VILLANOVA, PA, November 11, 2011 – There is one attribute that Villanova Men’s Basketball Coach Jay Wright prizes in his teams, and that is experience. Wright wants his veteran players to be the team leaders. He has three such players this year in Juniors Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns, and Mouphtaou Yarou. Cheek scored a career-high 27 points, and Yarou eclipsed his career best with 20 as Villanova opened their season with a 106 – 70 win over Monmouth at The Pavillion.
Cheek scored 20 of his 27 points in the first half. In the game he connected on 5 of 8 three-point shots, and added 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Yarou made 9 of 12 shots and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Wayns dished out a team-leading 5 assists to go along with his 15 points.
“I think I have a clearer mind than last year,” said Cheek. “Whatever my coaches and my teammates expect me to do I’m going to go out and do.”
It is not the scoring that Wright looks for from the leaders, they are teachers as well. It was up to his three Juniors to show the underclassmen what being a college basketball player means, and how hard it is to be one.
“I was really happy with Dominic Cheek, Maalik Wayns, and Mouph (Yarou),” Wright said. “One of the toughest things for younger kids is they get recruited by all of the Big East schools. They don’t understand how good the juniors and seniors they play at Monmouth are, but older guys do. I thought the older guys did a great job of having respect for Monmouth and settling the tone.
The younger players seemed to learn the lessons and showed ability especially in the second half. Sophomore James Bell started the game. He was on last year’s squad, but was limited due to injury. The Orlando, Florida native put in 24 minutes and had 8 points and 4 assists. The Freshman made their mark showing physicality and ability. Guard Darrun Hilliard started the game and scored 9 points. Forward Marcus Kennedy grabbed 8 rebounds, had 3 assists and 3 steals to go along with his 8 points. JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 9 points and 4 rebounds. The 3 freshman shot a combined 10 of 16, and got 15 rebounds.
Villanova is still a work in progress. Wright is looking for continual improvement. The next outing is on Tuesday, November 15 at home vs. La Salle in their first Big Five game of the season. Game time is another chance for the Wildcats to gain experience.
“It’s really good to get to play a game against somebody else,” Wright said. We just need to play.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian