After an abrupt and disappointing end to the 2019-2020 season due to COVID-19, the waiting game begins for Villanova Basketball. Players have until April 26th to decide if they will take part in the NBA draft process, and must decide by June 15th whether they will stay in the NBA draft or return to college. Multiple Wildcats may have their sights set on leaving the Main Line and turning pro. With the Wildcats currently ranked number one in the country for next season by multiple media outlets, their decisions will have a major impact on next year's team.
Sophomore Forward Saddiq Bey took a major leap in year two, becoming arguably the most important player on the floor for Jay Wright’s team. He averaged 16.1 points per game while shooting 47.1% from the field and 45.1% from three. Recently, he won the Julius Erving Award for being the best small forward in the country. Bey was not on many NBA teams’ radars entering the season, but his strong play has boosted him into first-round discussions. In fact, NBA Draft Room has him being selected as high as 13th overall.
Why Bey Should Go
Saddiq Bey does not have much left to prove at the collegiate level. Between winning the Julius Erving Award and being named to the All-Big East First Team, Bey is more than ready to take on a new challenge. More importantly, his size and playstyle fit very well into today's NBA. At 6’8 and 216 lbs., he is the ideal size for a forward in the NBA. Teams will be impressed by his ball-handling skills and may see him as a capable point-forward. Most importantly, age is a factor. Bey is already 21 years old. If he stays at Villanova for another year, his draft value will suffer because teams often prefer to draft younger prospects. If Bey wants to maximize his NBA potential, he will likely decide to stay in this year's draft.
Why Bey Shouldn't Go
Nothing about Bey’s profile says that he should remain in college. If he were to return for his Junior year, it would likely be due to his desire to win. As mentioned previously, media sites such as ESPN and NBC Sports have Villanova ranked number one in the country for the 2020-2021 season. The opportunity to be the star player on a championship team may be enough to convince Bey to hold off on his NBA aspirations for another year. Furthermore, the departures of Myles Powell at Seton Hall and Markus Howard at Marquette means that the race for the Big East Player of the Year award is wide open. With the entirety of the ‘Cats roster slated to come back, Bey could be swayed to stay if it meant bringing another title to ‘Nova.
The other potential Villanovan who could enter the draft, Robinson-Earl, had a strong freshman season that saw him average 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds. His efforts were rewarded with a unanimous selection to the All-Big East Freshman Team and he was named Big East Freshman of the Year. He started all 31 games for the Wildcats, averaging 32.7 minutes per game and serving as their primary big man. He was a five-star recruit in the class of 2019, so he has been on NBA radars for a while. Currently, most sites have Robinson-Earl projected to be taken in the second round.
Why JRE Should Go
Robinson-Earl was one of the best rebounders in all of college basketball. He had nine double-doubles his freshman year and was fourth in the Big East in rebounding. His play during the 2019-2020 season also showcased his shooting ability. The 6’9 freshman shot 32.8 percent from beyond the arc, quieting the notion that he was ineffective outside the paint. Age is also a factor for Jeremiah. At only 19 years old, NBA teams would be comfortable drafting him early and allowing him to develop the rest of his game in the G League. More and more big men in the NBA have developed a capable jump shot, and Robinson-Earl already has that in his repertoire.
Why JRE Shouldn’t Go
While Robinson-Earl was a strong rebounder at the college level, players in the NBA are taller and stronger, meaning that he will likely need to put on more muscle to be a consistent threat. Robinson-Earl also had his struggles defensively. He struggled against veteran centers such as Kaleb Wesson of Ohio State and Udoka Azubike of Kansas. Another year at ‘Nova would allow him to improve his game defensively and make him a more versatile player. If he comes back for his sophomore season and shows more strength and consistency, he could end up being a lottery pick in the 2021 draft, which means more money and more playing time.
Another Villanova player that could wind up in the NBA is Jermaine Samuels. The junior has been talked about as a potential second-round pick, but all signs point to him returning to campus for his final season. Samuels is older but has qualities that many NBA teams covet. Another player who was garnering buzz for the draft was freshman guard Bryan Antoine. The majority of Antoine’s season was lost to a shoulder injury, but barring any setbacks he will be able to prove his worth for the ‘Cats next season.
As of Tuesday, April 7th, coach Jay Wright announced that both Saddiq Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will go through the draft process. ‘Nova fans will have to pay close attention to their decisions, as it will have major ramifications on next year's team.