Run It Back: Gillespie and Samuels to Return


Courtesy of Villanova Basketball

Run It Back: Gillespie and Samuels to Return

Colin Beazley, Co-Sports Editor

Villanova announced Monday evening that both Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels will take advantage of an NCAA waiver to obtain an extra year of eligibility, and will return for the 2021-2022 basketball season.

Due to COVID-19, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all fall and winter athletes competing in the 2020-21 school year. It seemed unlikely that any members of the Villanova basketball team would take advantage of the extra year, but when Gillespie came down awkwardly after getting his leg tangled up with a Creighton player on Senior Night, questions began to swirl, especially when he was diagnosed with a season-ending tear to his MCL. These questions were answered Monday night, as both Gillespie and Samuels will be back for their “super senior” fifth year.  

Gillespie announced the decision with a post on Twitter, tweeting “Since my injury and over the last few months supporting my teammates from the sidelines, I have had much time to think about my future. I have received valuable feedback and have had many conversations with my family and the coaching staff allowing me to make a confident decision regarding this upcoming season.

“With that being said, I am going to take advantage of this extra year and come back to Villanova!

“It is going to be a blessing to put the Villanova uniform on for one last year and play for such an amazing university! I am very excited to get fully healthy again and continue to grow as a player, student, and person… and lastly to my brothers, run it back!”

Samuels’ announcement came just four minutes later: “After much consideration and many valuable conversations with my family and coaching staff, I have decided to come back for another season. There’s nothing like playing Villanova basketball, wearing that V on my chest and playing for my teammates and coaches… I’m excited to return to Villanova to focus on becoming an even better student-athlete and man. See you soon Nova Nation. Go ‘Cats!”

Head coach Jay Wright stressed their respective leadership abilities after their announcements, saying of Gillespie, “We’re excited to have one of our great leaders return to battle with us.” He was similarly complimentary of Samuels, stating “We are blessed to have Jermaine’s character, leadership, and talent in our community for another season. He will work hard to take his game to new heights and continue to lead our team.”


Although both players were motivated by having the opportunity to return to Villanova, Gillespie was focused most on entering the draft process healthy when the time comes. When asking if returning was a hard decision, Gillespie said “Honestly, not really. I knew what I want my future to look like, and to give myself the best opportunity to play at the next level, I didn’t want to go into it being hurt.”

Coming off of a major knee injury hindered Gillespie’s ability to participate in pre draft workouts, but he should be ready for summer workouts. “I think, what the doctors are saying, is that by the end of June I’ll be 100%,” Gillespie said. “It’s really a blessing that it happened this year… any other year I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”

Wright revealed that Samuels will also have the opportunity to get healthy by staying at Villanova another year, saying “Jermaine actually played the entire season with a severely sprained finger, which he’s having evaluated. If he’d have gone through the pre-draft process, he probably would not have gotten anything done to his finger, now he’s got the option to have surgery on his finger. It didn’t have anything to do with the decision… but now he has the time he might get it done.”

However, Gillespie said that his decision was not purely injury related, and that he was looking forward to another college season. “You can’t beat playing another year of college basketball, you can’t beat having another year at Villanova, getting to learn and grow as a player and as a person for another year. I’m really excited for it.”

Despite Wright’s excitement about the seniors’ return and their leadership capabilities, he admitted that “we were not prepared for this. We try to do our roster structure years in advance, so we were not prepared for a pandemic year.” 

However, he stressed that there would be opportunities up and down the roster stemming from decisions this offseason, saying “when guys leave it just gives opportunities for guys that have been waiting, especially in our program, guys like Brandon Slater and Justin Moore and Eric Dixon and Trey [Patterson] [and Caleb Daniels], now, those guys have been waiting for their opportunities to be go to guys. Jeremiah [Robinson-Earl] and Cole [Swider] departing does create opportunities for people, even though we’re getting these two back.”

Barring any future defections, the 2021-22 roster is believed to be set. Four starters return in Gillespie, Samuels, Moore, and Daniels. Eric Dixon will likely step into a much bigger role in 2021-22 following Robinson-Earl’s departure, and Brandon Slater will be a senior after showing significant improvement last season. Those six in addition to Bryan Antoine and Trey Patterson could very well make up the main eight-man rotation in the upcoming season, but Wright stressed the depth he expects the team to have next season. 

“I do think we’re gonna have some depth for this first time in awhile that we don’t have to develop, I think it’s there, that’s gonna be exciting, and we’re gonna look forward to it.”

The returnees will be joined by three new freshmen, in guard Angelo Brizzi, guard Jordan Longino, and big man Nnanna Njoku. Patterson enrolled early in January.

Samuels summed up his feelings best about returning. “I’m really excited just to do it all over again. We got almost the same group… it’s gonna be fun to go through those experiences all over again.”

Something that seemed unlikely just two months ago has become reality, and after an unpredictable March in 2021, the Villanova Wildcats have a real shot at doing something special in 2022.