Mike Jensen: Believe it or not, Collin Gillespie is still at Villanova, hungrier than ever

Mike Jensen, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

“He literally coaches,’’ Wright said, explaining that when he was away coaching at the Olympics, he got reports back on this stuff from his assistants. “He’d literally stop and tell those guys what to do. … He’d be a great coach. I don’t know if he wants to be a coach.”

He doesn’t want to coach?

“I don’t think so,” Wright said.

What’s it like for a coach to have a point guard who has already played 118 college games?

“It’s a little bit different,” Wright said. “What you worry about with a fifth-year guy is that by the end of the year, them just being mentally worn out. Both those guys.”

He meant Gillespie and Samuels, another fifth-year player, who had offseason surgery for a broken right little finger.

“It’s unique,’’ Wright said. “They’re kind of hungry. They were both out so long. Collin, he’s almost like a freshman, itching to come back.”

Gillespie talked about the surgery being the most serious physical setback he’s had, the recovery as “rough at first … It was my journey.”

He’s in the phase of getting his legs back now.


“I kind of feel like I was on the right timetable throughout the process,” Gillespie said.

Wednesday, Villanova was the unanimous pick of opposing coaches for Big East favorite. (Wright, not allowed to pick his own team, picked Connecticut, which was chosen second overall.) It’s fair to speculate that if Gillespie hadn’t gotten hurt, he might not have taken advantage of the pandemic opportunity for a fifth year of college. If he hadn’t come back, maybe Villanova still would have been picked first in the Big East, but maybe it wouldn’t have been unanimous. It’s just impossible to ignore what Gillespie brings to a game.

The relationship with his own coach … “It’s different,” Wright said, adding Samuels to the conversation. “They’re so clear on what our goals are. I listen to them. I asked them questions on the train up, what they think about what we’re doing, what suggestions they’d have. I trust them.”

As far as translating what their coaches are saying to his younger teammates, Gillespie said, “I feel like I can explain it in a way they can understand.”

The only surprise in all this … Gillespie isn’t interested in ever coaching?

“I think it’s a possibility for the future,” Gillespie said. “But right now I’m saying no because I want my basketball career to go as long as it possibly can. Coaching is something I’ll think about when I finish playing.”

When that is, Gillespie can’t predict, just like he couldn’t have predicted he’d be back on the Main Line for this season. The easy forecast? The presence of this one guy changes the equation for an entire league.

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