VUSports: How do you anticipate the National Championship will impact your recruiting and with what recruiting class do you expect to be able to see some of the benefits?
Jay Wright: I see it immediately. Some of the impacts are negative where people will tell a guy "you're not going to play there" and a lot are positive where you can tell when you call that a lot of guys are interested right away. Another one of the impacts that you have to be careful of is that it is always flattering to say "the National Championship team is recruiting me" … you might not be interested in going there but you love saying they are recruiting you so you show interest but may have no intention of going there. I hope it doesn't impact the quality of person that we are getting because that is our goal to get guys that fit our culture. We can spread our tentacles a bit further but we need to make sure we still get character guys. What has been most helpful for us in the Northeast is that it has been easier for us to define who would fit here. We know the high schools, we know the people around them, and we have known them for a long time. When you go out further you have to do a lot more work investigating. But that is our job and we don't mind doing that.
VUSports: If you could change one of the recruiting rules - which would it be and why?
Jay Wright: I would shorten the summer recruiting period maybe by a week so that you have two weekends - two weeks, because by the end the kids seem exhausted. I think it is a little dangerous for them where they could get hurt - just a little, nothing major. I think it is a little more difficult for us because sometimes a kid is just exhausted and could look lazy or disinterested when really he is a 16 year old kid who has been playing since April because they have the whole EYBL season and then play through the summer ... and the coaches are tired, so I would shorten it by a week.
VUSports: The term "Offer" is thrown around in recruiting a lot and some people think that when a player says that Villanova has "offered" him a scholarship that it means that you would accept their commitment if the player called you to verbal - what does the term really mean?
Jay Wright: It has become a difficult issue in recruiting for us because we would be considered "overly-conservative" in offering. When we offer someone we are saying "we are offering you because we want you to come and we are expecting you to make a decision soon and if you decide to come to Villanova we will stop recruiting anyone else at your position". That is generally how we have always done it but nobody else really does it that way so sometimes people can construe that [not giving an offer] as a lack of interest when we are waiting to offer and then that can be used against us negatively as if we aren't interested when really it is just that we want to be sure. When we offer a younger guy, we are basically convinced that either this guy is good enough that if he decided he was coming we wouldn't take anyone else at his position or that this guy is good enough and versatile enough that if we offered and he comes that it wouldn't effect other positions that we were recruiting.
VUSports: So is it fair to say that you try to avoid making offers just to show interest or keep your name in the hat for a player?
Jay Wright: Yes, we really try to avoid that.
VUSports: Let's talk about the "new" guys - Omari Spellman, Dylan Painter, Tim Delaney, and Eric Paschall - in what way does each of them best score the ball and what positions can they currently defend in a switching defense?
Jay Wright: I really believe Painter's jump-shot may be his most effective way of scoring. He could be a great three-point shooter. He has great technique and great size which makes it easier for him to get off his shot. He has been working out with us this summer and he can shoot the ball - I really think that is going to be his weapon. Paschall reminds me of, and I have to be careful with this, a "poor-man's" Bernard King. He just scores. He violently scores. Remember how Bernard King would just get the ball and [pounding his fist into his opposite hand for emphasis] just dribble it hard, put his shoulder into you, elevate and BANG!, hit the jumper. Catch it, drive it hard, go by you, ... he just has that old school, New York feel for putting the ball in the basket. Shoot threes, drive, post up, good scorer. Delaney - I think he can be a great three-point shooter too. When I say that, you have to think about who is guarding them - if a 4 or 5 is guarding Delaney, he can post up a 4 and he is crafty enough against a 5, but if a 5 has to get out on him on the perimeter because of his ability to pass and shoot, he will be better on the perimeter shooting threes than a five is going to be guarding him. Omari can score in the post. Omari might be, and I am trying to make a Villanova analogy, the closest in terms of John Pinone's skill in the post. I am not saying he is John Pinone. I am just saying the intelligence of playing with your back to the basket in the post and the skill to put the ball in the basket.
