This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Read scouting reports on every team in the top 20 here, and find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.
Those who decry the pervasive tendency of the mock-draft industrial complex to reduce every college player to his position on an NBA wish list have an ally on the Villanova bench. Last month coach Jay Wright was dismayed to hear senior Josh Hart label himself a “three‑and-D” specialist. “Don’t limit yourself,” Wright told the Big East’s preseason player of the year. “Do everything, and be great at everything.”
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It is indeed more than long shots and lockdowns that the Wildcats expect from the versatile 6' 5″ wing who led last year’s national champions in scoring (15.5 points) while using a team-high 24.3% of possessions. “He’s running pick-and-roll now, he’s bringing the ball up,” says Wright. “He can shoot threes, he’s posting up, he’s driving. [He’s] become a complete player.”
Hart says he most enjoys maneuvering into the lane and either attack-ing the basket himself (according to Synergy Sports, he averaged 1.339 points per possession around the rim last season, which ranked in the top 15% among D‑I players) or distributing to teammates like title-game hero Kris Jenkins (38.6% from three) on the outside. And on a team without a starter or returnee taller than 6' 8″, Hart’s strong work on the boards—both his offensive and defensive rebounding rates (7.7% and 18.6%, respectively, in conference play) ranked in the Big East’s top 20—is particularly valuable. That ability took on added importance when 6' 9″ freshman Omari Spellman, a five-star recruit, was ruled an academic redshirt by the NCAA in September. The Wildcats need Hart to play bigger than ever in their quest to repeat.
Last season Jalen Brunson (9.6 ppg) deferred to the veterans a great deal. With Ryan Arcidiacono gone, “the ball’s gonna be in [Brunson’s] hands,” says coach Jay Wright. “It’s a lot more natural for him.”
Coach’s Take: Jay Wright
“Darryl was playing in practice against him everyday all year. Part of Daniel’s development was because of Darryl. I think Darryl’s ready to step into that role. I think he can be a rim-protector like Daniel. Daniel is such an elite passer, has such elite basketball IQ, I don’t think anybody’s gonna be like that at that position for us for a long time. But rim-protection, rebounding, scoring and low-post ability—I think Darryl can get there this year. Darryl’s offensive low-post play has really improved every year. He’s really effective and making good decisions out of that.”