Much like the team’s success, Collin Gillespie’s performance this season has been a bit of a question mark. Following in the footsteps of a player of Jalen Brunson’s caliber is a tough charge, and there is no way Gillespie could match the impact of Brunson. Brunson was a calm senior leader that could get a bucket all on his own when the team needed him. Perhaps Gillespie can reach that level after a couple more seasons under his belt, but nobody should expect that in his sophomore season.
Again, much like the team, Gillespie has consistently produced in Big East play, averaging 15.1 points and 3.3 assists per game over the last 7 games. Everyone on the team appears to be growing comfortable in their roles after gaining some experience during the tough early schedule.
Though Gillespie may be listed as a point guard, he does not function as the lead ball-handler or playmaker in the offense. The last couple of point guards are known for being heady floor-generals out on the court, but Gillespie is breaking from that notion.
The similarity between Gillespie’s and Ryan Arcidiacono’s per game statistics was surprising. Arcidiacono seemed to be the leader of the offense on the 2015-2016 national championship team, but it is important to remember the other guard on that roster: Josh Hart. Hart played a significant role on that team, just as Phil Booth has this season.
Booth has been the main creator this year, while Gillespie generally plays off the ball. Gillespie has not had much success driving and finishing; he only shoots 2.5 2-point field goal attempts a game and makes 50.9% of those attempts, which is quite a low number for any player. On the flip side, Gillespie shoots 5.5 3-point attempts a game, making a stellar 41.8% from deep.
This season, it would serve Villanova well to leverage Gillespie’s shooting by giving him more opportunities beyond the 3-point line. That entails setting off-ball screens for him, forcing the defense to switch and communicate, which often leads to defensive breakdowns. Gillespie has a smooth jumper that he can release quickly. Also, he is able to square his shoulders towards the basket regardless of which direction or how fast he is moving in a catch-and-shoot situation.
It will be interesting to watch next season whether Coach Wright decides to maximize Gillespie’s strengths or press him into the floor-general point guard role that has been the case in the past. Perhaps Gillespie will develop his playmaking skills to lead the Wildcats in the future. No matter how Coach Wright employs Gillespie in the coming years, he will take the veteran mantle from Booth and Paschall to demonstrate the Villanova mantra of “Attitude”.