Defensively, I think initially Painter will struggle the most on the perimeter but be good in the post. Paschall is average in both areas but has the potential to be both a good perimeter defender and a good post defender. Now, because he is young and inexperienced, he is just average at both but not poor at either. Delaney, before he got hurt, he could defend on the perimeter and he could defend on the post. He had really good lateral mobility and strength defensively. That will be the question for him coming off two hip surgeries, "how does that effect his mobility?". He hasn't been able to go live yet so I don't know. Spellman is a young, big kid, he is going to struggle on the perimeter but he will be good in the post initially but, like Paschall, he could be really good in both areas.
VUSports: How do you intend to replace Daniel Ochefu on defense and on offense?
Jay Wright: I think Darryl Reynolds has the ability to be a better rim protector than Daniel and close to as good as him on the perimeter but I don't think we will ever have a forward as good as Ochefu was on the perimeter. I think that is his greatest asset going into the NBA - he can be like a Draymond Green and switch out on guards - we saw him do it in the NCAA Tournament and he loves it. Darryl could be close and Omari down the road also could be close.
Offensively, I think Darryl can be a little bit better finisher than Daniel but I don't think we will ever have a post passer as good as Daniel - that just isn't going to happen. That is his value at the next level, his ability to pass on the perimeter and out of the post. I think Omari can be a better scorer than Daniel in the low post, eventually, but not as good a passer as Daniel.
Photo: One part of Daniel Ochefu's game is very difficult to replace:
VUSports: Do you see Kris Jenkins and Eric Paschall playing minutes as your interior player in your 4-out-1-in?
Jay Wright: Yes. Definitely at times where we need to go small. There are times in the season when you play teams where you have to play small. Our game against UNC Asheville … those kind of games. That was a very good team. They beat Georgetown because Georgetown was too big and couldn't match with them. That is where Daniel could switch and guard on the perimeter where normally they would make teams pay for that. Darryl was good in that game too. If you don't have the ability to go small, you can get beat in games like that.
VUSports: What feedback did Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins get in terms of what they need to improve on to get drafted next year?
Jay Wright: Kris got conditioning … they love his skill set and we kind of knew that early just from taking to people and guys telling us that. They were guaranteeing Josh they were going to draft him in the second round so he knew he would be drafted. He learned that to be a first round draft choice he would need to shoot over 40% from three. He felt "I could be a year better, I could get my degree, I can work on my shot, and if I can be a second round pick now I can be a second round pick next year and I'll have my degree and be more prepared to make a team". I think he looked at it intelligently.
VUSports: It is interesting that someone has that perspective in this day and age?
Jay Wright: Parents. It is all about parents. These guys have the smartest most grounded, mature parents. There were teams guaranteeing to take him in the second round and to sign him. There are a lot of parents who would say get me the money right away but these parents say "if he can do it this year he can do it next year and get his degree". That is very important to them and very important to him.
VUSports: What is Phil Booth's prognosis moving forward and what did he deal with through the season for injuries?
Jay Wright: It was really a strange situation. There were a couple times where his knee was bothering him and we said "lets get an MRI" and he would come back the next day and say "I don't want to, it feels fine". And when we ask him now he says "it did feel fine". There were things that Jeff Pierce [Villanova's Trainer] would do and his knee would feel fine and then a few days would go by and it would bother him and he wouldn't say anything and you could see him laboring sometimes and then we would say "lets get it checked" but after a day or two he would say it was fine. When you watch the way he played in the Championship game it was unbelievable. It wasn't anything major - he had a small tear in his cartilage. It wasn't swelling. At the end of the year we said "lets just get it checked" - there weren't any problems. He was tough. It is unbelievable how tough that kid is. I am amazed. The mono thing … he never had any signs, he wasn't tired or anything. At the end of the season, he had a sore throat, was sick and didn't feel well but during the season he never had that. They said he was at the end of it at that point. He never complains about anything. Even this year when we kind of expected him to come back and maybe be a starter - when he didn't started he wasn't happy but he didn't complain, he didn't sulk. You never know what is going on in his head. But whatever is going on in his head is always positive, he is amazing. We learned a lot about him this year. He is quiet, positive, low maintenance … we would have never known he was that tough of a kid but then we found out later he had mono and a torn cartilage. We have learned that we have to really take advantage of this and really drive him and make sure that he understands how special he is and how far he can go.
Video: Never gets old watching Phil Booth get "Philthy" and dropping 20 points on UNC on the grandest stage:
Stay tuned to VUSports.com for Part Three of our interview with Coach Wright ... coming soon ...