St. Joe's, La Salle, Villanova release schedules

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St. Joe's, La Salle, Villanova release schedules

Villanova, La Salle and St. Joe's released their full 2013-14 schedules on Tuesday.

St. Joe’s (see schedule), which is coming off a disappointing 18-14 season that ended against St. John's in the first round of the NIT, will open on the road at Vermont on Nov. 9.

For the Hawks, the first big test on their schedule is against Creighton, who will head to Hagan Arena on Nov. 16.

St. Joe’s enters City 6 competition at Temple on Dec. 4 before welcoming Villanova on Dec. 7 and Drexel on Dec. 18.

The A-10 will look different this season after losing Butler, Temple, Charlotte and Xavier while picking up George Mason. But the biggest item of note from the Hawks' conference slate is the team's two games against La Salle. It will be the first time as A-10 members that the squads will face off twice during the regular season. The Hawks will travel to La Salle’s campus for the first time since 2001 on Feb. 15, and their second matchup will mark the end of the regular season for both teams.

The Explorers (see schedule), who made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 before ultimately falling to Wichita State, will host Manhattan College in their season opener on Nov. 9.

After starting the season off against some manageable opponents (Manhattan, Quinnipiac, Siena and Penn State), the Explorers head to the U.S. Virgin Islands for Paradise Jam. With a win over Morgan State, La Salle would either face Vanderbilt or Providence.

The challenges really start for La Salle in December. A week after playing at Villanova on Dec. 15, the Explorers head to Miami. Last year, La Salle fell to to Miami, 76-59.

The Explorers' last non-conference test comes against Temple on Jan. 18 before heading into A-10 play.

As for Villanova (see schedule), the Wildcats come off of a 20-14 season that ended in a loss to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
 
Just as Temple and La Salle, Villanova will play in a tournament in late November, flying to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats will take on USC on Nov. 28. In the second round, the Wildcats would face either Kansas or Wake Forest.

Days before Villanova enters into the new-look Big East conference slate, the team faces rival Syracuse.
 
On New Years’ Eve, the Wildcats head to Hinkle Field House for the first time to face Butler.

In conference play, Villanova will take on Big East newcomer Creighton on Jan 20 at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Wildcats will close out the regular season at home against Georgetown.

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

About midway through Monday night's Big 5 Hall of Fame ceremony, the oldest inductee of this year's class paid homage to the youngest.

That's how much hoops legend George Raveling, a 1960 Villanova graduate, was blown away by Penn alum Ibrahim Jaaber's impassioned speech that ended with a powerful poem about how basketball saved him.

"It kept running through my mind that you represent everything good about sports," Raveling said to Jaaber. "And I hope you'll continue to use your wisdom, your influence, to make the game better, to make the world better. As a 79-year-old-man, soon to be 80 in June, I want to tell you that if I come back in the next life, I want to be like you."

That touching moment, in many ways, was a perfect encapsulation of the ties that bind the Big 5, from one generation to the next. But aside from Raveling and longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Bill Lyon -- who, despite battling Alzheimer's, courageously gave an acceptance speech to a standing ovation at the Palestra -- this year's class was filled with contemporary guards who clashed in some great Big 5 games not too long ago.

Among them were two current NBA players in Saint Joseph's icon Jameer Nelson (class of 2004) and former 'Nova star Randy Foye (2006), as well as Temple's Lynn Greer (2002) and Jaaber (2007). La Salle women's player Carlene Hightower (2008) was the other member of the star-studded class defined by tough, gritty Philadelphia guards.

"The inductees here for the Hall of Fame have got to be maybe the greatest class we've ever put together," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who closed the night by accepting the Big 5 Coach of the Year award right after Josh Hart took home Player of the Year honors. "I grew up in Philadelphia and we always talk about what a great place the Palestra is -- and it is. But when you listen to Lynn, Randy, Coach Rav, Ibby, Jameer, you know why this is a great place. It's because of all the great man that have played here -- outstanding, humble, articulate, intelligent men that understand they're part of something that's bigger than themselves. That's what makes the Big 5. That's what makes the Palestra."

Nelson, the National Player of the Year during St. Joe’s historic 2003-04 season, certainly showed what kind of person he is, inviting all of his old Hawks teammates who were in attendance to stand behind him as he accepted his Hall of Fame award. And he even choked up at one point as he described what those teammates, coach Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph's University have meant to him as he's forged a long and fruitful NBA career.

"Without them, none of this would be possible," said Nelson, the Hawks' all-time leader in points (2,094) and assists (713). "These guys mean the world to me."

Nelson, now with the Denver Nuggets, just wrapped up his 13th season in the NBA, calling it an "unbelievable ride" for a 5-foot-11 kid from Chester. That's two more years spent in the league than Foye, who Nelson thanked for forcing him to be better back in their college days. He also called Greer one of his "great friends" and said that Jaaber's speech "touched me in so many different ways, I wish more young kids could hear it."

"I'm very grateful to be inducted with you guys," Nelson said, although he did point out that when he was at St. Joe's, the Hawks had Villanova down 43-9 at halftime one year. 

"But those next couple years, we payed y'all back," said Foye, now with the Brooklyn Nets, during his own speech.

Those rivalries were especially meaningful to Foye, who also played against Jaaber in both high school and college.

"Being from North Jersey, you never hear about the Big 5," said Foye, a first-team All-American and Big 5 Player of the Year in 2006. "For me coming here and witnessing it up close and personal, it's just something truly amazing."

Foye added that everywhere he goes, he tries to embody what a Philly guard is -- "small but play big," as he put it -- while reminding people that he's proud to be a Villanova alum. The same can be said of Raveling, a longtime college coach and executive who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

"I'm so proud to say I'm a Big 5 product -- and a proud graduate of Villanova University," Raveling said. "I look back many times and realize the wisest decision I ever made in my lifetime was to enroll at Villanova University."

Just as he opened his speech, Raveling also closed it by saying he was "proud" to enter the Big 5 Hall of Fame the same year as Jaaber, whose remarks touched on spirituality, family and a unique journey from Morocco to New Jersey to Penn.

Jaaber also made sure to thank the person who perhaps embodies the Big 5 more than anyone else: former La Salle player, former Penn coach and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy.

"I don't think I could have had a better coach for me in my situation than my Coach Dunphy," said Jaaber, the 2006-07 Big 5 Player of the Year and the all-time Ivy League leader in steals (303). "I'm almost embarrassed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame before Coach Dunphy."

Archbishop Wood basketball star Collin Gillespie signs with Villanova

Archbishop Wood basketball star Collin Gillespie signs with Villanova

Archbishop Wood's Collin Gillespie, the Philadelphia Catholic League's MVP, has signed a national letter of intent to attend Villanova and play for Jay Wright.

Gillespie, during his senior year, averaged 24.1 points per game. The 6-foot-2 guard lead Archbishop Wood to their first Catholic League title in school history and followed that up with a PIAA State Championship game victory -- also a first for the school. Along with the league MVP, Gillespie was named Player of the Year by the Philadelphia Daily News.

"We are excited to have Collin and his family join the Nova Nation," Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a statement. "Collin comes from a great program at Archbishop Wood and has been well prepared by John Mosco. His guard skills, basketball IQ and winning instincts will be a welcome addition to our program."

Gillespie will join previously announced signees Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia) and Jermaine Samuels (Rivers School, Weston, Mass.) in Villanova's class of 2021.