Villanova shocked many by making the Final Four last March as a 3-seed, but expectations are sky-high this year, despite Villanova losing its top scorer and rebounder, Dante Cunningham, to the NBA. Nova was voted #1 preseason in the Big East coaches poll, #5 nationally in the AP poll, and #6 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Villanova lost three other seniors including Shane Clark, Frank Tchuisi, and Dwayne Anderson, who was arguably the heart and soul of last year’s team. So why are expectations so high when the Wildcats are losing so much? Well, for one, Final Four hero Scottie Reynolds decided to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return for his senior year. The two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) are returning from successful sophomore seasons and are poised to play even bigger roles this year. Finally, Villanova is bringing in the #3 recruiting class in the nation, composed of Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou, and Isaiah Armwood.
Let’s take a look at each player and what we can expect from them this season…
Scottie Reynolds – SR – PG/SG
2008-09 Stats: 32 min, 15.2 pts, 3.4 ast, 2.9 reb, 1.6 stl, 40% FG, 82% FT, 35% 3PT
The clear leader of the team, Scottie Reynolds is back for his senior year and has a chance to break some school records.
Freshman year: 1st Round
Sophomore year: Sweet 16
Junior year: Final Four
Senior year: ?
Scottie Reynolds has seemingly done it all in his career at Villanova, and in his final year he will have his sights set on a National Championship. Scottie will probably play off the ball more this season, with Corey Fisher at the point. I see him being the leading scorer on the team (at around 17 points per game), but his stats won’t go up too much because the team has so many offensive weapons.
Corey Fisher – JR – PG
2008-09 Stats: 24 min, 10.8 pts, 2.8 ast, 2.3 reb, 1.2 stl, 43% FG, 78% FT, 32% 3PT
I think this is the year Jay Wright finally hands the keys to Corey Fisher and allows him to run free as the starting point guard. Fisher Price has been gifted offensively since the day he set foot on campus, but Jay Wright demands a lot from his guards defensively and Corey wasn’t quite ready on that end of the floor. Now Fisher is a complete two-way player, and as an upperclassman, he will now have to teach “Villanova Basketball” to his understudy Maalik Wayns. I see Fisher’s assists jumping up to around 4.5 a game and his scoring at about 13 ppg.
Corey Stokes – JR – SG/SF
2008-09 Stats: 23 min, 9.3 pts, 3.4 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.7 stl, 41% FG, 85% FT, 42% 3PT
I don’t know if Stokes will ever develop into the complete inside/outside swingman Villanova fans were hoping for when this former McDonald’s All-American joined the team. So far in his Wildcats career he has been strictly a perimeter scorer, a very good one at that, but his ball handling and inside scoring leave something to be desired. However, with Reynolds, Fisher, Wayns, and Cheek all capable at driving to the basket and with the post presence of Yarou and Pena, Stokes really won’t need to do much more than stand behind the arc and wait for someone to kick it to him for an open three. I think Stokes averages 11 ppg and shoots 50% from 3-point range.
Reggie Redding – SR – SG/SF
2008-09 Stats: 29 min, 7.1 pts, 4.9 reb, 3.1 ast, 1.1 stl, 0.5 blk, 44% FG, 71% FT, 30% 3PT
By now you’ve probably heard about Redding’s disappointing offseason; he was arrested on campus for marijuana possession back in August. He is suspended until December 19 and will be forced to miss the first ten games of the season. This isn’t the worst thing in the world. The schedule at the beginning of the season is relatively easy, and it will give the freshmen a chance for more playing time as they get acclimated to the college game. Then Redding will be back just in time for the start of Big East play, when the team will need him most. Reggie brings senior leadership and balanced contributions on both ends of the floor. He isn’t the most gifted scorer, but Jay Wright has called Redding his best defender and passer. (You might remember he threw the infamous full-court pass that almost cost Nova the game vs. Pitt in the Elite Eight, but he also threw the next inbounds pass that led to Reynolds’ game-winning shot.) I think his ‘09-10 stats will stay right in line with those of last season.
