The reigning national champions have a lot of moving parts at the moment. On Thursday, Villanova made announcements about three of its most important players. The good, if expected, news: Phil Booth and Eric Paschall will return to school as fifth-year seniors.
More expected news, albeit some that will have Nova fans in bated breath: Donte DiVincenzo, , is testing NBA Draft waters. He will not sign with an agent for now. DiVincenzo's decision means a lot not just for Villanova, but also college basketball.
Because he was so good on such a big stage, if DiVincenzo were to return to college hoops, he'd easily be among the two or three most recognizable players in the sport.
DiVincenzo, who also won the Sixth Man of the Year award in the Big East, scored 31 points in the national championship game against Michigan and set the record for most points in a Final Four or national title game by a someone who came off the bench. His 31 was the most in a title game since 1989. The Big Ragu averaged 13.4 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and is considered, undeniably, an NBA-level athlete.
"Donte has consistently improved in his time at Villanova through dedication and a commitment to our core values," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "His play this season has created a unique opportunity for him to receive feedback from NBA teams in the draft process. We support Donte fully and our staff will work together with him and his family to help him assess the next step in his basketball career."
As for Booth and Paschall, they'll return and join an onslaught of sophomores-to-be who should be fairly solid: Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels should see their minutes heavily increase next season. Villanova has already lost Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges to early NBA entry. Despite that, the Wildcats seem set to be the favorite in the Big East again.
"Phil and Eric are two of the cornerstone leaders of our team," Wright said. "Each of them is widely respected by their teammates, not just for their talent, but for the kind of young men they are. We are thrilled that they will help lead our team again as seniors."
Paschall has the physicality and growth in his game to warrant putting his abilities up against other NBA hopefuls, but all in all, it's not a surprise he opted to not test. Paschall averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He had 24 points in Villanova's dominant 95-79 win over Kansas in the national semis. Booth, a veteran voice and all-around reliable option at guard, averaged 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds.
The key? If Villanova is going to make a push for three titles in four seasons, DiVincenzo and redshirt freshman center Omari Spellman returning is critical. . Both players are expected to be invited to the NBA's combine, which is held May 16-20. Spellman and DiVincenzo have until May 30 to decide once and for all if they're staying in the draft or returning to Villanova.