If Villanova made a mistake with Jahvon Quinerly, it was on the front end, the recruiting end. Almost by definition, that’s obvious. When a player doesn’t prove to be a fit, it’s an evaluation mistake. Villanova didn’t win two NCAA titles in the last four years by making many recruiting errors. This was one.
Yes, sometimes those mistakes can be with the players perceived to be the top recruits, and those are the mistakes that get magnified.
It’s all moot now. Villanova announced Wednesday that Quinerly is transferring. It’s way up the list of least-surprising transfer announcements of all time.
By the way, it might not have been obvious right away to Villanova that Quinerly wasn’t a perfect fit. I can remember being at a media day Villanova held for its first “official” practice. Quinerly was one of the couple of players made available. Jay Wright talked about him being the fastest player he’d coached. The vibe was all fine.
Of course, vibes didn’t help against Michigan. Decisions quickly had to be made to keep a season from sinking. I know a lot of people who argue that future development should have been factored in more in that decision, since Villanova wasn’t going to win a national title this season.
That was wrong thinking, in my opinion, because Villanova did achieve a lot this season. Big East regular-season and tournament titles aren’t sold at the dollar store. Even if this proved to be a down year for the top of the Big East, that made the title more worth going for, not less.
Also, the idea that Quinerly’s development was more important than that of other players is a fallacy. Collin Gillespie’s development, for instance, was every bit as important, and you’ll eventually look back in a couple years and say it was far more important. Gillespie’s season had ups and downs, but the sophomore guard was a crucial contributor to two Big East titles and a national title, and he will be more crucial next season, as more young stars show up. (You point to Gillespie’s struggles in the Big East tournament; I’ll point to the five three-pointers and six assists he had against Providence, or the Wildcats might not have gotten out of the quarterfinals.)
Also, the Wildcats were one of the slowest-paced teams in the nation. Forcing the action this season, with Quinerly or anybody else, wouldn’t have been pretty.
Being a McDonald’s All-American with a high recruiting ranking put the spotlight on Quinerly. I’ve argued that if Quinerly was simply all-Delco from Bonner or all-South Jersey from Eastern, the conversation would have been flipped, with people wondering why Wright was force-feeding a freshman who wasn’t ready.
Quinerly made some contributions, especially during a winning stretch in early January, but his overall numbers did not justify more time. He looked new to the defensive switches so crucial to how Villanova plays. His effective field-goal percentage might not be a fair rating, given his lack of chances to find a comfort zone, but it still was the lowest of any 'Nova player over the last five seasons who played double-digit minutes in at least 10 games. A 25 percent three-point percentage simply wasn’t going to help this group.
I’m not trying to kill Quinerly. This all must have been torture for a guy used to being the guy. He only had one external hiccup, although it was a massive one, right after Villanova was upset by Penn in December. “Was my 2nd choice for a reason," Quinerly wrote on his Instagram account right after the loss, after he had gotten in for mere seconds -- the official box score showing Quinerly played, but for zero minutes. His post was a reference easily understood by Villanova fans, how Quinerly had originally committed to Arizona, before a federal investigation derailed those plans and he went to ‘Nova.
Quinerly quickly deleted the post, but it was too late, since Villanova fans follow that account. I got two texts about it while typing in the press room after the game. Past his obvious frustration, it was fair to wonder how much of a team guy Quinerly really was.