In 2002, Villanova coach Jay Wright landed a recruiting class of Jason Fraser, Curtis Sumpter, Allan Ray and Randy Foye that was regarded as one of the nation's best.
Fraser supposedly was the prize of that group, but injuries would change that. Just as they altered Sumpter's future. Still, 4 years later, Foye was everybody's All-America, Ray a 2,000-point career scorer, and the Wildcats made it to the Elite Eight.
Now, Wright might have a similar foursome. Where it leads, only time can tell. But on paper, it certainly looks big-time.
Before yesterday, Villanova already had one of the top set of freshmen coming in next season. Now it may be No. 1. Because Wright was able to add 6-6 guard Dominic Cheek, from powerful St. Anthony's in Jersey City, N.J. And the last piece could turn out to be the best. Again, we'll have to wait and see how it unfolds.
Rivals.com has Cheek rated as the No. 16 high-school prospect, and sixth-best "two" guard. He joins 6-9 power forward Mouphtaou Yarou (No. 14), of Montrose Christian Academy (Rockville, Md.), Roman Catholic lead guard Maalik Wayns (No. 25) and 6-7 forward Isiah Armwood (No. 62), Yarou's teammate.
The others signed national letters of intent in mid-November. Because Cheek waited until now to give his oral commitment, he's not allowed to make this official before April. In the meantime, he will try to help coach Bob Hurley's team repeat as state champions. The team didn't lose a game last season.
"I know I can come in and be a team player," Cheek told Rivals this week. "Get everybody involved and everything."
It came down to Kansas or the Main Line, even though Pittsburgh, Memphis and Rutgers also were interested. Tyshawn Taylor, who was a high school teammate last season, is now in his first year at KU, where he's the third-leading scorer for the defending national champions. And the Jayhawks did beat Villanova in the Sweet 16 last March.
But Cheek also has developed a close relationship with Wayns. And according to a source familiar with the situation, he wanted to stay close to home. It didn't hurt that Wright did a nice job of getting involved with him early. Wright has done well in New York and North Jersey, but this is the first player he's gotten from St. Anthony's.
A month ago, Wright said he was "as excited about this class as any we have brought to Villanova. [They] offer us a unique combination of frontcourt and backcourt talent with exceptional skill and incredible character."
And back then he didn't have Cheek. Don't forget that 6-6 Taylor King will also become eligible next season after sitting out as a transfer from Duke. Last season he averaged 5.5 points and 2.0 rebounds as a freshman.
The Wildcats, who've had guard Malcolm Grant and center Casiem Drummond transfer in the last 8 months because of playing time, are 9-1 and ranked 16th. They've made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament three of the last four seasons. Last season they got as far as the Sweet 16.
They have four seniors, three of whom are part of the eight-man rotation: Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark. Where the new faces will fit in, and how soon, maybe Wright won't know for sure until a year from now. But many figure they'll get their chance right away.
Tuesday night in New York, before the loss to Texas, Wright told ESPN analyst Bob Knight that he's "happy" where he's at. You think? Remember, he already has an oral commitment from James Bell, a 6-4 shooting guard from Montverde (Fla.) Academy whose stock is apparently only going up. He'll arrive in 2010.