It’s Brizzi Time


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Angelo Brizzi redshirted last season and will look to contribute this year.

Matthew Ryan, Co-Sports Editor

When Angelo Brizzi arrived at Villanova during his freshman year, he weighed about 160 pounds. He had some illness issues during the summer that knocked down his weight, but even before that, he was only around the 170-pound range.

Now, after spending all of last season redshirting and working on his body, the 6-foot-3 guard is up to 190 pounds and ready for his first real-game action in a Villanova jersey.

He can feel the difference.

“Being able to handle the physicality, hold your ground in certain situations, things like that,” Brizzi said on the added weight’s benefits. “It’s really different than it was last year.”

Brizzi knew that redshirting his first year on campus was likely when he committed to Villanova, but when guard Collin Gillespie announced he was returning to the Wildcats for one final season, that solidified it. However, Brizzi was happy about Gillespie’s return to the Main Line because that meant he got to learn behind one of the best Villanova guards of all time.

During that season, Gillespie and Brizzi were roommates on the road, something it seems is a staple with veteran point guards and newcomers (when Jalen Brunson was a freshman, he was road roommates with senior Ryan Arcidiacono). One of the big things Brizzi took from playing behind Gillespie was the fifth-year player’s mental approach.

“We spent a lot of time together, and we still talk now,” Brizzi said. “… His mental approach and how he just attacks every day is just the best thing I took, and I’m trying to emulate that in my own way.”

Brizzi’s journey to the Main Line was rather unconventional. The first time he stepped on campus was the day he moved in. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he couldn’t take any official or unofficial visits to Villanova.

A star at Highland High School in Virginia, Brizzi had his share of college offers, including from schools such as Michigan and Arizona, but in the end, the four-star recruit felt Villanova was the right spot for him.

“Ultimately, why I chose Villanova was just the connection I have with the staff, and I thought they recruited me the hardest,” Brizzi said. “And I just felt like […] they really had a plan and showed it to me, and I believed in it. […] I just really felt like they wanted me to come be a part of it.”

But since he committed to Villanova, there has been a major change. The man that turned Villanova from a solid program to a Blue Blood is now gone. Jay Wright retired, and in steps Kyle Neptune.

Brizzi spoke to Neptune occasionally during his recruiting process, but the two are really starting their relationship from scratch.

“I think [our relationship is] built really well,” Brizzi said. “Obviously, he knows the culture. He was here for so long. And he just wants to come in and continue it and uphold it. And I think he’s doing a great job, and he’s young, got a lot of energy. I’m happy I have the opportunity to play for him.”

Since high school, Brizzi said his work ethic has improved. He couldn’t pinpoint one reason why that is, it has just become part of his routine.

A big part of Brizzi’s aforementioned jump in weight has been working with Strength and Conditioning coach John Shackleton, aka “Shack.” Playing in the Big East, a notoriously physical league, Brizzi needed to get bigger.

Mission accomplished.

“Shack, he’s the man,” Brizzi said. “He knows what he’s doing. I think he’s the best in the business. So I appreciate him so much. I owe it all to him, how much my body’s improved over this past year.

“He gets it done for us, and he loves what he does.”

While Brizzi’s body was the main physical aspect he worked on during his redshirt year, there was also a focus on the mental side of things. 

“We preach attitude here, so learning how to have a great attitude every day,” he said. “It’s easier said than done. So learning how to do that and carrying that over to this year. Learning how to play hard on every possession. Learning how to do all the things like that, that you really don’t think about when you’re coming to college.”

In terms of his on-the-court game, Brizzi spent the redshirt year not working on anything in particular but rather “fine-tuning a lot of different things.” He mentioned some of those things were his shooting, ball handling, physicality with and without the ball and post-ups.

With Gillespie gone and standout guard Justin Moore sidelined for the beginning of the season after tearing his Achilles, Villanova’s guard rotation is somewhat of a question mark at the moment. Brizzi could be in line to start, or that spot could go to someone like freshman Mark Armstrong.

But whatever that role is for Brizzi, he will take it and attack it just as he did when he was a 160 pound freshman last year.

“I don’t really have any expectations for my role,” he said. “I’m just waiting to see what it is and whatever it is, I’m gonna try and contribute and play as hard as I can and just play Villanova basketball the best I can.”