Recruits, COVID-19, Eric Dixon and a New Season

Dixon will begin his college career this season and is expected to be a key player.

In a press conference held via Zoom on Thursday, Nov. 12, Villanova men’s basketball head coach Jay Wright spoke on a multitude of topics, most of which related to this season, but he also looked to the future. Unsurprisingly, a major topic of conversation was COVID-19 and how it may affect Villanova basketball and the men’s season as a whole, but Wright also revealed some of his feelings on the recruits in the Class of 2021, discussed some key injuries and mentioned Eric Dixon’s improvement at multiple points throughout the conference.

With National Signing Day on Wednesday, Nov. 11, Wright began the conference with a brief discussion of the 2021 recruiting class.

“We have a really good class that I’m proud of,” he said.

Wright is clearly excited about the potential for the class, which features Angelo Brizzi out of Warrenton, Va., Nnanna Njouku from Hockessin, Del., Jordan Longino out of Doylestown, Pa. and Trey Patterson from Somerset, N.J. He went a little bit more into depth on Brizzi and Patterson, following questions from the conference. 

Wright mentioned that he actually has never met Brizzi in person, although they have constantly been in contact via Zoom and that he also never got a chance to see Brizzi play in person, but that the coaching staff was so impressed with his film and his fit with the team that they decided to give him an offer. 

As for Patterson, Wright said that he saw himself as someone who could fill the type of role players, like Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges and most recently Saddiq Bey, had filled for the team, and Wright was asked what traits from each of those players he thought Patterson possessed. Wright responded by saying that he has the “committed competitiveness” of Josh Hart, the length of Bridges and some of the skillset of Bey.

Recruiting was fairly important in the conference, but COVID-19 was a very significant topic, with numerous questions surrounding how the college basketball season will work with the coronavirus only continuing to spread, many college football games being postponed and the Seton Hall and UConn programs currently in isolation. Wright stated that the team is tested three times per week and has its own pseudo-bubble, although they are relying on the honor system as well. 

“I think all of us are willing to do whatever we have to to play basketball,” Wright said.

However, he mentioned that he thought without the presence of a bubble (of which the discussions have been “practically exhausted”), this season could be an “interrupted” one, similar to that of college football. The big question left to answer in his mind, however, is if the NCAA will be able to bubble for the tournament, as the tournament can’t go through stops and starts.

With regards to fans at games, Wright noted that there will be a 15% capacity and that this is in part due to the fact that season ticket holders and major donors have volunteered to give up their seats so students can make it to the games. 

Moving beyond COVID-19 and discussing the roster for the upcoming season, Wright brought up a number of injuries which players had sustained and just finished working their way back from or were continuing to work their way through. Justin Moore had been out for the last month with a bone bruise, and his first day back at practice was Wednesday, Nov. 11. Additionally, Collin Gillespie came back in the first week of November after having been out the previous two months with a hamstring injury. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree has continued to have issues with his knee and has been held out of practice for the last week. 

However, the most concerning injury has been that of Bryan Antoine, someone who was thought to be competing for a sixth man spot this season. Antoine has been out since Sept. 23, and “...it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting back real quick,” after suffering a different injury in the same shoulder that he had surgery on in May of 2019.   

With regard to the rotation itself, there is still an open competition between Cole Swider and Caleb Daniels for the final starting spot. However, Wright mentioned that they will be in line to receive similar minutes regardless of who’s starting or is the sixth man. Wright also mentioned that Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon have worked their way into that conversation too, and the team could have a very good rotation this season. 

In what could arguably be regarded as the most positive news of the press conference, Wright was extremely enthusiastic about the continued development of the redshirt freshman, Dixon. 

“I just love this kid,” Wright said and went on to say that Dixon is on a “great path” and has a chance to be a really good player for the team.

“I just see a huge upside for him,” he said.

While Wright noted that Dixon is not as athletic as former Wildcat Eric Paschall, he said that Dixon is as good of a low-post player Villanova has had on its roster since Daniel Ochefu.