NovaIllustrated - VUSports Villanova Basketball Backcourt Prospectus
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VUSports Villanova Basketball Backcourt Prospectus

Here is a quick look at the Villanova backcourt entering the summer of 2011. Jay Wright continues to recruit high level guards and develop them into professional level talents. The 2011-12, Villanova back-court has depth and versatility but plenty to prove. There is a dearth of deep shooting ability and ball-handling. Coach Wright's offense is most effective when there are a combination of deep shooters and dribble-drive threats on the floor together. This group needs to find those pieces. Defensively, the size and strength is there - lateral quickness remains a question.
Maalik Wayns
Wayns had some games where he knocked down deep shots, played a strong floor game and dished out numerous assists. After these contests, the buzz would begin about how Wayns is beginning to look ready to make the leap into the NBA draft. Those great performances were counter-balanced by games with poor defensive effort, over-aggressive passing and erratic shooting.
Strengths: Quickness with the ball in transition. Dribble penetrating. Ball-handling and physicality. Foul shooting. Scorer's mentality.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent jump shooter. At times, he struggles to stop dribble-penetration and to effectively provide help in Coach Wright's defense. Over-dribbling. Digressed as an on-the-ball defender.
Summer School: Improving the consistency of his jump-shot. Developing the ability to bring the same focus and desire to the arena game in and game out. He improved his court vision and ability to distribute the ball over the eighteen months - that area can continue to improve along with his decision-making. Improve as a team defender.
What next: This is Maalik's team now. Will he step up and lead it? The opportunity is there to play 35 mpg, run the offense, and be the leading scorer and assist man on offense while setting the tone on defense. The team needs to jump-start the offense with turnovers and transition baskets - Wayns needs to be the spark-plug on the defensive end of the court. Take care of business on the court and the appropriate level of NBA attention will follow.
Dominic Cheek
Cheek had the most disappointing season of any of the Villanova sophomores. How good does Cheek want to be and how many minutes does he want to earn?
Strengths: Physical tools, length and athleticism. Rebounding. More effective scorer in transition than in the half-court.
Weaknesses: Lacks confidence and strength. His handle is sub-par for a Big East 2-guard or 3-man. Must develop a break-down handle to be an effective half-court scorer. His shooting is erratic from deep range. Mid-range game suffers due to ineffective handle and lack of aggression going towards the basket. Doesn't always get square to the basket when shooting. His defense lacks intensity and an awareness of what is going on in the team construct. Not skilled feeding the post from the wing.
Summer School: Add strength. Improve ball-handling skills and shooting. Put in the work to regain the confidence needed to compete at the Big East level.
What next: It is likely now or never for Cheek. Improve over the summer or drop below Bell, Yacoubou and Hilliard on the depth chart and become a deep reserve as a Junior and Senior.
James Bell
Bell is expected to eventually have a full recovery from last year's surgery to insert rods in both his legs. He isn't at 100% yet but is working towards it.
Strengths: Plays with confidence and aggression despite his youth and lack of Big East level experience. Showed the ability to get hot from beyond the arc. Also showed how his athleticism and strength can be a difference-maker on the glass, flying above the rim and on defense. Mentally tough. Decent passer. Capable rebounder.
Weaknesses: Doesn't appear quick laterally. Part of that may have been due to being out of playing shape while recovering from surgery. Inconsistent shooting. A bit mechanical on defense.
Summer School: Shooting and handling drills. Drills to increase explosiveness from a first-step perspective may help Bell to become more effective defensively and off the dribble. He has strength and very good leaping ability but could use a quicker first-step. Needs to use his feet more effectively on defense.
What next: Though he didn't get a ton of playing time, he did learn the system and his way around campus. Those things give him the early edge in the battle for minutes at the wing positions.
Tyrone Johnson
The highest rated of the incoming Frosh guards, Johnson is a combo guard with a nice blend of athleticism, size and skills.
Strengths: Improved as a playmaker and leader of the offense during his time at Montrose Christian. Aggressiveness, toughness and physicality. Hard-nosed defender. Scorer's mentality. Wants the ball in his hands at critical moments.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent finisher on his drives to the basket. Still developing as the "quarterback" of an offense. Needs to improve as a shooter.
Summer School: Become acclimated to life on campus as a Villanova student and learn the Villanova offense and defense.
What next: Johnson is the only real PG option behind Maalik Wayns and he is the best dribble-drive threat outside of Wayns and possibly Pinkston. Given the uniqueness of his ball-handling / creating skills in relation to the rest of the current roster and the importance of that skill in Coach Wright's offense, Johnson is in position to earn a lot of minutes as a Frosh. He may even play alongside Wayns from time-to-time as well.
Achraf Yacoubou
A physical two guard with the strength and quickness to guard Big East two guards from day one. The Freshman enters Villanova with a reputation as a hard-worker with a streaky jump shot and a competitive nature.
Strengths: Yacoubou has a strong physique and a strong will. He is receptive to coaching and has leadership skills.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent shooting. His ball-handling is below the level of the average Big East off-guard. Not a long-armed player who can use length to defend and rebound - Yacoubou beats you with strength, savvy and determination.
Summer School: Ball skills and developing consistency with his deep shooting. Like all the Freshman, Yacoubou will be tasked with quickly coming up to speed with the rigors of college academics and learning Coach Wright's offense and defense.
What next: There are minutes to be earned with six players battling for minutes at the one, two and three spots. Other than Wayns as the primary option at the one, nobody has a stronghold on the other minutes - can Yacoubou demonstrate to Jay Wright that he deserves 20 of those minutes?
Darrun Hilliard
Another Frosh who comes in flying a bit below the national recruiting ranking radar. Hilliard comes out of Bethlehem PA, not exactly a fertile recruiting ground with a reputation for producing bumper crops of Big East level talent, which leads to questions about just how quickly he can adjust to the speed and physicality of high major hoops.
Strengths: Smart player with a variety of skills. Has the ability to finish with either hand and can play spot minutes at the PG slot if required. Fits into the team construct and lets the game come to him. Good athlete with some surprising ups. Good ball-handling, passing and shooting skills.
Weaknesses: Needs to add strength. Doesn't appear to be as quick laterally as he is north-to-south. How will his east-west speed hold up defensively in the Big East and in terms of turning the corner to get dribble penetration against high major competition? Inconsistent three-point shooting.
Summer School: Strength training and working on his three-ball. Become acclimated to life on campus as a Villanova student and learn the Villanova offense and defense. Adjust to playing at a high major level.
What next: The number of minutes available to Hilliard depends in part on how ready Tyrone Johnson is from day one. Hilliard may very well be the third option at the point guard position. If Johnson breaks out of the pack as a potential starter to give Coach Wright multiple dribble-drive threats on offense and more speed on defense, then Hilliard may see more minutes than if Johnson plays only the back-up point minutes when Wayns is resting or in foul trouble.
Prospects:
Class of 2012: Villanova holds verbal commitments from Ryan Arcidiacono, Neshaminy, PA and Savon Goodman. The Cats continue to recruit Omar Calhoun, Kyle Anderson, and Myles Davis in the event more scholarships open up prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign. At this point in time, it is reasonable to expect that forward Amile Jefferson is the more likely recipient of "the next" available scholarship (after the one already spoken for by Daniel Ochefu) than one of the guards on this list.
Class of 2013: The Cats are tracking plenty of 2013 guards, including: Rondae Jefferson, Brandon Austin, Miles Overton, Nate Britt, Terrence Samuel, and more. The VUSports recruiting depth chart is always updated with the latest info on available scholarships and which players the Cats are looking at to potentially fill those 'ships.