NEW YORK — The emotions on NBA draft night for Villanova’s Mikal Bridges shifted dramatically from elation to confusion, and ultimately to excitement.
Bridges’ night began with what seemed like a dream come true, being selected by the 76ers at No. 10, staying in the city where he was born and in the area where he became an All-America. Then he wasn’t a Sixer, getting traded to the Phoenix Suns for the draft rights to Zhaire Smith and a first-round draft pick in 2021.
It sounded more like a nightmare, but Bridges was perfectly fine with it. He felt content that he was one of three Villanova players drafted in the first round, and a fourth Wildcat, guard Jalen Brunson, the national player of the year in college basketball, going as the third pick in the second round to Dallas.
“No, there’s no disappointment,” Bridges said. “It’s a business and I’m excited to go to Phoenix. I’m excited to go out there and get this team going, ready to turn this thing around.”
Other members of the national champion Wildcats to go in the first round were guard Donte DiVincenzo at No. 17 to Milwaukee and forward Omari Spellman at No. 30 to Atlanta. It marked the first time in program history that Villanova had three players selected in the first round.
About an hour after being drafted by the Sixers, after his news conference where he wore a cap of that team, Bridges found out that he had been traded, though he was confused at first.
“I didn’t know what they were saying but I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said. “I’m close with (Utah’s) Donovan Mitchell. He was traded and he told me all about this, people get traded every day. But you never know. I’m excited. I can’t wait to go to Phoenix.”
Bridges said he never talked to the Suns during the draft process.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he learned of the trade in a text from Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough while Bridges was at his news conference.
“He text me and said, ‘We just traded for Mikal,’” Wright said. “So it was kind of a shock but it’s the business. We do tell all the guys going into the draft, ‘Expect anything.’
“It’s funny. Mikal’s (position) seemed so defined when we started it and Donte’s seemed all over the board. It was so simple. So all of our guys learned a great lesson from this. There’s no one that’s probably more prepared for this than Mikal.”
DiVincenzo, who elevated himself to a first-round draft choice after his 31-point performance in the national championship game, said he visited Milwaukee late in the draft process but did not work out, instead speaking to head coach Mike Budenholzer, members of the front office, and guard Malcolm Brogdon.
“Malcolm was there working out and I got to talk to him a little bit,” he said. “Everybody was just welcoming. Everybody was great. They were great people. They took great interest in me. They treated me great there and I’m thankful to be a part of their organization.
“They’re a playoff team, and they’re a team on the rise. My job is to just come in there with no ego and be the hardest worker and build confidence in the people around me.”
Spellman, who spent two years at Villanova but played just one, averaged 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds and shot 43.3 percent from three-point range. Brunson led the Wildcats in scoring (18.9 points per game) and assists (4.5 per game).