Basketball Wins Preseason Hardware

Collin Gillespie is the first Wildcat to be named AP All-American since 2017.

The Villanova men’s basketball team received a multitude of preseason award recognitions, both for individual players and for the team as a whole. 

Villanova was ranked at number four in the Associated Press preseason rankings. The top ten included (in order) Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas, Villanova, Texas, Michigan, Purdue, Baylor, Duke and Kentucky.

The expectations for the Wildcats are high this year with the return of Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels, both of whom decided to exercise their extra year of eligibility granted from the pandemic. Their experience and senior leadership combined with the exciting athleticism from freshmen Trey Patterson, Jordan Longino, Nnanna Njoku and Angelo Brizzi will make for great chemistry. This kind of preseason ranking is typical for Villanova, but that blend of experience and youth will be critical for keeping the Cats in that tier. 

The top ten is loaded with talent. UCLA is looking to cap off on the momentum it gained from making it to last year’s Final Four in what was a more than memorable tournament story. Gonzaga will be looking for revenge after losing in the title game to Baylor, with its new squad spearheaded by No.1 overall recruit Chet Holmgrem, who many expect to be the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft. Traditional bluebloods Duke and Kentucky had disappointing endings to last season, as both programs failed to make the cut for the tournament in March, but both have several returning key pieces as well as excellent freshmen classes. Both will be looking to bounce back and get into normal shape, especially Duke, as head coach Mike Krzyzewski coaches the Blue Devils in his final season. 

Villanova graduate point guard Gillespie has received several nods of excellence coming into the season. To start, he has once again been named to the preseason Bob Cousy Award Watch List, given to the best point guard in college basketball. Other notable watch list members include Duke’s Jeremy Roach, North Carolina’s Caleb Love, Texas’s Marcus Carr and Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler. Gillespie has also received preseason nods for Big East Player of the Year and All Big East First Team. He finished last year averaging 14 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and shot 42.8 percent from the field. 

Gillespie was also named to the Preseason All-American First Team, alongside Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn, UCLA’s Juzang and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis. Gillespie is Villanova’s first Preseason All-American since Jalen Brunson in 2017-2018.

Two other Wildcats have received preseason honors. Samuels is the other fifth year senior whose presence will be greatly valued, and he was named to the Julius Erving Award Watch List, given to the best small forward in college basketball. Other notable nominees include Baylor’s Matthew Mayer, Kansas’s Jalen Wilson and Memphis’ superstar freshman Emoni Bates. Samuels was also named to the Preseason All Big East Second Team. He finished last year averaging 12 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists. 

Junior guard Justin Moore also received a spot on the All Big East Second Team. He’s the third player on the team to receive a positional recognition in being added to the Jerry West Award Watchlist, given to the best shooting guard. He finished last year with 12.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 44% from the field. 

The Wildcats open their season on Nov. 8 at home against Mount St Mary’s.