Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Full circle: Villanova leaders get a taste of the Final Four in 2018

SAN ANTONIO ( Associated Press) — Jermaine Samuels and Colin Gillespie were both on the floor for the final seconds of Villanova’s national championship win four years ago. He was a true freshman in a title team with five NBA-bound players.

He is now a fifth-year senior to lead the Wildcats, who are another NCAA Final Four after Samuels’ South Zone MVP. And third-team Associated Press All-America point guard Gillespie scored a clutch shot late in the regional finals.

“It’s crazy how things have come full circle,” Samuels said. “At the time, it was amazing to see those guys from the sidelines. I had front-row tickets to some of the greatest Villanova basketball players who were never wearing jerseys.”

The Wildcats (30-7) have made it to the Final Four He also won it all in 2016 — the third time in the last six NCAA tournaments. They play in the first national semifinal game against Big 12 champion Kansas at the Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, the only No. 1 seed left this year. Tournament

When Villanova won the 2018 title at the Alamodome, the roster included All-America guard Jalen Brunson, Mikael Bridges, Final Four MVP Donette DiVincenzo, Eric Paschal and Omari Spellman, all NBA draft picks. Phil Booth played overseas professionally.

Samuels said, “You take all those experiences with you, and you try to emulate them and be them, and they do what they do and put the work in as they put and pray.” Let it work for you.”

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“Those people taught us a lot. …they’re a big part of the reason we are who we are today,” Gillespie said. “We learned a ton from those people. Now we play for those guys.”

Brunson, now with the Dallas Mavericks, said he spoke with Gillespie on Sunday, the day the Novas beat Houston 50-44. The Mavs guard also made sure to mention fifth-year forward Dhami Cosby-Roundtree, who played in all 40 games as a true freshman in 2017-18 but was ruled out last season and not since December due to multiple surgeries. Play. Leg.

“The whole team is family. But especially the three of them, playing with them, I am really proud of them. They are special. From a class that really, honestly, no one really believed in him, other than us, the team,” Brunson said as the Mavericks beat Utah Sunday night, when Paschall got a rare start to jazz. “But we, as a family, as a program, we knew what they could do. They brought us back to the Promised Land.”

Leading scorer Gillespie (15.6 points per game) and top rebounder Samuels (6.5 per game) are both graduate students and the start of the fourth year for coach Jay Wright followed an additional season of eligibility all players received due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .

Samuels played only 98 seconds in the 2018 Final Four combined in two late-game appearances. He recorded a semifinal victory over Kansas with a 1:28, and was only in the final 10 seconds of a 79–62 victory over Michigan in the title game.

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In this NCAA tournament, Samuels is shooting 63% (26 out of 41) while averaging 17½ points and 8½ rebounds a game. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds Against Houston, put the Wildcats ahead to stay with his 3-pointer on the first shot. He then scored 22 points in his Sweet 16 win. over Michigan.

Gillespie played more than Samuels in the 2018 Final Four, with eight minutes in the semifinals and then 16 minutes in the championship game, when he had four points – 4 of 4 on free throws – and five rebounds.

While he is shooting only 33% after this season, 10 of his 15 field goals are 3-pointers. His only basket came against Houston when, after a timeout and the Cougar within two, he stepped inside the arc and hit a long jumper with 5:02.

Wright loves how past and current players keep in touch with each other.

“I know Jalen, Mikal and the guys are really proud of Germain’s growth and Colin’s growth and the way they lead this program,” he said.


Associated Press Sports writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.


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