Bryan Antoine doesn’t care that maybe less than half of the 3,370 seats at HTC Center will be occupied at 11:30 on a Thursday morning when Villanova opens play in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
All the highly regarded 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Tinton Falls, N.J., cares about is that he finally has been medically cleared and will get a chance to play basketball, about eight months after his final game with The Ranney School.
Antoine can’t wait.
“I feel like I’m ready enough to play,” Antoine said Wednesday in a telephone interview after the 17th-ranked Wildcats (2-1) practiced for their game against Middle Tennessee State (3-1) in Conway, S.C.
“No matter if (the arena) was packed or not, I’m just going in there and playing hard from the first second. No matter if I play a couple of minutes, a long time, it doesn’t matter, just play hard.”
Antoine, a five-star recruit as a senior, averaged 21.3 points per game last season at Ranney, which finished 31-3 and won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. He played the entire season with a sore right shoulder, and he underwent surgery on May 31 for a torn labrum.
Antoine wasn’t cleared to practice until Nov. 7, and doctors Tuesday gave him the green light to compete in a game this week.
“I was expecting to play earlier, but that’s just how I saw it,” he said. “The doctors have their own views and opinions. But I guess being able to play before Thanksgiving kind of did surprise me.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he will be cautious.
“Given that he hasn’t really been practicing except for maybe three days, he’s looked really good,” he said. “We’re going to use this as more of trying to get him as many minutes as we can. It’s kind of tough to put him in a tight situation because he really hasn’t been playing, but any minutes we can get him, we’re going to try.”
The Wildcats are looking to extend a streak of success in November tournaments, having won one in each of the last six years and going 16-0 during that stretch.
They will play either Mississippi State or Tulane on Friday and one more game on Sunday. Baylor, at No. 24, is the only other ranked team in the field.
Jerseys to be retired