Jay Wright thinks it’s easy to see why Villanova likely will have four players selected Thursday night in the NBA draft. It has something to do with winning a national championship.
“It just shows that we’ve got four really talented guys and that’s why we won, because we had four really talented guys that are good guys,” the Wildcats coach said. “There’s no secret.”
Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson and Omari Spellman will hear their names called in the draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. If mock drafts are any indication, Bridges and DiVincenzo are certain first-rounders while Brunson, the national player of the year, and Spellman also have a chance to go in the top 30.
But whenever they are selected, they share a sense of pride in being able to share their dreams of competing at the next level.
“It’s amazing,” said the 6-foot-7 Bridges, a lock to be a lottery pick, one who could go to the 76ers at No. 10. “I’m proud of them. It shows that coach Wright does a good job with us. If you don’t care too much about yourself and you worry about the team, good things happen. Coach does a great job with that.”
“It’s honestly awesome knowing that we’re going into this as a group,” DiVincenzo said. “That bond we have as teammates and as friends, that’s awesome we’re going to be carrying that into the league.”
Thanks to his 31-point performance in the national championship win, DiVincenzo, who had two years remaining at Villanova, saw his stock rise from a possible second-rounder to a sure-fire first-rounder. Eight mock drafts surveyed have him going in the first round, one placing him as high as No. 17 to Milwaukee.
After working out for approximately 12 teams and answering questions from front-office types, he feels confident about being a top pick.
“I just go out there and do my thing, play ball the way I’ve played my whole life and how I’ve been taught,” he said. “Then when I’m sitting down with these teams, I’m being myself, being honest and open with them. Anything can happen, but my confidence in being a first-round pick, I feel like I’m going to be that.”
The last time Villanova had two players drafted in the first round was 2006 when Randy Foye (No. 7, by Boston) and Kyle Lowry (No. 24, by Memphis) were selected.
The case for Brunson being a third No. 1 pick is an interesting one. Possessed with a high basketball IQ, he was the undisputed leader on the floor for the Wildcats, leading them in scoring and assists. Some teams might not think he’s quick or athletic enough, but not many players have started on two national championship teams.
Spellman played just one season of competition with the Wildcats and showed versatility with an ability to hit the three-point shot and defend in the post. Like Brunson, he is considered a late first-round pick in some mocks, an early second-round choice in others.
Wright, who will be at the draft along with Bridges and DiVincenzo, said he has “a lot of anticipation” and excitement over what might happen to his four players, who will be “leaving the nest.”
“It’s no secret that Omari’s the youngest, you worry about your youngest the most,” he said. “Jalen and Mikal are the oldest and you’re very secure in where they are. Donte is a mature guy, too. So we’re very proud of the type of men they are leaving, how they’ve developed as players, and really confident that they’re going to be successful at the next level.”
Bridges said it didn’t matter to him where he was picked, that it’s “just really what team is going to use me right and develops me the most.”
Bridges and DiVincenzo will wait together for their names to be called. DiVincenzo said he’ll spend his early time “all in for Mikal, very excited for him.”
Said Bridges, “I know. He told me.”