Basically, every Villanova game is the same. You don’t make it to tipoff before the topic comes up in conversation, walking through the crowd or in the press room. Sometimes, you start it. The topic? Quinerly.
It’s not a What’s wrong? More of a How do you think he’s handling it? For freshman point guard Jahvon Quinerly, this week provided some answers. Maybe.
Presumably for the first time in his life, Quinerly waits his turn. He was a McDonald’s All-American, a big-time recruit, ticketed originally for Arizona before the FBI investigation changed his course to his second choice.
“Was my 2nd choice for a reason,’’ Quinerly wrote on his Instagram account right after Tuesday’s loss to Penn. What? Quinerly quickly deleted it, but it had already gone semi-viral. I got two texts about it while typing in the press room after the game.
How was he handling not playing? Asked and answered, in 33 characters. Except the deletion was followed by a talk with his coach and who knows who else. And Quinerly himself put out another message Thursday on social media:
“After suffering a disappointing loss to Penn Tuesday night, I briefly posted a controversial comment on Instagram. I knew it was a mistake as soon as it was posted, and immediately removed it. I want to apologize to my fellow students, the Villanova Alumni, the fans, my coaches and my teammates for the embarrassment and the controversy I have caused our program. I regret what I said, and have learned an important lesson about the power and reach of social media and the impact of having an impulsive reaction in a public forum. I will work hard to regain your trust and support.”
Really well put. A mature response. Let’s face it, it’s not just the loss. If you’re used to not only playing but being a star, this is tough. A conversation about Quinerly before the Penn game included a former college head coach who mentioned that things would have been easier if Quinerly had been rated in the top 150 coming out of high school, not top 25. Those top 25 guys come with different expectations. The people around them have different expectations. So does the outside world.
Yes, Mikal Bridges was redshirted coming out of Great Valley High and life worked out more than fine. But Bridges wasn’t rated so highly. Josh Hart waited his turn. Yes, Jalen Brunson, McDonald’s All-American, started as a freshman, but Brunson wasn’t in at the end of the 2016 NCAA title game and, according to coach Jay Wright, didn’t say a word, just celebrated. Another thing about Brunson: You knew he was more game ready since he had just been named most outstanding player of the U-19 World Championships. You saw him leading a team that also included Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles.
Meanwhile, Quinerly’s game requires waiting. That quickly becomes obvious. He’s a true point guard but not a shooter, and as is true for most freshmen, picking up defensive concepts takes time. We’re not judging him statistically -- more turnovers than assists, 27 percent shooting -- since it’s very hard to come in for limited minutes and play with full confidence. Averaging less than 9 minutes a game, and getting 13 minutes total over Villanova’s last six games, makes it impossible. But if you’re having problems making defensive switches, you’re a liability for Villanova.
Maybe seven or eight years ago, Wright would have played Quinerly a little more out of concerns about losing him. But Wright has talked about lessons learned in past seasons, how Villanova’s culture as he’s developed it has to come first. Two NCAA titles in three years understandably give Wright the weight of his convictions. It’s now up to Villanova players to adapt to the culture, not the other way around.
Quinerly’s Instagram post, even deleted, made you think, well, he’s out. He’s decided this isn’t right for him. The mea culpa, which also went to Quinerly’s 31,400 Twitter followers, suggests not so fast. Again, a really mature statement. Fans should root for such a person.
For those away from Philly saying Wright doesn’t know how to handle the one-and-done culture, that’s ridiculous. This isn’t about that. Quinerly isn’t close to being NBA-ready. Right now, the question of whether he has a future in that league will only be answered by his future work. In the preseason, Wright said Quinerly is the quickest player he’s had at Villanova, and quickness is the greatest building block of all, so don’t sell Quinerly short.
Regular Villanova watchers know that guards Phil Booth and Collin Gillespie, proven contributors to national titles, bring a lot more to a game. It’s not close. Saddiq Bey is the freshman who quickly proved he is college-ready, a multidimensional player. Even as Villanova shows that last season is gone, beyond the three losses going into Saturday’s game at Kansas, you can understand why things are like they are, culture first.
“It’s a learning experience,’’ Wright told the Inquirer and Daily News Wednesday about Quinerly. “We all know he’s a good kid, so it’s not an issue that concerns us. We accept his apology.”
In some ways, the conversations go back to square one. What’s Quinerly’s future at Villanova? That still seems mostly up to him.