Over the last 18+ seasons under head coach Jay Wright, Villanova Basketball has been one of the mainstays on the recruiting circuit in the college basketball landscape. This past year has been no different, as Nova has brought in four young freshmen who were all highly touted coming out of high school. With 12 games of experience under their belt, let’s take a look at how the new Cats have done since arriving on the Main Line and what the future holds for the rest of the season.
Brandon Slater, Forward: Centerville, Virginia
Brandon Slater came out of Paul VI High School as the #52 ranked player in the class of 2018 according to ESPN. Villanova has played 12 games this season, but Slater has only appeared in exactly half of those games. In his six appearances, Slater is putting up a stat line of .3 points, .8 rebounds, and .2 assists while playing 4.5 minutes per game. These numbers are obviously not gaudy due to the plethora of wings on the roster, but take a look at the advanced metrics and it gives a better picture of Slater’s production. Per 40 minutes, Slater is averaging 3.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks. This stat line gives more of a perspective on Slater’s defensive prowess while he is on the court.
Villanova basketball has always prided itself on a program on the “next man up” philosophy, which bodes well for their depth on the bench. If Slater does not redshirt, expect him to see some time during Big East Conference play as a contributor off the bench on the defensive end.
Cole Swider, Forward: Providence, Rhode Island
Cole Swider was labeled one of the best shooters coming out of the class of 2018 when he was ranked as the #34 player in high school on ESPN’s rankings. While he has not shot the ball specifically well from deep as he is currently shooting 23.5% on the long ball, he has found other ways to get involved for the Wildcats off the bench. In 11.1 minutes per game, Swider is averaging a stat line 3.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, and .6 assists per game. Once again, the numbers are not pretty, but he has shown flashes of why Jay Wright brought him in. Back on Dec. 8th against rival St. Joe’s, Swider provided 11 minutes off the bench and finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in a victory. Swider used his length and athleticism to pull down boards and get out in transition to make easy buckets.
Swider looks to be a key cog in the rotation for Villanova this season and barring injury, he should continue to do so. At 6’9, he provides length off the bench as a stretch 4. Expect Swider to find his stroke from deep and continue to provide high energy on both sides of the ball by affecting the game outside of his scoring.
Jahvon Quinerly, Guard: Hackensack, New Jersey
Jahvon Quinerly was a high school sensation and received all the accolades to back it up. A 5-star prospect, McDonald’s All American, two time Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey, a playground legend at Dyckman Park in New York City, and a famed member of “Jelly Fam,” the man had it all coming out of Hudson Catholic. A couple of months later, it has been an adjustment for JQ. Quinerly has appeared in eight out of Nova’s 12 games this season while averaging 2.4 points, .6 rebounds, and 1 assist in 8.6 minutes per game. Quinerly even took to his Instagram story last week after a loss to Penn to voice his frustrations with lack of playing time and production, but both he and the program have moved past the faux pas. It has not been all bad for Quinerly, though. Back in November in the AdvoCare Invitational Tournament in Orlando, JQ provided 9 points and 2 assists in 15 minutes in a victory over Canisius in the quarterfinal game. He showed flashes of his potential of being next in line to take the reins as Villanova’s future point guard.
After the Instagram gaffe, it will be an uphill battle for Quinerly to regain the trust of people in and around the Nova Nation. Coach Jay Wright has verbalized that he wants to get JQ more minutes, but playing time is earned not given. As Big East play approaches, Quinerly should use these next few weeks to work his tail off in practice so that he can be relied upon as the backup point guard of the bench whenever Phil Booth and/or Collin Gillespie get into foul trouble.
Saddiq Bey, Forward: Largo, Maryland
If a poll was taken on who would be the most productive freshman for the Wildcats at the outset of the season, there would be little to no votes for Saddiq Bey. The Sidwell Friends alumnus was the most recent commit for the Cats back in May, but he has splashed on the scene just as quickly. In the 12 games he has played (including starting in eight of those games), Bey is averaging 7.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 26.4 minutes per game. Bey has worked his way up from anonymity within Villanova fans to being one of the most beloved players on the squad. He has come up with big splash plays during recent games such as putback dunks against both Kansas and Penn. He has also scored in double figures in four out of his 12 appearances in his young career, so he has exceeded all expectations.
If Bey continues to receive starter’s minutes, there is no reason not to believe that he will be a contender for Big East Rookie of the Year. As long as he is providing size on the defensive end and spark plays on the offensive side, he should be primed to keep improving as the season goes on.