MBB Honors Three Senior Players


Courtesy of Quinn Burns/Villanova Photography

Redshirt senior Caleb Daniels (above) has played in a sixth man role for the ‘Cats this season.

Noah Swan, Staff Writer

Maybe the most raucous moment of Villanova’s senior night basketball game occurred after the game had already been decided. With 24 seconds on the clock and Villanova holding a 10-point cushion, head coach Jay Wright substituted senior Kevin Voigt into the game. The extensive applause following Voigt’s entry seemed puzzling as he had played only four minutes all season.

However, only considering the on-court impact for Voigt or any of the graduates severely underestimates their influence and importance to the Villanova program.

“He’s a very valuable part of our program,” Wright said of Voigt. “He’s loved on this campus, and he’s loved in our program. He’s a great kid.”

As has been proven with the failures of programs stemming from off-court problems like the recently defeated Georgetown Hoyas, one rotten apple can poison the bunch. It requires the entire program, from top to bottom, from the head coach to the managers, from the night-to-night mainstays to the end of the bench, to get a program like Villanova’s to where it is today.

Each year, the Wildcats bid farewell to graduating athletes and staff with a pre-game ceremony where the individuals receive their goodbyes while passing the torch to the next generation. No matter how big or small their impact on the court, each member of the team marches through the line of cheerleaders to halfcourt for their formal picture. This ritual recognizes the importance of each Wildcat in the success of the Villanova program.

First up was the graduating staff, composed of three managers and an office assistant. Toiling behind the scenes to assure the stability of the program, the staff exists in a world of subtle necessity. The team needs its services, but the recognition of people’s duties to the greater fanbase remains minimal.

Next was Maalik Wayns, a former Villanova player who returned to campus working with Student Athlete Development. After leaving for the NBA draft one year short of graduation, Wayns came back to his alma mater to finish his degree while helping out on the team that vaulted him to a professional career in the United States and abroad.

The players were recognized last, each with a Villanova experience different from the other. Voigt was first. While not measuring up to the others in playtime, Voigt never failed to bring energy to the team in a way that masked his desire to get on the court. While “attitude” falls at the butt of many jokes around team building, the buy-in of every guy in a program engenders the stability necessary for success.

Caleb Daniels was introduced next, a player who started his career more than 1000 miles away from northwestern Philadelphia. The redshirt senior played his first two years at Tulane, racking up an average of more than 16 points per game during his sophomore year. Following a coaching change for the Green Wave, Daniels decided to make the journey to Villanova. As a Wildcat, Daniels slotted in well as a 25-minute per-game player, first as a starter then as a sixth man.

Finally, Villanova honored senior Brandon Slater. The Virginia native fell at the periphery of Wright’s plans early in his career, but Slater later defined himself as a defensive stopper with enough athleticism to shock the crowd on occasion. The wing has bloomed into a player Wright had no choice but to start during his senior season.

“It’s a great honor to be a Villanova Wildcat for four years,” Slater said. “Having the Senior Day [ceremonies], that’s a big accomplishment, a big moment for me and my family. More importantly, I wanted to play hard for my teammates and coaches.”

Not included were the graduate students anchoring the team, Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Despite their absence from the formal ceremonies, it almost goes without saying their impact on the program will leave an enormous void as they finish their Wildcat careers.

As the Wildcats march toward postseason play looking to solidify on-court performances against its final Big East opponents, the senior night ceremonies serve as a reminder that this team is not just the five guys going to battle at any given time. It is a family that needs all its members to succeed, even the guys that have only played four minutes.