In an offseason unlike any in the history of college basketball, Villanova’s Saddiq Bey looks for ways to continue to improve so he’ll be ready whenever the coronavirus pandemic subsides and he’ll be able to play basketball again.
In the case of Bey, announced Tuesday as the winner of the Julius Erving Award presented to the nation’s top small forward, the next step is testing the waters of the NBA draft whenever the league believes it has the all-clear to resume operations.
“I will definitely go through that process, whenever I’ll be able to, whenever that opens up, and I’ll be keeping my options open for sure,” Bey, who just completed his sophomore season, said Tuesday in a conference call. “I have to see how it unfolds.
“I’m just talking to our coaching staff and my family and stuff like that, just trying to stay ready. It’s uncharted territory, so I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just staying ready for anything, and just being ready for it when that time comes.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright said freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl also would put his name in for the draft. The dilemma for both players, he said, would be the uncertainty of not only when the NBA can schedule the draft, but also if and how the NCAA will adjust its rule about how long it will give players to return to their college teams.
“I’ve talked to guys that I know in the NBA,” Wright said. “My general feeling is, the NCAA can’t do anything until the NBA comes up with their plan. I don’t have the NCAA timetable in front of me, but I think it’s something like June 3 that guys would have to make their decision whether they were going to stay or enter the draft.
“But I think the NBA might not have their draft until August or September. I think once the NCAA sees what the NBA is going to do, I just have a gut feeling from the people I’m talking to – and no decisions have been made, so don’t hold me to this – I think the NCAA will be lenient with these guys to try to give them as much time as possible to get information because it’s such a one-off year.”
Of course, having two players who could be drafted affects the Wildcats’ 2020-21 roster. Given how delayed the draft could end up being, it would be too late for Wright to replace that player, although he’s apparently not worried about it.
“I don’t think this is going to affect us in recruiting with the 2020 class,” he said, “but it’s definitely going to affect us with the ’21 class the way we recruit, not being able to get out in the spring to evaluate, we’re not getting guys on campus in the spring.
“But if it affects us and hurts us a little bit, so what? Suck it up. There’s a lot more important things going on in our world right now.”
The Wildcats will return three seniors next season – Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
Bey, who averaged 16.1 points per game last season and shot a Big East-best 45.1% on three-point attempts, said he is working out the best way he can, looking to see if any courts are open for shooting. But mostly he’s trying what he called “old-school” training, doing workouts and runs outdoors. He said it’s similar to what his mother and his uncle – both of whom played college basketball – did.
“I get good assurances from people like my uncle and my mom,” he said. “Back in the day, they used to do the same things – run outside and have that old-school mentality. I kind of like it, just being able to work outside a little bit, outside facilities. I began to fall in love with it.”
That work ethic helped make Bey a unanimous first-team All-Big East player this season, a sure first-round NBA pick in many mock drafts, and Villanova’s third Erving Award winner in the last four years.
“I think it’s really fitting that he wins the Julius Erving Award,” Wright said. “I think he’s very similar [to Erving]. He’s multidimensional as a player, can guard different positions, can be creative offensively, he’s got great length, and then off the court, he’s kind of a quiet, classy, well-respected leader on this team, really intelligent, an undervalued defender, which I think Julius was, too.
“Maybe he’s not as flashy and pretty, but he’s very similar as a player and a person, mostly in terms of how he’s respected by his teammates. So it’s just a great fit. We’re really proud of him.”
In a statement released by the Basketball Hall of Fame, Erving, the former 76er, said he was proud to present Bey with the award.
“As a sophomore, Saddiq Bey was an all-around competitor delivering buckets and consistency when Villanova needed it most,” he said. “To come into a well-established program and find your place as an underclassman is no easy task, and it’s clear Saddiq earned the respect of his teammates and competition.”