April, 13, 2021 –
The duo arrived at Villanova together. On Monday both announced on social media that they would opt to use an additional year of eligibility and play for the Wildcats next season. The announcements were made within a few minutes of one another. They planned to do simultaneously, but ….. their intentions were good. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels will be playing on the Main Line next season. Both players talked about their decision today at a press conference.
A theme expressed by both players in their decision to come back centered on being a part of the team, being in a special place, caring place for them, and getting the chance to keep getting better.
“You can’t beat playing another year of college basketball, you can’t beat having another year at Villanova to learn and try to grow as a player and a person for another year,” Gillespie said. “I’m excited for it. I’m in a great place mentally, and I’ll be in a great place physically being around people who love me and care about me and want me to succeed.”
“Being surrounded by people who love you and you love them back who care for your best interest,” Samuels said about why he is returning. “This place is really special to me, having that opportunity to get better as a Villanova basketball player and become a staple in the Villanova program.”
The previous season ended for Gillespie as he suffered a knee injury in the game against Creighton. He pondered his future, then made his decision to return.
“I knew what I want my future to look like and give myself an opportunity to play at the next level,” said Gillespie. “I didn’t want to go into it being hurt, so I sat down with Coach Wright, the coaching staff, talked to my family a lot, prayed about it. I know that God has a plan for myself and for Jermaine and this is a part of the plan for our journey. I’m excited for it.”
He is a player the Coach Jay Wright described as the heart and soul of the team. Gillespie averaged in 20 games 14 points, second on the team, and led the Wildcats in assists with 92 and free throw percentage at .833. He was second in made three-point field goals (41) and steals (19). Gillespie scored a season-high 26 points against Virginia Tech, made 6 three-pointers against Marquette and handed out 11 assists in that game a season-best.
Samuels emerged as a front court stalwart for the Wildcats. The Franklin, MA native averaged 12 points per game, was second in free throw percentage (.828) and rebounds grabbing 159 boards (44 offensive and 115 defensive). Samuels had 62 assists and 14 steals while making 26 form beyond the arc. He set a season-mark scoring 32 points against Georgetown making 10 field goals and 6 three’s in the contest. Samuels took down 12 rebounds in the Texas game. Lost in the statistics are many little things he did, but noticed by his coach.
He was a team leader along with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who earlier announced his decision to sign with an agent and make himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Samuels is eager to start his preparation for next season.
“I’m really excited to do it all over again,” Samuels exclaimed. “We’ve got almost the same group, missing Jeremiah (Robinson-Earl) and Cole (Swider), but are adding some freshmen in, so it’s going to be fun to go through those experiences all over again. And, again, to put on that Villanova jersey , the coaches, having people around who love you, those little things you can’t take for granted.”
The Wildcats find themselves as a deep team next year despite losing Robinson-Earl and Swider, who is in the Transfer Portal. With Gillespie coming back the Cats starting backcourt of Gillespie and Justin Moore returns in tact. Caleb Daniels, another starter returns. There are other players who will have an opportunity to showcase their talents; Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon, Bryan Antoine, and newcomer Trey Patterson.
“I do think we are going to have some depth for the first time in awhile that we will have to develop,” Wright said. “I think it’s there. That’s going to be exciting. We are going to look forward to it. That’s a good challenge to have.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian