Hershey, Pennsylvania is a small town of around 15,000 people. One of those residents is set to join the defending national champion Villanova University Wildcats as a freshman next season. Dylan Painter, a senior at Hershey High School, just a few miles from the amusement park, has become an overlooked piece to the Wildcats’ very realistic scenario of planning a second parade down Market Street in Center City. The elusive big man has the skillset to become a really good player under the tutelage of head coach Jay Wright and being from a smaller town, less media and fans may recognize the talent that is coming their way.
The two time Naismith Trophy Winner for Men’s College Coach of the Year normally runs a four guard system with a forward or center as the fifth man. The offense facilitates around guys who can catch and shoot as well as make smart passes.
Painter fits in perfectly as the big man in this offensive layout with his athletic ability, as he stands at 6-foot-10 and played center at Hershey. The incoming freshman believes in his own talents, especially on the defensive end.
As his senior year progressed, the Hershey High Trojans “didn’t do as well as [he] would have hoped.” They went 12-10 and 7-7 in Mid Penn Conference play, but when Painter is putting up 22 points a night and snagging 13 rebounds a game, it makes sense why Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State and ‘Nova were top recruiters of his.
But the college recruiting process wasn’t as normal as one would think for such a highly touted recruit.
He mentioned that it “was kind of strange [compared to other schools’]. After I joined Team Final [AAU], they started coming to practices… it was different from other schools who would come to one tournament and offer me a scholarship. I am grateful for it but they didn’t see me develop like Villanova did.” Painter recognized the significance of Villanova’s approach. He saw their methodical pace in recruitment and correlated it to how they run a program.
“They care about their current players,” he said to me, “If Dylan Painter’s offer effected Darryl Reynolds [negatively] they would [look to help] Darryl Reynolds.” It was significant for him because he knew they were a type of school and basketball program that developed more than just players. Coach Wright says all the time that he is looking to grow men of character as well as athletes and the University in its Catholic, Augustinian tradition agrees with that principle.
Now matter how you dissect it, Villanova is getting a fantastic all-around kid. As an athlete, Painter’s dynamic offensive ability as a midrange and inside scorer and sturdy defensive play exhibit his potential. He was named First Team All-State at the 4A level with local Roman Catholic standouts Nazeer Bostick, Tony Carr, and Lamar Stevens. Included in his PA state honors, Painter is a three-time Patriot-News Big 15 pick and two-time Mid-Penn Keystone first-team all-star. Also, Painter toured Germany as a part of Team USA’s U18 select team. Painter maintained outstanding grades in high school amidst all of this basketball craziness, a skill he would be wise to take with him as he enters one of the top universities in the country.
However, the magnitude of his college choice really set in for Dylan the day after the national championship in school. Knowing that that is the uniform he will be wearing next year, he said that “it was crazy. Kids were coming up to me congratulating me as if I did something to help them win it but it was definitely exciting.” He’s humble and if there isn’t something Jay Wright likes more in a player, it’s humility.
Photo: Samuel Getty/PennLive.com
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship