“Whenever Villanova needs that extra umf: Josh Hart is the guy,” my grandfather told me as we were sitting in the media section of the Wells Fargo Center on February 7, 2015. Each year, my grandpa has watched every game since he came to the school as a freshman in 1954, so I trust his opinion, but in regards to junior Josh Hart, the play on the court speaks for itself.
Hart, the 2015 Big East 6th Man of the Year, was the spark plug that kept the Wildcats on track throughout their 33 win season last year. While some may say Ryan Arciadiacono filled that role, Hart’s outside shooting and stellar passing proved he was a major contributor to the ‘Nova offense. Last season, Josh Hart became an active element of the Villanova rotation, averaging a little over 26 minutes a game, but this year, expect number three to be an even more frequent member of the lineup.
Coming out of high school, Hart was a highly touted prospect from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. He developed great ball movement skills during his time in high school and could finish almost any shot. He brought these talents with him to the college level at Villanova, and they have showed up in big games. It was most notable in the 2014 Big East tournament when he dropped 18 points in the loss to Seton Hall as a freshman and in this past season’s tournament, he scored 53 points over three games and was named the tournament’s MVP.
Now as an upperclassmen, his role as a leader will be fully in the spotlight, but the starting guard position is still a question mark for him going into the season. The number two nationally ranked point guard recruit out of Adlai Stevenson High School in Chicago, Jalen Brunson, will be thrown into the fold this season following the transfer of Dylan Ennis and Darrun Hilliard’s graduation. Brunson opened eyes at the FIBA U19 World Championships this year, propelling the US national team to a gold medal victory. He has the potential to be an NBA lottery pick following some development and has been speculated as a lottery talent come June.
The perfect case study for Brunson would be shadowing Josh Hart. Give Hart starting time, and Brunson can learn how an elite point guard should look in the NCAA. Not only does this help Brunson see from first hand experience how to be a leader and a top option on the court, but it will allow Villanova to keep Brunson for one more year if he decides to leave for the NBA following a possible breakout season. Also, what Josh Hart gets out of this scenario is an opportunity to gain minutes and showcase his talent even more, so come March he isn’t the 6th Man of the Year, but the overall MVP.
Head coach Jay Wright was asked following the Big East Championship game, where Villanova took home its first title in 20 years, if the team could be the best that the school has ever had in its history. Wright responded, “It really could be.” But what I feel to be true, is that with a team like Villanova who has an extremely deep roster full of young and ready talent, this time around really could be the one where we see the ‘Cats prove they are more than a two and out tournament team. It all starts with Josh Hart’s transformation into the starting shooting guard role this year and showing really why he is “that guy”.
Photo courtesy of philly.com
-(1) Villanova faces (5) West Virginia in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament