VILLANOVA, Pa. --
His first thought was to wonder if the game was unsanctioned by the NCAA. That would have meant Fisher would have to sit out a game to start the season. "I just told the media guys I didn't know anything about it. Then I called our compliance guy and said, 'Get a hold of Corey,'" Wright told me last Monday as we ate lunch in a cafeteria on Villanova's leafy campus. Once he realized the game was kosher, Wright called Fisher himself. His first comment was tongue-in-cheek: "Did the guy you were guarding score 103?" The second, more serious: "That's what we've been trying to get you to do for three years."
Fisher has been wearing a Villanova uniform for three years, but he is only now beginning his first year A.S. -- After Scotty. That's
A high need for harmony is a lovely trait to have in a future husband. Not so much in a basketball player. Sometimes a guy has to have selfishness commensurate with his talent, and for much of his career Fisher has lacked that. During the two-hour practice I watched, Fisher, who looked more broad-shouldered and barrel-chested than I remembered from last season, demonstrated considerable physical gifts -- draining three-pointers, driving to the rim, ripping an offensive rebound in traffic. But even though Wright emphasizes vocal communication, I hardly heard Fisher's voice over the din.
For Villanova to reach its potential, this is what has to change the most. Nobody realizes that more than Fisher, who led the team in assists last year (3.9 per game) and was second in scoring (13.3). "I've learned a lot about being a leader from Scottie," he told me after practice. "Me and Coach Wright talk about me being like his assistant on the floor, and also being more vocal. That's what I have to be working on."
If Fisher takes this next step, then I predict Villanova will be the best team in the Big East this season. Because while Reynolds was a fabulous player, his talent did not match his moxie. As good as he was, he still went undrafted by the NBA and is now playing professionally in Italy.
Could Villanova actually be better without him? Well, consider how much Notre Dame improved after
Besides a more assertive Fisher, Villanova should also benefit this season from the improvement of its five-man sophomore class. Players usually undergo more growth between their freshman and sophomore years of college than at any juncture, and Wright's quintet is on the verge of a collective breakout. All were reserves last season, but two of them -- 6-2 point guard
Wright has two other experienced seniors to work alongside Fisher.
The roster also includes an intriguing freshman in 6-7 swingman
We usually think of Villanova as Guard U, but this is the best and deepest front line Wright has had in years. The Wildcats won't be as prepared for the start of the season as a veteran team like Pittsburgh, whom the Big East coaches picked as the preseason favorite, but if they can stay healthy (and they've already lost freshman guard
• This is an excellent passing team, and not just from the two-headed point guard spot of Fisher and Wayns. Stokes, Pena and sophomore forwards
• There aren't many coaches who put as much emphasis on talking as Wright does. (
• Pinkston is listed on the roster at 235 pounds. If he's 235, I'm
• If you look at the Villanova roster, you can see the program's template for recruiting. It is filled with players from the inner city who attended private Catholic schools. To wit:
The result is a team that's tough enough to win in the Big East and smart enough to make it through a rigorous academic program. Pretty good combination, I'd say.
• The geek in me is always interested in seeing the new ways coaches are utilizing technology. For example, Wright has a brand new smart board in his office. He can sit at the conference table and draw on a monitor, like a TV analyst using a telestrator, and his lines are projected onto a big white screen. He also wore a microphone during practice. Every coach digitally films practice and puts together clips to show his players, but by wearing a microphone, Wright can keep a running dialogue with his video coordinator, who is sitting courtside with a laptop and a pair of earphones. So if Wright sees something he likes, he can simply say into his microphone, "Clip that play." And presto, it happens.
• I'm sure a lot of people see Wright -- what with his good looks, flashy suits and charismatic personality -- and assume that someday he will either springboard into a "bigger" college job or take a shot at the NBA. But I think he's at Villanova for life. Wright was offered the Philadelphia 76ers' position a year ago, and he considered it mostly because the team's general manager,