Collin Gillespie tore his MCL in his left knee during Wednesday’s victory over Creighton, the school announced Thursday. He is expected to miss the rest of the season.
In Wednesday’s postgame press conference, head coach Jay Wright hinted that he feared the worst. “Our trainer says it looks pretty serious… he’s not saying [Gillespie] will be fine.”
Wright’s fears were confirmed after MRI results came back on Thursday with the MCL tear. “We are all devastated for Collin,” Wright said after news broke of the severity. “Collin is as mentally tough and resilient as any player we have had here. I know he will get through this and make it a positive for his career.”
With the injury, Villanova loses not only a Bob Cousy award finalist, as one of the top five point guards in the nation, but also the heart and soul of the team.
“There’s probably not been one player that’s had such an impact on a team as Collin does here,” Wright said. “Spiritually he’s our leader, work ethic, he’s our leader, character-wise he’s our leader, on the court he is, he’s tough to replace. We’re gonna have to grow up real quick, and guys are gonna have to step up. I think they will.”
With Gillespie sidelined, Justin Moore took over the point guard position against Creighton, and responded with a 24 point performance, shooting 75% from the field. Wright was optimistic about the team’s chances with Moore, saying they were “very comfortable” with him leading the Wildcat offense. “When Collin’s out, which isn’t often, we’re usually still pretty good with Justin at the point, we just don’t like to have Collin out of the game,” Wright said. “What we need to do is get other people to step up, and I think we’ll do that.”
Forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl echoed Wright’s sentiment after the game. “It’s tough because we know how much dedication [Gillespie] has in Villanova basketball and that he’s put forth for his four years that he’s been here, and we all look to him as a leader. When we see something as devastating as that to happen, we just know we have to step up and play for him.”
Gillespie ends his senior season averaging 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. His 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is ranked second in the Big East Conference.
However, if there is one bright spot, the NCAA has granted all winter sport seniors a fifth year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the injury may not be Gillespie’s last moments on the court in a Villanova uniform, and he would be eligible to return for next season if he chooses to. Regardless, the team is determined to play the rest of the season for Gillespie. At halftime, Moore said, “everybody was just focused on stepping up, next guy up, being ready to come in and perform. Same attitude, let’s do it for our brother.”
Robinson-Earl agreed, saying “we’re gonna give it all for him because he gives it all for us.”
The Wildcats wrap up the regular season Saturday afternoon against Providence, before heading to New York for the Big East Tournament. The tournament begins Wednesday, and Villanova’s first game takes place Thursday at noon.