Originally published March 31, updated April 7
Junior forward Cole Swider has decided to transfer from Villanova, the school announced Thursday. On Saturday, his transfer was complete, as he posted on Twitter declaring that he committed to Syracuse University, and would be joining Jim Boeheim’s team.
Swider appeared in 77 games during his three seasons at Villanova, starting 17 times for the Wildcats. This season he averaged 18.8 minutes, 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, but his strength for Villanova was in his range, connecting on over 40% of his attempts from three. However, Swider struggled with shooting during the second half of the season, as he failed to connect on two or more threes in eight straight games during the lead up to the NCAA Tournament. He remedied this against Winthrop and North Texas, hitting 2-3 against the Eagles and 3-4 against the Mean Green, but he failed to make a shot in the final game of the season against Baylor.
Swider announced on Twitter that he was transferring, shortly after the school’s press release.
“I would like to thank Coach Wright for giving me the opportunity to play for such a great University, to all my teammates and coaches for the bonds and memories that we made over my 3 years. With that being said I will be entering the Transfer Portal. THANK YOU VILLANOVA,” Swider tweeted.
Jay Wright gave his thoughts on the decision, saying “Cole has decided to explore his options in the transfer market, and we are fully supportive of his decision. Throughout his time with us, Cole has done everything in his power to become the best Villanova Basketball player he can be. He’s been a great representative of our University and we will work with him as he navigates this process.”
Swider joined the Wildcats in 2018 as a four star recruit, ranked 34th in his class by ESPN. The Portsmouth, Rhode Island native averaged 31.4 points as a high school senior, leading St. Andrew’s to the NEPSAC AA championship game, and chose Villanova from a final four that included Duke, Syracuse, and Xavier.
He averaged 3.5 points off the bench during his freshman season, but saw an expanded role as a sophomore, starting fifteen times and averaging 6.1 points. Despite averaging marginally more minutes as a junior, he only started twice, and he likely would have struggled for minutes next season as the Wildcats added four talented recruits.
After Swider’s tweet, schools nationwide reached out to his high school coach, Mike Hart, with interest from Miami, SEC pair Vanderbilt and Georgia, Washington, Rutgers, New Mexico, and Indiana, according to Morey Hershgordon of WPRI12.
However, Swider seemed always set on Syracuse. Hart confirmed that the Orange had reached out, saying there was “interest on both sides” in Swider joining Jim Boeheim’s team, who just advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, according to Mike Mcallister of SI.com.
As for the Wildcats, Swider becomes the first player to transfer since Jahvon Quinerly in 2019, but the largest effect from the transfer is that there will be yet another new face in the Villanova locker room next year. Despite Jeremiah Robinson-Earl likely leaving for the NBA draft, and with the “Super Senior” status of Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels up in the air, minutes for Swider likely would have been hard to come by, with big men minutes taken up by freshman Trey Patterson, redshirt sophomore Eric Dixon, and incoming recruit Nnanna Njoku. It also means that only one member of the highly regarded 2018 recruiting class, as of now, will make it to their senior year at Villanova. The 2018 high school class was ranked number nine in the country by 247sports.com, however, Quinerly transferred to Alabama, and Saddiq Bey entered the draft and was a first round pick following his sophomore season. Brandon Slater is the only member of that class still on the roster.
For the Orange, Swider will provide another deep threat to go with rising senior Buddy Boehiem, and rising junior Joseph Girard, assuming they both return. Boehiem could test the NBA draft waters after a very successful tournament, while Girard had been rumored to be considering entering the transfer portal himself. If they both return, which seems to be the likeliest outcome, Syracuse will have a bevy of shooting threats. Additionally, one of Swider’s biggest issues at Villanova was his struggles in a Wildcat man-to-man defense predicated on switching. The Orange play a well known 2-3 zone, which plays to Swider’s strengths. He won’t have to defend in space as much, but instead will be walling up inside more. Swider had some success doing that at Villanova, particularly against former Georgetown big man Qudus Wahab, and will thrive in the 2-3 zone.
Swider leaves Villanova with 403 career points, 186 rebounds, and 57 assists. He will have two years of eligibility remaining due to the 2020-21 season not counting for eligibility purposes.