In continuing our annual summer theme of getting you acquainted with the next crop of young, skilled players that will arrive to college basketball, we're taking a closer look at the Top 10 incoming recruiting classes (per the 247Sports composite) in the country. These schools range from the usual faces (Duke, Kentucky) to fresh ones (Memphis, Washington, Georgia), but they all have one big thing in common: there's plenty of major talent arriving. Five-stars get the headline, but a truly great recruiting class often has depth as well—players who can be program-changers over three or four years, not just one or two. Without further ado, let's move to the next top-10 class: the Villanova Wildcats.
Four-Stars: Justin Moore (No. 52), Eric Dixon (No. 67)
Other New Additions: Caleb Daniels (from Tulane)
How the Class Was Built
Spring 2018: Four-star big man Eric Dixon was the first to commit to the Wildcats’ 2019 class with his April pledge. The Abington forward opted to stay home to play for Jay Wright. Four-star guard Justin Moore joined him in May, choosing Villanova over offers from Louisville, Maryland, Notre Dame and Wake Forest. The DeMatha (D.C.) product’s pledge allowed the team to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Phil Booth would be gone after this season.
Fall 2018: Duke was long thought to be the favorite for five-star shooting guard Brian Antoine, but Villanova came on strong in the summer and got Antoine to commit in early September before he began taking official visits. Highly touted frontcourt star Jeremiah Robinson-Earl committed to the Wildcats on Oct. 30. The five-star big man from Kansas picked ‘Nova over a final five that included Kansas, Arizona, Notre Dame and Carolina. Robinson-Earl filled out the four-man class and wrapped up the recruiting cycle relatively early.
How It Stacks Up to 2018 and Recent History
Consisting of four top-75 recruits, Jay Wright wrangled another talented class for the Wildcats that’s consistent with the program’s recent success. The two-time COY has now reeled in at least one five-star prospect in four of the last five classes, landing multiple this season for the first time in a decade since Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns headlined 2009’s No. 4 ranked recruiting class. Villanova has had a blueprint for success on the recruiting trail, securing top-50 classes for the last 10 years straight including two back-to-back top-10 groups in 2018 and 2019. Although last year’s five-star headliner Jahvon Quinerly wound up transferring to Alabama, Wright has still proven himself as a talented recruiter capable of spotting great glue guys and building teams with a winning combination of chemistry, experience, and depth (hence the two recent national titles).
Robinson-Earl and Antoine are the No. 2 and 3 highest-ranked recruits to ever commit to the Wildcats, behind Yarou in 2009, and the highest since Omari Spellman joined Villanova’s class of 2016. Quinerly was expected to be the star of last year’s newcomers but wound up averaging just 9.1 minutes off the bench, but both four-star Cole Swider and three-star Saddiq Bey saw the floor and performed well. Bey, the lowest-ranked recruit of the class’s four freshman, actually worked his way into a starting role by the end of the season and was crucial to the team’s postseason success in the Big East tournament. This year’s class should bring a bit more immediate impact to the team than last year’s crew did (all four should see the floor this season), but size-wise they bring the same number of newcomers to Villanova.
Villanova isn’t known for churning out one-and-done prospects, and while both of the program’s incoming five-star faces could go in the first round, there’s also a good chance they’ll be multi-year guys for Jay Wright. Antoine is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and a definitive timeline for his return has not yet been set by the school, which may also make it more likely he stays for two seasons instead of one, but his decision could go either way depending on when he returns and what he does for Villanova once he’s back in action. Antoine is already 19, compared to many of the 17- and 18-year old’s in the class, so it won’t be a huge shock if he does decide to enter the draft after this season. Robinson-Earl is talented but he’s more of a system player who probably will need two years to really showcase everything he has to offer his future NBA team. Moore and Dixon will definitely be around for longer, likely exhausting the duration of their eligibility with the Wildcats. All should make an immediate impact as ‘Nova moves into the post-Phil Booth and Eric Paschall era.
Team Expectations for 2019–20
After winning two national titles in a three-year span, the Jay Wright era of success stalled somewhat. Despite winning the Big East and the conference tournament last season, the defending NCAA champions were ousted by Purdue in the Round of 32 in the 2019 tournament. The Wildcats have since lost their remaining title-winning stars, Booth and Paschall, but bring in a decent amount of young talent and saw a few players step up last season who bring promise for the upcoming year. Junior guard Collin Gillespie had a breakout sophomore campaign while Jermaine Samuels also stepped up in his second season. Bey showed promise as a freshman and should help again up front. Despite that trio being the team’s remaining top-scorers, they 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 ideally bring scoring contributions while Moore and Dixon add a bit more depth on both ends of the court and help fill in a few newly-vacated spots on the floor. They’re young, but with Gillespie, Samuels and Bey to lead the way, there’s plenty of potential for Wright to work with.
The Wildcats have yet to lockdown any 2020 prospects despite the early commitments of all of their 2019 newcomers. Villanova actually hasn’t even offered that many recruits, which may speak to the amount of return the team expects after this season. Wright’s top point guard target, Jeremy Roach, pledged to Duke, while the only shooting guard they’ve offered—five-star Jaden Springer—seems unlikely to wind up a Wildcat. Five-star combo guard Jalen Green is still on the team’s radar, as is five-star forward Isaiah Todd. None of the team’s most prominent prospects seem to be leaning heavily toward joining the program just yet, but expect Wright to at least land a couple solid options before the cycle is out.