By Phil Anastasia
The combination of Big East basketball, proximity to home and some deep personal connections convinced rising Pitman junior Tim Delaney to commit to Villanova.
"I felt it in my gut," said Delaney, who was beginning to draw major recruiting interest during the open period that began Sunday. "I wanted to be close to home and I knew Villanova was the right place for me."
The 6-foot-8 Delaney averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds last season as Pitman went 24-6 and reached the South Jersey Group 1 finals.
He is a versatile player with a post game as well as the ability to face the basket and shoot from distance. He said he committed to Villanova on Monday.
Delaney had offers from Villanova, St. Joseph, La Salle, Penn State, Rutgers and Oregon State.
But his stock was rising, as he made recently recruiting visits to Butler and Indiana and also was drawing interest from programs such as Florida, Boston College and Pitt, according to PItman coach Kevin Crawford.
"(Florida's coach) Billy Donovan wanted him to come down and visit," Crawford said.
Delaney said he was attracted to Villanova because of the opportunity to play in the Big East.
"It's a great opportunity for me to play in such a well-respected conference," Delaney said.
Delaney said he visited Villanova on a number of occasions over the last couple of years. He made another visit with his family on Monday, touring the campus.
"I knew Monday," Delaney said. "I love the campus and I felt a connection with the coaches and players I met."
Delaney was recruited by both Villanova head coach Jay Wright as well as assistant coach Bill Lange.
Wright and Lange were in the gym when Delaney scored 30 in Pitman's season-ending loss to Paulsboro in the South Jersey Group 1 title game.
Lange is a Bishop Eustace graduate. He also graduated from St. Rose of Lima grammar school in Haddon Heights, as did Crawford and Delaney's uncle and confidant, former Bishop Eustace star Bob Fisicaro.
"Small world," Crawford said of the connections.
Crawford said Delaney "still has a lot of work to do" over his final two years of high school to be ready to make an impact at Villanova.
Delaney said the burgeoning interest from colleges was one reason he made a commitment before his junior year.
"It was exciting but it was starting to wear on me," Delaney said. "Not that I didn't love it and appreciate it. But I didn't want to lead coaches along."
Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.