- Jahvon Quinerly has big shoes to fill in wake of departed point guard Jalen Brunson, but the five-star is the crown new piece as Jay Wright tries to restock a championship roster.
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We start with the No. 29 overall recruit, Villanova's Jahvon Quinerly.
What he means for Villanova’s recruiting class
Villanova’s incoming recruiting class is ranked at No. 9 in the country—with all four recruits in the top 150 in the nation. Quinerly, the only guard in the Jay Wright-built class, is an athletic and versatile addition to Villanova’s wildly talented 2018 additions. Originally committed to Arizona, Villanova's top-ranked recruit found himself tangled up in the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption that resulted in the indictment of then-Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson. Richardson allegedly directed money from Adidas to ‘a top point guard recruit,’ widely assumed to be Quinerly. Quinerly quickly decommitted from Arizona in October and committed to Wright’s Wildcats in February. The 6-foot, 170-pound point guard is crafty and keen to break down an opposing defender with a quick crossover. His impressive ability to handle the ball, create separation and add some ‘jelly’ to any layup will also serve Wright well as he attempts to replace several key players from his title-winning team, including Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman.
How he fits
Jay Wright traditionally relies on upperclassmen to run the floor for him, but with the loss of two-time NCAA champion and Wildcat starter Jalen Brunson, he’s got big shoes to fill on the point guard front. Brunson averaged 18.9 points per game and shot 52.1% from the field during his final season with the Wildcats, leaving a huge hole to be accounted for. Many see Quinerly as a natural replacement for Brunson, but Quinerly alone won’t make up for the loss of the reigning National Player of the Year. Villanova’s backcourt will also be run by sophomore guard Collin Gillespie, who proved himself more than capable during his freshman season, sixth-man Phil Booth, who should he stay healthy could be a primary floor general, and highly-regarded Albany transfer Joe Cremo. Both Gillespie and Booth played a role in Villanova’s championship run, with Booth chipping in 10 points in the Wildcats' Final Four victory over Kansas and Gillespie adding four in just 16 minutes in the title game. With Booth, Gillespie and Cremo in the mix, Quinerly’s role is yet to be determined, but you can expect flashy finishes and some serious speed from the freshman whether he starts from Day One or whether Wright brings him off the bench.
Importance to Villanova's success/team outlook
Villanova is coming off of its second national title in three years, but this year’s team will look nothing like the reigning national champs. After losing four of their top six players, the Wildcats will reshape this year with the addition of Quinerly and his fellow recruits. The young team will utilize what veteran talent they have left, but Wright’s incoming recruits could be used more than they have been in the past to compensate for the team’s losses. Only five times in his 17 seasons at Villanova has Wright put the ball in the hands of a true freshman point guard. The last was now-sophomore Gillespie during his 2017 campaign, but the next could very easily be Quinerly.