Villanova upset Kansas, the number one seed in the NCCA tournament this year, to reach the Final Four. Coach Jay Wright used a zone defense to shut down Kansas star Perry Ellis who had torched Maryland’s good man-to-man defense in the Round of 16.
Against Kansas, Villanova also displayed the toughness that has characterized its teams down through the years. Here are the players that stand out for me in Villanova’s long and storied basketball history:
Randy Foye (2003-06)
As a senior, Foye averaged 20.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, and led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. That season, Foye was Big East player of the year and first team all-American. He had decent success as a pro for Minnesota but was poor for Washington.
Kerry Kittles (1992-96)
He’s Villanova’s all-time leading scorer. Kittles was named first team all-American as a senior, but was actually better as a junior, when he made second team. That year, he became the first Villanova player to lead the Big East in scoring. He averaged 23.2 points per game and shot .524 from the field, including .411 from three-point territory. Kittles is also Villanova’s all-time leader in steals. As a pro, he averaged 14 points a game during his nine year career.
Ed Pinckney (1981-85)
He was the star of Villanova’s national championship team in 1985 and was named the outstanding player of the Final Four that year. He scored 16 points in the final game, an incredible 66-64 win over defending NCAA champion Georgetown.
This capped an outstanding season in which Pinckney averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds per game, while shooting 60 percent from the field. A two-time all Big East selection, Pinckney led the Wildcats in rebounding in all four his years, and ranks fourth on the school’s all-time rebounding list.
Howard Porter (1968-1971)
Porter led Villanova to the Final Four in 1971 and into the final game — a loss to UCLA. Despite being on the loser, Porter was named tournament MVP.
Porter was a three-time all American. He’s Villanova’s all-time leader in career rebounds and ranks sixth on the all-time scoring list. As a senior, he average 23.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. His seven-year professional career was somewhat disappointing when one considers how great he was in college.
Paul Arizin (1947-50)
Arizin isn’t just a Villanova legend, he’s an NBA legend, having played in 10 NBA all-star games and having made first team all-NBA three times. As a Wildcat, Arizin led the nation in scoring his senior year and was national player of the year. Arizin holds the Villanova record for most points in a game — 85.
Chris Ford (1969-1972)
He was the point guard on the 1971 that lost in NCAA finals to UCLA. That year, he set Villanova’s all-time single-season assist record, while averaging just under 18 points. He’s now fourth on the Wildcats’ career assist record.
Ford was also a terrific defender. As a pro he was among the NBA leaders in steals for several years. He played on a World Championship team for the Boston Celtics and later coached the Celts and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bill Melchioni (1963-66)
As a senior, he set the Villanova all-time season scoring record of 27.6 points per game (it still stands) and earned first team all-American honors. He was also named the outstanding player of the NIT tournament which, in those days, was a very important competition. Melchioni’s career scoring average was 19.2 points per game.
Scottie Reynolds (2006-2010)
One of many Villanova stars from the Washington, D.C. area, Reynolds was snubbed by the University of Maryland (even Gary Williams couldn’t get them all right). He went on to become Villanova’s second all-time leading scorer.
Reynolds led the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2009, having been named the outstanding player of the East regionals. The following season, as a senior, he made first team all-American.
John Pinone (1979-1983)
Pinone was a three-time all-Big East selection. He’s eighth on Villanova’s all-time scoring list and ninth all time in rebounding. He’s the only player in Villanova history to lead the team in scoring as a freshman. As a senior he made third team all-American.
Jim Washington (1962-65)
A beast on the boards, the 6-7 Washington averaged 13.5 rebounds for his career and 15.2 as a senior. He’s second on the Wildcats’ all time rebounding list. His senior year, Washington averaged 15.8 points per game on .610 shooting. In the NBA, he averaged more than 10 rebounds per game four times.
Stewart Granger (1979-1983)
He’s number two on Villanova’s all time assist list. As a senior, Granger averaged 13.1 points per game on .516 shooting from the field.
Wali Jones (1961-64)
Jones may have had the worst form on a jump shot of any top guard in modern basketball history, but he could fill it up. He made all-American his senior year, even though his 16.4 points per game were a career low. He averaged 10 points per game during his NBA career and was a starter on 1967 Philadelphia championship team.
Larry Hennessey (1950-53)
Hennessey averaged 23.2 points per game during his Villanova career. He’s still number 12 on the Wildcats’ all-time scoring list. He made third team all-American twice and played six years in the NBA.
Keith Herron (1974-78)
A product of Mackin High in Washington, D.C., Herron was a scoring machine from day 1 at Villanova. He averaged 17.9 points a game as a freshman and 18.5 for his career. Currently, he’s third on the team’s all time scoring list. Herron had a brief NBA career. Two of his brothers also played for the Wildcats.
Harold Pressley (1982-86)
The other star, along with Ed Pinckney, on Villanova’s 1985 championship team. However, his best season came the following year. With Pinckney gone, Pressley averaged 16.8 points (on .508 shooting) and 10.1 rebounds per game. He made first team all-Big East and was Big East defensive player of the year.
Lots of players deserve mention. I’ll name a few. From this year’s team:
Josh Hart (2013-16)
The star of the current team, this junior averaged 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. If he has a strong Final Four and/or plays another season, he will move up the list. Arguably, he should be higher up already. Hart attended my middling high school (Wheaton) before moving up in the world and finishing at a fancy private school as a classmate of one of President Obama’s daughters.
Ryan Arcidiacono (2012-16)
He’s the point guard on the current team. They say he’s its heart and soul, and in the games I’ve seen he looks the part.
Chris Jenkins (2013-16)
I added Jenkins after Villanova’s win in the final. Not so much because he hit the winning shot, but because he deserved to be on the list all along a key member of the team along with Hart and Arcidiacono. Jenkins is another Washington D.C. area product.
From the past:
Bob Schafer (1952-55)
This shooting guard still ranks third on Villanova’s all time scoring list. Schafer averaged 18.9 points per game during his career and made the all-American team as a junior.
Hubie White (1959-1962)
Another scoring machine, this guard averaged 20.6 points per game for his career. He made all-American as a senior.
Tom Ingelsby (1970-73)
As a sophomore, Ingelsby played guard alongside Chris Ford on the 1971 NCAA finalist team. As a senior, he averaged 25.6 points per game.
Rory Sparrow (1976-1980)
A personal favorite of mine, Sparrow is fifth on Villanova’s all-time assist list. During his career, he hit game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds on five occasions.
Kenny Wilson (1985-89)
You didn’t think I was going to leave up Villanova’s all-time leader in career assists, did you? In six NCAA Tournament games, Wilson averaged 13.5 points and 5.3 assists per game. He was named to the 1988 All-Southeast Region team.
Kyle Lowry (2004-06)
Lowry left Villanova after his sophomore season, but not before making Big East Rookie of the Year as a freshman and second-team all-Big East as a sophomore. Drafted in the first round by Memphis, this stellar point guard is now a big star for Toronto.
Dante Cunningham (2005-09)
Yet another Villanova star from the Washington, D.C. area. Cunningham was the top scorer (16.1) and rebounder (7.5) on the 2009 team that made the Final Four. He’s 12th on the team’s all time rebounding list. Cunningham has had a useful NBA career. He’s currently with New Orleans.