Familiar faces carry on tradition

Courtney Scrib

As of November, three of the six players who left Villanova at the end of the ’05-’06 season were listed on NBA team rosters. However, this statistic, as remarkable as it may be, is the exception to the rule.

The truth of the matter is if success were based on million-dollar contracts, then failure would be the norm.

For Coach Jay Wright and his staff, success cannot be limited to the basketball court alone. A player who “makes it” is someone who has developed into a man as a result of hard work and patience. He not only takes charge on the court, but also performs selflessly off of it. Value family, have a good attitude and never forget where you came from: these are the lessons that every Villanova basketball player learns and that the successful ones take with them throughout their lives.

Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, Jason Fraser, Baker Dunleavy and Chris Charles are among the most accomplished basketball alumni to graduate from Villanova. They have all achieved great success in their own right, both in their basketball careers and in other aspects of their lives. More impressive, however, is the confidence and class with which they have conducted themselves to attain these goals.

“They were open-minded about everything they did,” Assistant Head Coach Ed Pinckney said. “There were a lot of lessons, and they listened to all of them. They received an education at school, and a life education.”

While much has been said about Foye, Ray and Lowry, they were not the only teammates to begin professional careers.

From Serbia to California, former players continue to carry on the Villanova basketball tradition.


Family Ties

What began as casual conversation between mutual acquaintances eventually turned into an international career for one of last season’s most popular players. Fan-favorite Baker Dunleavy first met Marty Conlon, the captain of the Irish national team, after a practice last year in the Pavilion. Conlon was a former teammate of Pinckney in Milwaukee, where they were coached by Mike Dunleavy.

The two began discussing the possibility of naturalizing Dunleavy so that he could play for the Irish national team in the EuroBasketball Division B qualifying campaign. On Sept. 3, Dunleavy made his international debut against Switzerland.

Described as a player with “extraordinary potential” and an “archetype of basketball fundamentals,” Dunleavy, who has family roots in Galway, was grateful for the opportunity to play for Ireland.

“Now, unlike many other Americans who say that they’re Irish, I am able to give something back and be a part of something connected to the country,” Dunleavy told “Basketball Ireland” in August. “It’s definitely something I am very proud of.”

Although it may not happen any time in the near future, some have mentioned that the ultimate dream would have both Dunleavy and his brother, Mike, Jr. (a guard for the Golden State Warriors) playing for Ireland with their father coaching.

Following the end of Ireland’s season, Dunleavy has remained in Europe to play for the Netherlands club, Matrix Magixx.

From ‘Nova to

Novi Sad

In one of the more interesting post-college player stories, Chris Charles faced a number of twists and turns after leaving Villanova. In August, Charles left for the Dominican Republic to play in a professional summer league. By the end of the month, he was on his way back home with a sprained ankle.

“It was really an unfortunate situation,” Pinckney said. “He was playing very well.”

However, opportunity came knocking soon thereafter.

In April 2005, a coach who was visiting from Greece played against Charles in one of the team’s open-gym sessions in St. Mary’s. While the two never discussed Charles’ future, the coach was impressed with the way the 7-foot Milwaukee native played.

Over a year had passed since the two last crossed paths, but the coach had not forgetten about Charles. After getting word that the former ‘Nova center had returned to the United States, the coach contacted Pinckney in September with good news. There was an opening in Croatia that he thought would be the perfect opportunity for Charles.

By the end of September, Charles was once again packing his bags. He currently plays for the Serbian-based team, Novi Sad and keeps in touch with the Villanova coaches on a regular basis.

According to Pinckney, in spite of the rigorous two-a-day practice schedule and disciplined nature of the team, Charles loves what he’s doing.

Learning New Things


Since graduation, Jason Fraser has never gone more than three days without speaking to one of his former coaches or teammates.

“The Villanova coaching staff has been a big support to myself and family since the day I stepped foot on this campus until this very day,” Fraser said. “It’s family for real.”

In addition to his Villanova basketball family, Fraser has also relished in his role as husband and father. His daughter, Blessing, is now approaching one-year old and, according to Fraser, is learning new things everyday.

It also comes as no surprise for anyone who has ever met Fraser that he continues to be guided by his faith.

“I see myself being wherever the Lord directs me,” Fraser said, “either on a basketball court or in business or ministry …”

In May, the New York native moved to Racho Cardova, a town right outside of Sacramento. While there, Fraser trained with Al Biancani, the strength coach of the Sacramento Kings, and together they focused exclusively on strengthening his legs. Biancani helped Pinckney when he was recovering from knee surgery and has also worked with Chris Webber and Antonio McDyess.

“It was a good experience for me and my family,” Fraser said, “to be in a new environment in the ‘real world’ by myself and away from my family. It added to the learning process of being on your own.”

After a month of rehabilitation, Fraser’s legs became stronger. However, they were still not strong enough to play NBA basketball. In September, Fraser decided it was time to return home.

While he still would like to pursue a professional basketball career (whether it is international or the NBA), Fraser, for the time being, is working in Wayne, Pa., and continuing the rehab program he started in California. He also has expressed an interest in visiting different high schools and sharing his story as a motivational speaker.

“It’s difficult being a success coming in as highly touted as these guys did,” Pinckney said, “but they’ve used what they learned at Villanova and have all done really well for themselves.”

Star Returns Home

During her time on the Main Line, Liad Suez-Karni distinguished herself with her gritty, gutsy play for Coach Harry Paretta’s squads. Well-rounded as both a player and a student, Suez-Karni would leave Villanvoa ranked 12th on the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer’s list. After graduating, Suez-Karni, a native of Israel, returned to her home country and later signed a one-year contract with the Polish team Wilsa Krakow. She remains in close with contact her former Villanova coaches and teammates.