Why is it so surprising that Kerry Kittles is still a Wildcat?
It's common knowledge that Kittles, last year's Big East Player of the Year as a junior, nearly left early for the NBA this spring. Not as well known is the fact that Kittles nearly abandoned the Wildcats twice before that.
After being recruited by former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino in '92, only to see Rollie take the money and run to UNLV, Kittles wanted to go elsewhere. But new coach Steve Lappas talked him into staying for at least his freshman season at Villanova. Then, after a freshman year that included first-degree homesickness, the death of his grandmother and only eight Wildcat wins, Kittles once again wanted to transfer, and Lappas again had to talk him into staying. "I've used up my quota on him," says Lappas. "There's no doubt about it."
So why did Kittles come back this season? Because Villanova has yet to win an NCAA tournament game during his time there. That is certain to change this year. Junior center Jason Lawson returns after averaging 12.9 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, and he'll be rejoined in the frontcourt by bruising forward Chuck Kornegay. Eric Eberz, a 6'7" senior forward, has developed into one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the country, and junior Alvin Williams takes over full time at the point.
Last year Villanova won its first Big East tournament championship, and that may have been the worst thing that ever happened to the Cats, because they then folded in a first-round loss to Old Dominion in the NCAA tournament. "Coming off the Big East win, I think people on our team, including myself, were still concentrating on that game, and we didn't focus on Old Dominion," says Lawson. "I think we've learned from that experience."
This year the Wildcats should advance deep into the NCAA tournament. They'd better not squander the opportunity again, because even Lappas can't bring Kittles back for another season.
Can John Thompson coach the Runnin' Hoyas?
For more than a year now, we've been waiting for the Georgetown coach to peel off his John Thompson mask and reveal the face of offensive maniac Paul Westhead. Thompson, who for two decades preached the Three D's (Discipline, Defense and Dump-it-down-to-the-post), watched his Hoyas run-and-gun to a 106-57 season-opening win against Colgate last week, and he seemed to relish every minute of it.
It's no secret that when lightning-quick Allen Iverson arrived last year, the Hoyas became a team in transition... literally and figuratively. Iverson updated Thompson's prehistoric attack, and the coach didn't yank on the reins even once. The mercurial point guard led the Hoyas in scoring (20.4 points a game), assists (134), steals (89) and turnovers (133), and took twice as many shots as anybody else on the roster. He also made only 39.0% of those shots.