- Next up in our freshman intro series are two five-star freshmen at Villanova: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine.
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. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. 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. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up are the No. 16 and 17 overall recruits, Villanova's Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What They Mean for Villanova’s Recruiting Class
Landing a pair of five-stars in the same year is always a positive—but it’s an especially big boost for a still-rebuilding Villanova. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (No. 16) and Bryan Antoine (No. 17) are the stars of Jay Wright’s No. 5 ranked recruiting class. The incoming power forward and shooting guard, respectively, are joined by fellow four-star freshman Justin Moore (No. 56) and Eric Dixon (No. 70), along with two-star point guard Chris Arcidiacono, brother of former Wildcat point guard Ryan. Moore, a second shooting guard, and Dixon, another power forward, are two more talented assets for the Wildcats. Villanova also landed Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels, but the incoming wing will have to sit a year before becoming eligible. The four eligible freshmen, however, bring a lot of potential to a young squad. Robinson-Earl and Antoine—the second and third highest-rated recruits to ever sign with the program behind Mouphtaou Yarou in 2009–should both slot in Wright’s rotation from the jump, helping to round out Villanova’s starters in light of departures in both the back and frontcourts.
How They Fit
Phil Booth and Collin Gillespie split time running the floor last season, with Booth taking more of the responsibility at point and Gillespie often slotting in at the two. But with Booth’s graduation, the transfer of former five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly to Alabama and a slew of incoming shooting guards without a true point among them (assuming Arcidiacono is more of a benchwarmer than anything else), Gillespie will likely slide into the primary facilitator role this season with Antoine taking over at the two as soon as he’s healthy (the freshman is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and a definitive timeline for his return has not yet been set by the school). Forward Saddiq Bey should swing the three—he’s a talented three-point shooter with a complementary physicality who could be poised for a breakout sophomore season for ‘Nova‚while Robinson-Earl fits into the Paschall-sized void left at the four after the big man graduated. Junior Jermaine Samuels can provide some size between the four and the five, especially without a true center on the Wildcats roster. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, junior, and sophomore Cole Swider will also help at the post, as should newcomer Eric Dixon. At only 6’6", Dixon isn’t the biggest presence in the paint but his long arms and 250-pound frame should still enable him to excel at center at the college level. While Bey and Robinson-Earl are likely locks for frontcourt starters, Samuels, Cosby-Roundtree, Swider, Dixon and sophomore Brandon Slater provide some mix and match potential for Wright to work with as he fills out what should be a fluid frontcourt rotation which fits with the type of positionless play the two-time Coach of the Year prefers.
Antoine averaged nearly 21 points per game as a high school senior. The wiry 6’5” shooting guard finished his career as the Jersey Shore's all-time leading scorer with 2,514 points. With a nice bounce and decently developed range already, what Antoine really needs is to add some strength to his 168-pound frame. Without a college-level physique, the biggest thing the freshman brings to the floor is his shooting. Known more for his finishes than his facilitating, he’ll be an asset on the scoring front as a quality outside shooter but is much more of a true two than Gillespie. He hasn’t yet proven himself when it comes to playmaking. His size, however, is more of a concern than his on-ball abilities, but neither prevented him from driving to the basket for a quick two in high school. He does bring some defensive potential which the Widlcats need—Antoine rebounds well for his position and should come in as an immediate contributor in a three-and-D role for Villanova. Four-star Moore should provide some relief on the wing as a solid backup for the McDonald’s All-American, as could Swider or Samuels if needed.
Robinson-Earl brings a bit of height to the Wildcats’ frontcourt at 6’9” and will help on the boards, two things which Wright definitely needs this season. The five-star forward boasts a reliable combination of strength and athleticism but isn’t a consistent outside shooter quite yet. He possesses a skillset that mirrors Paschall’s style of play sans the perimeter contributions and should fit into the system that Wright usually runs on both sides of the ball. He’s effective in traffic with an average midrange game, although his three-point shot needs some work, as mentioned. He’ll be most helpful at the rim with dependable putbacks and on defense. He’s a physical presence with a proven ability to get to the basket and the potential to be a bigger lift on the boards as his skillset develops. His rebounding isn’t bad but it’s also not tremendous and, especially without Paschall on the floor anymore, will need to improve, as will his range. He’s a grab-and-go guy who can help get some points in the paint and in transition but there are definitely places where developments are needed to make Robinson-Earl a more versatile asset for the Wildcats.
Importance to Villanova's Success/Team Outlook
After winning two national titles in a three-year span, the Jay Wright era of success stalled somewhat in 2018–19. Despite winning the Big East and the conference tournament last season, the defending NCAA champions were ousted by Purdue in the Round of 32. The Wildcats lost Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman after the 2018 championship and then their remaining title-winning stars, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall after last season. Gillespie had a breakout sophomore season, Samuels also stepped up in his second season and Bey showed promise as a freshman, but despite being the team’s remaining top-scorers, the three only combined for 25.5 points per game in 2018–19. Booth and Paschall, for comparison, posted a combined 35.1 points for Villanova during the same season. The additions of Antoine and Robinson-Earl will hopefully help Villanova return to being a national contender by bringing scoring potential and filling much-needed slots on the floor. Both are pretty raw, but there’s plenty of potential for Wright to work with.