At first, Bella Runyan felt overwhelmed.
The Moorestown Friends senior guard had just received the news that the basketball coach she committed to play under at Villanova, Harry Perretta, had announced that he plans to retire at the end of this season.
“My heart kind of sank,” said Runyan, who found out the news on a phone call from her father, former Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan. “I just needed time to process it.”
Runyan looked forward to playing under Perretta, who has won 765 games and patrolled the sideline for 40-plus years with the Wildcats, but she didn’t let his decision affect her plans at the next level.
Despite Perretta’s retirement, Runyan is still committed to playing basketball at Villanova next season. She plans to sign her letter of intent next Wednesday on signing day.
Runyan, who had ‘Nova and Penn in her top two schools under consideration, said she has faith that the athletic department will replace Peretta with another coach who fits the program.
“One hundred percent of my trust is in the program and the athletic director to pick someone that will be a good leader,” Runyan said in a phone interview on Monday. “I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I’ll be happy with whoever is there.”
Runyan said she didn’t pick Villanova solely for its basketball program. One of the main reasons was because of the university’s nursing school and how close in proximity it is to her home.
“It’s much bigger than basketball,” Runyan said. “I’m going to get an amazing education there. I made the conscious decision in my recruiting process not to go to a school just because of basketball, just because of this one coach that was really nice to me, or the girls on the team that I knew, I picked the school. I didn’t pick a basketball program.”
During the offseason, Runyan played AAU basketball with the Philadelphia Belles 17U team. In that time, she worked on her mid-range jumper and three-pointer. She said she thinks it has improved a lot from playing AAU ball, which is a faster pace of basketball compared to her team at Moorestown Friends.
Runyan is playing soccer for the Foxes now, but she’s looking forward to getting back on the basketball court. They start the season Dec. 9 against Overbrook.
Runyan averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals per game last year to help Moorestown Friends achieve a 21-6 record. The Foxes’ season ended with a 70-58 loss to Rutgers Prep in the quarterfinals of the South Non-Public B playoffs.
“It’s going to be really special for me because it’s my last everything,” Runyan said. “It’s going to be my last home opener, my last season opener, so I’m really trying to take every moment and live in the moment. … I think we’re going to do really great things this year.”