With Kris Jenkins returning to The Main Line, Josh Hart will be the final piece for Villanova basketball.
With a remarkable National Title run in the rear-view mirror, Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are preparing for the chance to be the first program to repeat since the 2006-07 Florida Gators.
The Wildcats received critical news on Monday evening, as National Championship hero Kris Jenkins has opted out of the NBA Draft in order to finish his collegiate career in Philadelphia.
Jenkins is obviously a massive piece for Villanova. The forward can stretch the floor from the four position, is capable of putting the ball on the deck and attacking the rim, and his experience in late game situations (taking and making big shots) will be greatly valued.
The Maryland native took a huge step forward last season as he averaged 13.6 points per game, shot 39 percent from long range and drilled 46 percent of his jumpers from the floor.
While Jenkins helps the Wildcats space the floor and makes it easier on their guards, Villanova would have a better opportunity to win their second straight title with the presence of forward Josh Hart.
Hart elected to test out of the draft process (he did not hire an agent) and was invited to the NBA Draft Combine, which will be held on May 15. He has until May 25 to either solidify his name in the professional ranks or return to Villanova.
But will Hart even be selected if he remains in the draft pool?
Draft Express currently has Hart going undrafted, while rumors persist that the highest he would be selected is late first round.
Even though this is a weak draft class, Hart can raise his stock and build on his breakout season by improving his jump shot, putting up even bigger numbers in year four and possibly taking Wright’s squad to another Final Four.
It would also be heartbreaking for Villanova. Hart is a guy who averages 16 points, seven rebounds and puts his body on the line for the better of the team. He works extremely hard, is the perfect teammate and keeps his composure on the court.
Wright is a great coach and the Wildcats still would have a talented roster with an excellent blend of experience and underclassmen, but Hart is one of the best players in the country. He is an excellent rebounder, can defend numerous positions, gives the ‘Cats loads of versatility and his ability to make plays inside and out would put this team over the top.
Just think about a backcourt that consists of Hart (who also often plays forward), Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzio. Brunson will have a year of experience under his belt and should be ready to improve his scoring, Booth is efficient and consistent from the perimeter and showed he can make plays from beyond the arc, and DiVincenzio is returning from injury with a chip on his shoulder.
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And don’t forget the Wildcats have an intriguing piece in Mikal Bridges. Bridges had some marvelous performances in the NCAA Tournament and has great length that helps him play numerous positions.
The scary part is the front court can be just as good.
Jenkins is back, Eric Paschall is eligible and will bring great toughness to the interior, and Darryl Reynolds gained vast experience with Daniel Ochefu battling multiple injuries last season. Tim Delaney is coming off a hip injury but will give the ‘Cats another battler, while also providing mobility and strong defense.
Five-star big man Omari Spellman is a perfect fit for Wright’s system because of his ability to knock down mid-range shots and score on the block. Dylan Painter, a three-star center, is only 6’9″ but will give the team yet another big body that will add depth to their rotation.
The Wildcats are so loaded that they will clearly be a top 10 team even without Hart.
But if number three returns to The Main Line, the Wildcats will have a perfect chance to challenge powerhouses Duke and Kentucky for a coveted National Title.