In the 76ers’ most talented predraft workout to date, two familiar faces stuck out on Saturday morning.
Villanova products Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, teammates since Paschall transferred to 'Nova from Fordham in 2015, went through drills and scrimmages along with Tennessee’s Grant Williams, Oregon’s Louis King, Louisville’s V.J. King, and Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson.
Once role players on a championship team, Paschall and Booth took over the reins last season at Villanova as Jay Wright’s go-to guys and the team’s leading scorers.
Both have been traveling the country the last few weeks, auditioning for multiple teams in predraft workouts, and were surprised that they would be back in Philadelphia, reunited for an NBA workout with the Sixers.
“That was funny," Paschall said. "My agent told me, ‘Yeah, Phil is in the workout.' I just started laughing. I can’t get away from this kid no matter what.”
“That’s my guy,” Booth said. “I actually haven’t seen him in a long time ... Of all places, we come back to Philly to work out together.”
For the Sixers, there’s more to the situation than just the local angle and the marketability of players from Philadelphia area schools. There’s a robust respect and expectation for the players that come through the local systems and the continued success of those players makes extending a workout invitation an easy choice.
“We need talent and Villanova, and Temple, and St. Joe’s, and these schools bring them in," Sixers senior director of scouting Vince Rozman said. "They all have really, really successful college careers and it’s fun to watch.”
It’s not just the talent level of 'Nova prospects that intrigues the Sixers. There’s also an intangible amount of awareness in their longer tenured players that is valuable when transitioning from college to the NBA.
“What’s interesting about their group is that they kind of have to accept progression of roles throughout their career,” Rozman said.
That idea is not lost on Paschall or Booth. They’ve seen it all, which means they’re ready for anything.
After starting every game in his freshman season at Fordham, Paschall transferred to Villanova, where he had to sit out for the 2015-16 season. He watched his new team win a national championship that year on Kris Jenkins’ famous buzzer-beating shot. Often overlooked is Booth’s team-high 20 points, scored off the bench in that game.
Booth missed most of the next season with a knee injury and Paschall started only eight games, averaging just 7.2 points for the Wildcats. It wasn’t until the 2017-18 season that the two were thrust into starting positions and regular contributors, and in the end it all paid off in another national title for Villanova.
“Being in every situation ... that all helps,” Paschall said. “Because in the NBA you’re not going to always come in and be the man.”
Paschall is projected to be a late first-round or early second-round draft pick, and Booth may not hear his name called on draft night. But all of their work, under Wright’s tutelage, has made them believe that they will be successful at the next level because they’ve been taught the patience and understanding it takes to compete with the best.
“They make you be an overall great player,” Booth said of the coaching staff at Villanova. “They try to make you the best defensive player, offensive player, teach you how to play hard, rebound, do all the little things on the court.”
Those are the kinds of things that led to both having the best year of their college careers, despite not competing for another title. Paschall finished his final season at 'Nova averaging 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Booth closed out the year averaging 18.6 points per game. Both shot over 34 percent from three-point range.
It all sounds good on paper. But, the workouts are as exhilarating as they are nerve wracking for the young hopefuls because nobody knows what will happen on draft night and if they’ll be able to make their collegiate work translate to an NBA court.