Phil Booth celebrated his second national championship at Villanova with the usual trappings – the parade, visits to City Hall and the state capitol, attending a 76ers playoff game – but knew there would be a lot of work to do once the pomp had concluded.
The Wildcats began preseason practice Tuesday without four key contributors – guards Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, forward Mikal Bridges and big man Omari Spellman, all of whom are in NBA training camps – and trying to incorporate five new players into the ways of Villanova basketball.
"I think once we got started with the new guys coming in, the celebration was over," Booth said. "After the parade and the visits and guys got drafted and all that great stuff happened, it was all back to business. It was a new start. It was a totally different team so we couldn't wait to get started."
The newcomers include guard Joe Cremo, the first graduate transfer brought in by Jay Wright, who is beginning his 18th season as head coach, and four freshmen: guard Jahvon Quinerly, and forwards Cole Swider, Brandon Slater and Saddiq Bey.
This is an unusual time for the Wildcats, who traditionally have a number of returning upperclassmen for the next season. This year, their holdovers are a pair of fifth-year players in Booth and forward Eric Paschall; seldom-used redshirt junior Tim Delaney, redshirt sophomore Dylan Painter, and three sophomores – Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels.
"We've been very blessed for the last five years to always have a lot of veterans, and the younger guys could learn from the veterans," Wright said. "We have a lot of first-year guys and second-year guys. We have a lot of teaching to do, a lot of learning to do, but a good group of guys. I like them. I like coaching them."
That includes Cremo, someone in the position of learning quickly and then passing the information on to younger players who don't have the three years of experience he compiled at Albany, where he scored 1,469 points.
"It's just the habits you create, trying to stick to that routine of working your butt off every day," Cremo said. "I'm new, too, but I've been through a little bit of college basketball. It's just helping those guys adjust. We're all adjusting to Villanova basketball, trying to adjust to a new program, but I think just having a little bit more experience can help these guys out."
It will be an interesting preseason for the Wildcats, followed by a nonconference schedule that includes games against both of their Final Four opponents last season – home vs. Michigan and at Kansas. Wright knows there will be bumps in the road.