Three Wildcats Named as National Award Finalists

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Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Collin Gillespie (above) named as a finalist for Bob Cousy Award.

Anders Pryor , Staff Writer

Every season, the NCAA hands out positional awards to five players in college basketball to recognize their excellence in that position. The committee begins the season with 20 members of a watchlist, and then narrows it down to 10 later on in the season. This season, three Villanova Wildcats were named finalists for their respective positions.

First, Collin Gillespie has been named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, handed to the best point guard in the nation. In his fifth year on the team and granted an extra year of eligibility, Gillespie continues to demonstrate the same high level tenacity, patience and basketball intelligence that made him so remarkable as an undergrad. He is producing his highest scoring season with 17.1 points per game, shooting 42.4% from beyond the arc and 90.8% from the free throw line. His placement as a finalist is a nod to his ability to remain consistent, even with all of the talented young guards he is up against across the country. Other notable nominees’ include big names like Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr., Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler, Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler and UCLA’s Tyger Campbell. 

Second, Justin Moore has been named a finalist for the Jerry West Award, which is given to the best shooting guard in college basketball. In the absence of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Moore has taken over as the consistent second scoring option behind Gillespie. The junior from DeMatha Catholic has put up 15.1 points and five rebounds per game on the season so far. He is the embodiment of the “Villanova Guard” archetype, to go along with current players like Gillespie but also past players like Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo and others, and his place on the final list pays respect to that. Other notable Jerry West finalists include elite players such as Kansas’s Ochai Agbaji, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis. 

Jermaine Samuels was named a finalist for the Julius Erving Award, given to the best small forward in college basketball. Samuels has embraced his role as one of the oldest and most experienced members on the roster, being a role model for what it really means to play Villanova basketball. Although Samuels may not be having his most impressive season statistically, and is scoring just 9.9 points per game, his intelligence and maturity on the court grabbed the attention of the committee. It is an award that has been won by three different Villanova Wildcats in the past five seasons: Saddiq Bey in 2020, Mikal Bridges in 2018 and Josh Hart in 2017. Other notable finalists include Baylor’s Kendall Brown, Duke Wendell Moore Jr., Davidson’s Hyunjung Lee and St. Johns’ Julian Champagnie. 

This year is one that has been spearheaded by upperclassmen – a 17-6 record with five wins against ranked opponents so far – and they have earned the recognition. All three players were named to the respective watchlists before the season started, when there were 20 players at each position named, and they’ve all outlasted the list being cut in half to sit up there with some elite talent.