Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted: 1:15 p.m.By Reuben FrankCSNPhilly.com
A dramatically different Villanova team will take the court in November, a Wildcat team with at least three new starters and most likely a very different approach to playing basketball.
Villanova graduates three of its four top scorers from this years 21-12 team, but if a couple highly regarded recruits can contribute, a couple players can make significant strides from sophomore to junior year and one extremely highly touted player who had to sit out this past season can live up to expectations, next years Nova team could be very good.
And could help Nova fans forget this years second-half collapse.
One thing we know is that Maalik Wayns will be a big part of everything the Wildcats do. Wayns, a 6-2 guard out of Phillys Roman Catholic who can shoot, handle and play defense, was Villanovas leading scorer for much of the second half of the season and finished third on the team with 13.8 points per game, a figure that rose close to 16 points since mid-January.
We also know that Mouphtaou Yarou will again start in the pivot for the Wildcats. Yarou, 6-10, 250, is still raw and limited at the offensive end, but he did finish the year with 8.4 points and 7.1 rebounds averaging just 24 minutes per game.
Wayns started 28 games this year and Yarou 32, and they will be the only experienced starters coach Jay Wright will bring back.
Both have plenty to work on. Wayns must improve his decision making and shot selection, but hes an explosive offensive scorer and a willing defender. Yarou must become more aggressive in the paint and assert his size and bulk, but hes still new to the game and should improve.
Beyond Wayns and Yarou, things get interesting for a team losing double-digit scorers Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena to graduation.
The biggest piece Wright adds this offseason is 6-6, 220-pound swingman JayVaughan Pinkston, a former McDonalds All-America pick who was forced to sit out this season because of an off-the-court issue.
Pinkston is powerful enough to play around the basket and attack the rim but versatile enough to play along the perimeter. Pinkston, from Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, should bring Nova some things it sorely lacked this year - toughness, aggressiveness and muscle. Hes a different breed from Novas forwards this past season - big, strong and physically commanding.
Pinkston almost certainly will start right from Day 1 either at the three or the four as a red-shirt freshman, so that leaves two open spots in the starting lineup.
Guys like 6-5 guard James Taj Bell, 6-8 forward Isaiah Armwood, 6-6 guard Dominic Cheek and 6-11 forward Maurice Sutton all logged extensive minutes but none are locks to start in 2012.
Wrights recruiting class, ranked among the top 25 by ESPN, includes some intriguing names, most notably Tyrone Johnson, who started out at Plainfield and finished at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md. - alma mater of Yarou and Kevin Durant. Johnson was ranked by ESPN as the No. 12 point guard in this years recruiting class.
If Johnson is able to come in and run the offense, Wright will have Johnson and Wayns together for two years in the backcourt and then build from there. Wright has said he expects Armwood - already a sound defensive player and rebounder - to make a huge huge strides this offseason, especially on the offensive end.
Bell was limited much of the year following offseason surgery on both feet, but his game-saving 21-point outburst off the bench at Seton Hall was certainly encouraging. When healthy, hes a terrific scorer and at 6-5 can play the two or the three and help out on the boards. As much as Wright loves to play three guards, a starting lineup with Johnson at the point, Wayns at shooting guard and Bell at small forward, with Pinkston at power forward and Yarou in the middle is possible, although its small.
Thats why Armwood is such an important guy. At 6-8, hes one of the few experienced pivot players Wright will have next year, and Wright is very high on him.
Our guess is that the versatile and heady Bell becomes the first guy off the bench, and Wright starts Wayns and Johnson at guard and Pinkston and Armwood at forward with Yarou in the middle.
Novas other incoming 2011 recruits are 6-5 shooting guard Darrun Hilliard of Liberty in Bethlehem, 6-9 forward Markus Kennedy of Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., and 6-5 shooting guard Achraf Yacoubou of Long Island Lutheran in Rockville, N.Y.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org
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