After a memorable summer that included winning a bronze medal playing with Team USA at the Pan American Games in Peru, Collin Gillespie has endured a difficult preseason that has affected his preparations for the start of Villanova’s basketball season.
The junior point guard first was idled by plantar fasciitis. Then, shortly after he came back, he suffered a broken nose in practice earlier this month. He underwent surgery last week and was unable to travel to the Wildcats’ exhibition game at Southern California.
As for the team’s regular-season opener Nov. 5 against Army at Finneran Pavilion, Gillespie looked an interviewer right in the eye and said, “I’m playing.” But he must wear a mask.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said Thursday at the team’s media day. “I’ve started working out with it a few times already now, just like shooting type of workouts. I’m going to keep working out with it, and I’ll get used to it eventually.”
The team’s returning scorer (averaged 10.9 points per game) from last season, Gillespie said he spoke with former teammate Joe Cremo, who broke his nose and wore a mask in his first several games, to get some pointers.
“It’s definitely frustrating because it fogs up and you see the mask before you see everything else, so it’s definitely difficult to adjust to,” he said. “But I’ll get used to it with time.”
Gillespie, who scored 25 points in Team USA’s bronze-medal game victory, will not play in Villanova’s “secret” closed scrimmage at North Carolina this weekend. Coach Jay Wright said he will be re-evaluated on Monday to see when he can start to fully participate in practice.
“That’s what we’ve got to look at, what can he do Monday?” Wright said. “Can he practice live? Can he just shoot with the mask? We’ll have to see how he does next week.”
With freshman Bryan Antoine still recovering from shoulder surgery that will sideline him at least until the end of November, the Wildcats are down two valuable guards. Wright has been using freshman Justin Moore, primarily a shooting guard, at the point and even had 6-8 forward Saddiq Bey handling the ball against USC.
Looking for a positive, Wright said some early rest for Gillespie, who averaged almost 30 minutes a game, might be good in the long run. But Gillespie just wants to play.
“It’s definitely good to have the rest, but it’s been frustrating once you’re away from the game for a little while,” he said. “It’s been a few weeks, injuries on top of each other. But my main focus is just getting healthy and getting ready for the season now, just little injuries that I can deal with and I can play with.”