Antonio Pena – JR – PF/C
2008-09 Stats: 18 min, 5.1 pts, 4.2 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.5 blk, 48% FG, 69% FT
Pena’s playing time was inconsistent last season, as he primarily served as Dante Cunningham’s backup. On the rare occasion he was given extended minutes, he usually produced around 12 points and 8 rebounds. However, his biggest problem was avoiding foul trouble long enough to play meaningful minutes. As such, Jay Wright had little trust in ‘Tone when it mattered most, averaging only 6.4 minutes per game in the NCAA Tournament. This year Pena is the only experienced frontcourt player, and he will have to step up to play a bigger role by default. I think he will begin the season as the starting power forward/center, but if Yarou lives up to the hype early, he may push Pena back into more of a reserve role again. Pena’s numbers are tough to predict because it’s unclear what his role will be, but I’ll say 6 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes per game.
Taylor King – SO – SG/SF
2007-08 Stats (with Duke): 10 min, 5.5 pts, 2.0 reb, 41% FG, 38% 3PT
After sitting out all of last season due to transfer regulations, T-King is ready to make his Villanova debut. Much of what I said about Corey Stoke can be applied to King. He shoots the ball just as well from downtown, and it will be really fun to see them on the floor together. I expect TK to log major minutes from the get-go. He has NCAA experience with Duke and had all of last season to practice with the team and learn the system. The only thing holding him back is the deep backcourt. He’s a bit undersized at 6’6, but if he can play physical defense and rebound, Jay Wright may use him at power forward at times this season to get him on the court more often. I think you can expect a line of 9 points, 5 rebounds, 45% 3PT from King this year.
Maurice Sutton – FR – C
2007-08 Stats (high school): 18 pts, 13 reb, 9 blk
Like Taylor King, Sutton redshirted all of last season. He came into the program with height (6’11), but was thin as a rail. He’s had a full year to put on enough muscle to bang in the Big East. But does he have the skill? He still seems like more of a project at this point. I think he will play a role similar to Chris Charles of a few years ago: provide rebounding, blocks, and fouls in limited minutes off the bench. With Pena and Yarou the only other players on the team over 6’8, Sutton can provide some much needed size against bigger teams.
Dominic Cheek – FR – SG
2008-09 Stats (high school): 14.2 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast
Cheek has a frame and game that reminds many of former Villanova star Kerry Kittles. He was a big-time scorer for St. Anthony’s in Jersey City and was a McDonald’s All-American. He can handle the ball and score from the inside and out. I don’t see him starting out of the gates, but he will be a part of the regular rotation.
Mouphtaou Yarou – FR – PF/C
2008-09 Stats (high school): 20 pts, 12 reb, 3 blk
Villanova hasn’t had a F/C recruit this highly touted since Jason Fraser in 2002. At 6’10, 250 Mouph is a skilled big man with a soft touch. He is a native of Benin, Africa and didn’t pick up the game of basketball until five years ago. Yarou could be thrust into a starting role right away because of Nova’s lack of depth in the frontcourt. He may still be raw, but for someone with his size, skill set, and athleticism, the sky is the limit. Let’s just hope Mouph has a little more luck health-wise than Fraser.
Maalik Wayns – FR – PG
2008-09 Stats (high school): 19.2 pts, 5.5 ast, 5.1 reb
Could Wayns be the second coming of Kyle Lowry? As a 6’1 point guard from Philly and a fierce competitor, the similarities are endless. Like Lowry, he will probably come off the bench as the back up point guard to begin the season. During his freshman season, Lowry played so well that Jay Wright was forced to give him more minutes and eventually move him to the starting role midway through the season. Wayns will have a similar opportunity, and like Lowry’s teams from 2004-2006, we may see some 4-guard sets this year involving Maalik.
Isaiah Armwood – FR – SF/PF
2008-09 Stats (high school): 12 pts, 8 reb
Armwood is a former teammate of Kevin Durant and Mouph Yarou at Montrose Christian Academy in Maryland. He will be wearing the #34 jersey, last worn by Curtis Sumpter. Like Sumpter, Armwood is 6’7 with a versatile inside/out game. Again, because of the thin frontcourt, he will probably see minutes right away. If he contributes, he could see major minutes, maybe even earning the starting power forward position by season’s end.
Russell Wooten – SR – SF
Jason Colenda – SR – PG/SG