This isn’t about playing Villanova basketball or your attitude or playing for those who came before (or after.)
Advice for Collin Gillespie: You’re allowed to be selfish, just this one time. This decision ahead, you have to be selfish.
Let’s take Gillespie’s words at face value, that Villanova’s point guard doesn’t yet know what he plans to do after tearing his MCL last week, ending his season, that he’ll consider returning to school but hasn’t thought much about it yet.
In non-pandemic times, there would be no decision to make. Gillespie’s college career would be over. Because of COVID-19, however, the NCAA has rules that this season basically doesn’t exist, that all seniors are eligible to return for another season. The asterisk: The NCAA didn’t say all schools have to grant that extra year, or extend a scholarship. But let’s assume Villanova would be quite willing to have Gillespie back.
» READ MORE: Collin Gillespie's path at Villanova
You see some Villanova fans talking about this decision in terms of needs for Villanova … but that ain’t it. It can’t be it. You’re allowed to think that way, just shouldn’t expect it to matter, since you’re taking money out of his pocket.
Gillespie long ago delivered on any debts owed. Go back to the late hours of April 2, 2018, inside a football stadium in San Antonio. Maybe Villanova was all right without Gillespie’s 16 minutes that night against Michigan in the NCAA championship game, but Gillespie delivered, with five rebounds, four points, an assist, a steal. Can still picture him right up on a Michigan shooter in the corner.
When the All-Big East team was named this weekend, Gillespie was on the first team, after being on the second team last season. He was recently named one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard. Not bad for a backup recruiting choice, sought after Villanova’s top three or four targets went elsewhere. (None of them was ever a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, although Lonnie Walker, who chose Miami over Villanova, didn’t stick around college long enough to find out. Walker is now a third-year NBA pro and a regular starter for the San Antonio Spurs.)
Would Gillespie love a March run to call his own, like Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson before him? Sure, probably, who wouldn’t? Is it terrible that he will now be deprived of that possibility in two consecutive years? Check, check.
This decision, however, is about his future, not his past. It’s hard — no, it’s impossible — to believe another year at Villanova would make Gillespie more ready than he already is for the next phase of his hoop career. It’s selfish of anyone else to frame his decision in those terms. You get only so many years to make money from your skills. Another year means less career earnings.
By the way, it’s not easy to play for Jay Wright, even for the stars. You earn your scholarship, the same way Villanova earns those titles. Sometimes even the stars are ready to move on.
Maybe the recovery timetable ultimately factors in, if Gillespie gets concerned about being ready in time to show his wares for the pros. An expected summer return might not factor in, though. If he’s not supposed to be drafted, draft workouts aren’t as important. Teams already know about what Gillespie can offer.
Before this season, I asked three NBA scouts, all with voices in draft rooms on draft night, about Gillespie’s NBA future. All three suggested he might have one, but he also might have a path that includes playing overseas or in the G League, or maybe working on a two-way contract. There was a lot of respect, however, for the possibility of Gillespie’s eventually landing in the NBA.
Now, if Gillespie’s self-interest goes another way … if he thinks he’s going to look back at the whole basketball thing at some late age and wishes he had the ball in his hands for one more NCAA Tournament, maybe that’s a perfectly reasonable reason to return.
It’s not the usual reason, though. I remember having a similar conversation with an NBA decision-maker last spring about Saddiq Bey. The guy thought it incredibly naive to frame any decision in terms of Villanova’s NCAA Tournament potential. Usually, if they’re ready to pay you, you go. (Bey, ready.)
» READ MORE: What more could Gillespie learn?
Is it fair to ask Gillespie to be so different in his decision-making? Obviously not. Villanova would be better with him, carry on without him … and none of that matters.
Collin, your decision this time is based on the name on the back of the jersey, not the one on the front.