Maurice Sutton could have gone to Indiana and probably gotten a chance to contribute a lot sooner.

That doesn't mean he won't be able to help Villanova's basketball team next season. It just means the Wildcats return nearly everyone from a team that made it to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed and have no pressing needs.

The Hoosiers, meanwhile, try to pick up the pieces, under Tom Crean, from the phone-call scandal under Kelvin Sampson.

Sutton, a 6-10, 210-pound center-forward from Largo (Md.) High, announced yesterday afternoon that he had chosen Villanova over IU and Seton Hall, on the final day of the national signing period. He averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds as a senior and was considered by many experts to be the best unsigned prospect remaining in the 2008 recruiting class.

"It came down to what God said," Sutton explained. "What God says goes.

"When I went to Villanova [last week] for my visit, it just felt right. So that's where God wanted me to go. And I just felt good about coach [Jay] Wright. It was everything. His personality, just the way he came in, being so honest. I know his track record. There was something about him I really liked and respected.

"I can say I love for him to coach me, for however many years I'm at Villanova."

Sutton obviously needs to bulk up, which has led some to speculate he could be a candidate to redshirt as a freshman.

"I definitely need to get stronger for the college level," he said. "Other than that, I think I can come in and do great . . . My goal is to put on weight, play hard, do whatever I need to do and see the fruits of my labor. Coach says [sitting out] is on my shoulders; I'm ready to give them what I've got. I'm comfortable with the body I have right now. But I have to start looking at what it takes to play in the Big East."

His mother, Gwen, played basketball at North Carolina State. His father, Maurice Sr., played football at Norfolk State.

"As a family, we talked and prayed about [my decision] every day," said Sutton, who is one of three children. "I had a lot of good choices. This was the best one.

"They've done some good things lately [at Villanova]. I want to be part of that." *