Jay Wright Discusses COVID-19's Effect on Recruiting, NBA Draft Prospects and Tokyo Olympics

Villanova coach Jay Wright discusses the effects of COVID-19 on NBA draft prospects, the recruiting trail and the Olympics.
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— Part 1 with Jay Wright discussing the effects of coronavirus on the Villanova campus and what he thinks about the NCAA considering a fifth year of eligibility for seniors can be found here.

Part 3 with Jay Wright discussing the strength of his 2020 team and weighing in on the 2016 Wildcats vs. 2018 Wildcats debate can be found here

Villanova has stamped its mark as a powerhouse on the Division I men’s basketball scene over the past decade, ranking up there with blueblood programs like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky. Head coach Jay Wright has built Villanova into the best basketball culture in the country because he does things differently. 

He doesn’t look to recruit one-and-done superstars, but instead looks to recruit team players who love each other like family and who put team goals ahead of personal ones. All we ever hear from former Villanova players, including those who have taken their talents to the next level in the NBA, is love of the program, love of the Villanova family and most importantly, “playing for the ones before them.”

This year, one of the players who developed immensely was sophomore guard Saddiq Bey, who continued to rise up NBA draft boards as the season progressed. Bey’s development is the latest example of an overlooked recruit who blossomed into a star on the Main Line. 

The sudden abrupt end to the NCAA season has created a new adversity for coaches, players and scouts prior to the NBA combine, draft and summer league. How does that affect a player like Bey?

“Like we all know, this entire process, like everything right now, is fluid," Wright said. "We are communicating with Saddiq and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl daily on just what we hear from the NBA.

"At this point, they mentioned they are probably 30 days away from perhaps resuming games. That was about maybe five or six days ago. We are monitoring the NBA’s decision-making and how they will implement the draft, given their new schedule. We are trying to find these guys places to work out."

So what's the best course of action for players in the meantime? Rest.

"Usually you're in the NCAA tournament, you're a couple of weeks into the tournament, you finish and maybe take a week off. Then you get to start preparing for workouts and the combine and then you go to summer league and then the guys go all the way through to August. So this period of rest right now is important," Wright said. "But, those guys want to get to work. So I'm trying to balance keeping them patient and keeping them out of the gym to rest, knowing the long haul they have coming ahead of them and then also freeing up to facilities for them to work out.”

With the 2019-20 season prematurely in the books, the heavy focus turns to recruiting. The current shutdown of sports isn’t just a hardship on current college athletes, but it also will make landing potential high school recruits more challenging for coaching staffs as well. We're entering an offseason of uncertainty in college basketball.

“Yeah, it's really interesting. We’re staying in touch with recruits through texting and on the phone right now since it's a dead period until April 15. After April 15 I'm sure we're going to have to start making some home visits, maybe via Skype," Wright said. "As we said, this situation is so fluid, we've got to find ways to communicate and find out what the NCAA rules are going to be as we proceed forward."

The college and professional sports world has already felt the effects of seasons being postponed. There was some uncertainty about the status of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which have since been "rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021." Wright was expected to be an assistant under San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. In addition to Wright, the staff was slated to consist of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

“We just got hit with today, before speaking with you, that the Olympics are being canceled. We had come up with what we thought was a really innovative, creative way to work out our players this summer," Wright said. "I was going to have to leave on July 6 to be an assistant to Gregg Popovich on the Olympic team, which would have impacted our workouts in July. So we had planned an entirely different summer session and now that's just blown up. So now we've got to rethink what we're going to do this summer.”

Coaches are to players what parents are to families, often looked upon for guidance and direction. In these uncertain times, the sports world, similar to our own everyday way of life, has come to a sudden halt. Coaches across all sports will be inundated with questions from athletes about whether they should forgo eligibility and take the risk because their family is now faced with unexpected hardships due to this pandemic. For coaches, athletes and their families, this will easily become the most pressing issue they will encounter over the next several months.

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