After extending their season into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Villanova’s players and coaches met Monday to discuss the strange season that just ended and wondered about the team’s makeup moving forward.
What seems almost certain is the departure of forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder in 2020-21, to the NBA draft. What’s up in the air is the status of the team’s three seniors — Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree — and whether they’ll accept the extra year of eligibility provided by the NCAA in the year of the pandemic.
Robinson-Earl said Monday he has given advancing to the next level “a little bit” of thought but that he still needs to unwind from the just-concluded season.
“This has been our first day kind of just getting back from the whole year, being in a bubble and just dealing with all that,” he said. “So I’ve kind of been relaxing. I was able to see my mom and being able to enjoy those moments. But for sure, we’ll sit down with my mom and with the coaches and talk about my future and where that will lead.”
Robinson-Earl averaged 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds this season while shooting 49.7% from the floor. He showed his versatility late in the season after Gillespie went down on March 3 with a torn left knee ligament, playing some at the point and having the offense go through him.
He briefly went through the NBA draft process last season before taking his name out and returning for his second year. He felt that helped him a great deal.
“The reason I came back was just to mature and expand my game and just become an overall better player,” he said. “I wanted to experience the full Villanova experience even though it was different. But we did play in the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Wright has no doubts, saying Robinson-Earl is “definitely ready.”
“I think he has the ability to be a complete player at the next level,” he said. “I actually think his offensive game will fit the next level even better than it is in college because he’s a face-up guy, an iso guy, but he can also score in the post on any mismatch and he’s a great rebounder, and for the position he’ll play in the NBA, I think he’ll be even better than college.
“In college you get stuck guarding 5-men a lot, still was a great rebounder. But the way we played, we switched him out on point guards a lot so he wasn’t around the rim to rebound. He’s out on the perimeter guarding a point guard, and that’s the final piece that’s I think is going to make him an outstanding NBA player. He can guard 1 through 5, even in the NBA.”
Robinson-Earl is either a late first-round or early second-round choice in most mock NBA drafts.
Wright said he was beginning conversations with his three seniors about their options. Gillespie underwent surgery March 10 for a torn left medial collateral ligament and hopes to be back to near full strength by June. The versatile Samuels had the best season of his career with scoring, rebounding, passing and playing defense.
As for Cosby-Roundtree, he has missed the entire season with a tibial stress fracture in his left leg. Wright said whether he returns for next season will be based on his health, but that won’t be decided until at least the summer.
He said he has started talking to Gillespie and Samuels about the NBA, which announced Monday that it will hold its draft on July 29, and conduct its combine starting June 21.
“We have started the discussions,” he said. “We’re trying to put a plan together and the best we can do is just be honest and try to take care of our players first.”
A new variable this off-season is the ever-growing NCAA transfer portal, which at last check Monday contained almost 1,000 names. As Wright has discovered, some of those players think of the Main Line as a destination to continue their careers.
“We just have not been really active in this transfer environment,” he said. “So this is all new to us. We addressed it today with our team and because of the way college basketball is now, I think people are literally recruiting guys off of other teams, so you know your players have to deal with it. They’re forced into it, and then we are forced into it.
“So we’re going to try to handle it as a team the best we can, try to do the best for our players that we can, and be honest with the people that are contacting us that want to transfer. I don’t have a blueprint for this. We’re just going to try to be honest and do the best we can.”