Sophomore Saddiq Bey has decided to stay in the NBA draft, rather than return to the University for his junior year. The decision comes after an excellent year from the 6’8” forward, who led the team in points per game and helped the Wildcats to a 24-7 record and a share of the Big East regular season title, before the season was cut short due to COVID-19.
Before coming to Villanova, Bey had initially committed to play for NC State. However, he changed his mind and decided to join the incoming Villanova freshman class that featured Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider and Brandon Slater.
In his freshman campaign, Bey averaged 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while shooting 45.8% from the field and 37.4% from three. During that season, the team was led by seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Their departure after the season called for other players to take on leadership roles. Bey, in only his second year, stepped up and embraced the position.
In his sophomore year, he improved dramatically. While averaging just four more minutes than the previous season, Bey increased his points per game to 16.1. He also elevated his shooting percentages from the field (47.7%), the free-throw line (76.9%) and from three-point range (45.1%). Bey had a multitude of impressive outings, including 29 points in a narrow loss to Butler, 33 in a convincing win over Georgetown and 27 in a victory against Penn.
Bey said that he hadn’t planned on his meteoric rise in his sophomore season, but rather was focused on performing to the best of his ability.
“I didn’t expect that,” Bey said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Coming in, I was just trying to be the best player I can be, to be honest — just focusing on becoming the best player and man I can be. That was my focus coming in.”
Head coach Jay Wright admitted that the staff did not expect his large leap. Wright credits Bey’s maturity as the reason for his success.
“We thought, legitimately, by the end of his senior year he could be an NBA player,” Wright said. “We didn’t know if it was a second-round pick, free agent, first-round pick, and he just continued to improve on the court, but off the court he continued to show a level of intelligence and maturity that was just off the charts.”
Wright also added that staying in the draft was an opportunity that Bey could not pass up. Bey recently won the Julius Erving Award for being the nation’s best small forward. It makes sense for him to take his talents to the next level while his stock sits at a high mark. Wright believes that Bey is not only ready to compete in the NBA but can develop into an even more dominant player.
“I think he’s at a point where he can help a team right away, but he’s also at a point where he’s going to continue to grow while he’s in the NBA and get a lot better while he’s there,” Wright said.
Most NBA mock drafts project Bey to be selected in the middle of the first round. Some have him being taken with the 14th pick to the Portland Trailblazers. Portland would be a great fit for Bey, as it has a very strong backcourt but are in need of a capable small forward. The Blazers recently signed Carmelo Anthony to fill that position, but he has many limitations since his career may be coming to an end soon. Acquiring a strong young piece like Bey could be very beneficial for the team.
The Philadelphia 76ers hold the 22nd pick in the draft. While Bey isn’t expected to be specifically taken by them, he could certainly drop down to that range by the time the draft comes around. Wright teased the idea of the 21-year-old staying in Philly.
“I think he’s ready, and he could help a team right away. His versatility would allow him really to help any team,” Wright said. “As you know, I’m biased. I would love to see him with the Sixers. I would love any of our guys to be with the Sixers.”
Reflecting on his eventful college career, Bey said that he has made too many memories to pick a favorite. He’ll miss the tough practices and his teammates with whom he had very close relationships. Bey noted that throughout college, he learned the importance of accountability.
“I think coming to college, especially playing for Villanova, you have to make sure you’re accountable,” Bey said. “Just trying to be the best ‘you’ you can be, the best man you can be. I think it will help in the future.”