For the second year in a row, Jay Wright has added pieces to the long-term Villanova basketball puzzle.
Wednesday afternoon 6-foot-4 small forward Josh Hart (Washington, D.C./Sidwell Friends) offered his pledge to Wright, joining fellow D.C. standout forward Kris Jenkins (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College) on the Wildcats.
It’s a great year when a head coach knows he signed the two players he coveted the most this summer. Over at Villanova, Wright is reconstructing his roster and Hart and Jenkins were tabbed early as guys the Wildcats needed to sign.
In past years, Villanova might have been tempted to recruit from the rankings. In the last two seasons, Wright recruited with a holistic approach. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono will be the team’s leader in time. Freshman teammate Daniel Ochefu is the rock, the stabilizer inside. In 2013, Wright wanted to add guys that wouldn’t just look flashy on signing day but help enact winning.
He turned to Jenkins and Hart.
Hart was extremely process oriented in his decision-making. He had national championship caliber programs offer him early but a quest to find the right relationship allowed him to remain focused. While Arizona and Georgetown offered then added other players, Hart stayed true to his plan. In the end, Penn State, Rutgers and Villanova were the final choices.
Villanova needed Hart because of the way he impacts games. Wright spent the bulk of his summer on Hart and Jenkins, not the Harrison Twins or even local guard Rysheed Jordan (Philadelphia, Pa./Vaux Roberts). The Villanova staff identified Hart as a producer, the type of kid who got things done no matter the circumstances.
“He’s tough as nails,” Team Takeover CEO Keith Stevens said. “For me, he’s a lot like Wes Matthews when he was coming out and going to Marquette. He’s got that physical body, didn’t have the best handle but like Josh, he knew how to get work done. He’s going to develop. He’s a decent shooter but his work ethic will help him be special.
“Villanova sold him on toughness like they had with the Dante Cunningham’s and Randy Foye’s.”
Villanova’s roster overhaul needed to take place. Over a year ago, Wright and his staff began evaluating their recruiting. It was decided that the fit for Wright and Villanova, above all else, trumped even talent. Guys that produced – in high school and AAU – were ushered to the top of the wish list. Wright put on blinders. Let’s not kid ourselves, he would have loved to land SF Rondae Jefferson (Chester, Pa./Chester) but Hart and Jenkins factored mightily into the Wildcats’ recruiting plans since last spring.
Jenkins is a consensus Top 100 player. Hart’s moved in and out of the ESPN Top 100 in the last year. He reminds me of Denzel Valentine, a kid Tom Izzo took who finished No. 99 in our 100 in 2012. Hart, like Valentine, is a foxhole guy. You’re comfortable with him in crunch time because you know he puts the same premium on winning that coaches do.
Next up for Villanova is the 2014 group. It’ll be more of the same: the profile trumps the ranking. Point guard Phil Booth (Baltimore, Md./Mt. St. Joseph), PF Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrews) and combo Ja’Quon Newton (Philadelphia, Pa./Neumann-Goretti) can expect to see Wright a lot this winter.