and outstanding character. The Late Season Top 20 list has been released, and Villanova’s Colin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl have both made the cut for their respective outstanding seasons.
The Top 20 list includes Jared Butler of Baylor, Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois, Luka Garza of Iowa and Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme of Gonzaga.
The Wooden Award places great emphasis on maturity and development of character both on and off the court, largely relating to experience and refinery. Because of this, the process of selecting the finalists and often the winner will typically favor junior and senior upperclassmen. Butler, a junior from Baylor, and Garza, a senior from Iowa, are examples of upperclassmen who could have easily could have cut their collegiate careers short, but chose to make the sacrifice for the sake of his team, demonstrating leadership and commitment.
Gillespie fits right into this notion. He is a senior, and everyone looks to him for guidance and motivation, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree included. This is emphasized by his point guard role, the position that naturally denotes leadership. It is the combination of these two aspects that make him a finalist. Wright emphasizes these exact characteristics for all of his players, no matter the year or position. After being under Wright’s direction for four years, Gillespie has transformed himself into as good a leader as anyone in the nation.
Gillespie, as part of this leadership, has also been selected for the senior-exclusive Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School (CLASS) award. The award goes to Division 1 Senior basketball players who demonstrate excellence in four fields: Classroom, Community, Character and Competition. Gillespie’s achievements and characters on the court translate into all components of his life, including his academics in the Villanova classroom.
There is also due diligence for the outstanding young talent offered across Division 1 basketball that is projected to be NBA caliber come draft time. This is demonstrated in this year’s list: Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs were all Top 10 Five-Star recruits entering this season, all of which have been talked about in NBA circles for some time now. Their sheer ability to reach a high level of play at such a young age is astounding, and the voting committee recognizes that.
Robinson-Earl already had draft comparisons in high school and was viewed by some as a one-and-done type prospect. Yet, he knows that he does not fit into that path, as he fits into Villanova culture that emphasizes development over a long period of time. The level of play he has reached in such a short period of time while being surrounded by such great talent makes him all the more deserving to be on this list.
Both Gillespie and Robinson-Earl were also named as finalists for their positional awards, the Cousy Award and Malone Award, respectively. Both awards will be announced on ESPN in April.