For selfish reasons, Donte DiVincenzo is leaving Villanova University. For selfish reasons, I wish he wasn’t.
And when I say DiVincenzo is “selfish,” I’m not taking a shot at the former Salesianum School basketball ace who on Tuesday decided to stay in the NBA draft and not return to help Villanova defend its national championship – for which, of course, DiVincenzo was largely responsible. In fact, DiVincenzo – who announced his decision on Instagram — would be crazy not to jump to the NBA if he knows he’s going to be a first-round draft pick, and now he apparently does. In the near future, Donte DiVincenzo is going to be a multi-millionaire, and who could turn that down?
DiVincenzo became a folk hero of sorts when he came off the bench to lead Villanova to another national championship, and it wasn’t just that he scored a game-high 31 points in the final game against Michigan, which is the most any bench player has ever scored in a title game.
Mostly, it was the way he got those points – long bombs and ferocious dunks and strong drives to the basket – that caught people’s attentions. And DiVincenzo made his mark in that game in other ways, including two highlight-reel blocked shots, which is why he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
It all added up to one of the best games in NCAA Tournament history, and to think that it came from a Sallies kid is mind-blowing. In fact, if you want your mind blown again, somebody put together a highlights video of DiVincenzo’s historic performance.
Still, that was just one game and lots of ordinary players have great games on occasion. Granted, almost none of them had that great game on the biggest stage in the sport, but nobody at the professional level is going to be swayed by one game, no matter how good.
But then DiVincenzo took part in the NBA Combine against other NBA hopefuls and that’s where he really opened eyes and established himself as a first-round pick. He tested well in the drills and played well in the scrimmages and that’s what lifted him into the first round.
And that’s significant because a first-round pick’s entire contract is guaranteed and that’s not true of second-rounders or undrafted free agents. Plus, any team that uses a first-round pick on a player is going to give him every chance to succeed, if for no other reason than to make sure they don’t look bad for drafting him that high.
Besides that, it looks really good on your resume to be able to say you were an NBA first-round pick – the only other Delawarean drafted in the first round was Newark High and Temple star Terence Stansbury, who was drafted No. 15 overall in 1984 by the Dallas Mavericks, who then traded him to the Indianapolis Pacers.
As for the economics — even if DiVincenzo is the last pick of the first round, No. 30thoverall, he’ll still be a rich young man. The final pick of the first round of the 2017 draft was, ironically, DiVincenzo’s former teammate at Villanova, Josh Hart, who was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers. Hart’s first NBA contract will pay him more than $3 million over two years and, as we pointed out earlier, it’s guaranteed.
That may be chump change to LeBron James or Kevin Durrant, but that’s a lot of money for an unheralded kid from Delaware who didn’t even start for his college team. And, of course, the potential is there for a lot more money, not to mention the glamorous lifestyle of an NBA player.
On the flip side, this is another blow for Nova Nation, since DiVincenzo is the third key member of the national champs who will leave for the NBA. And this might even be the worst gut punch of the three because everyone expected Mikael Bridges and Jalen Brunson to leave school for the pros. But everyone assumed DiVincenzo would be back and this time he would be the main man for the Wildcats and not just their sixth man.
As a lifelong Villanova fan – my father was also a star basketball player at Sallies who became a starting forward for Villanova in the mid-1930s – I was hoping DiVincenzo would stay in college simply so I could watch him wear the Wildcats uniform one more time, and this time as the focal point of the offense. Almost all of Villanova’s games are televised and I saw almost all of them last year as the Wildcats made another title run.
And even though I respect and support his decision, I think DiVincenzo would have been better off with another season of college basketball, where he could refine and define his game even more and maybe even become a lottery pick.
But a million bucks is hard to pass up, and there’s no question DiVincenzo made the right decision. Now the question is – where will he end up? Nobody knows which team will draft DiVincenzo, although my stab-in-the-dark is the Utah Jazz with the 21stoverall pick. I hope that’s not true, because Utah is way out West and we don’t get a lot of televised Jazz games here in the First State.
On the other hand, the latest ESPN mock draft has him going to the Boston Celtics (!) with the 27thselection, one pick after the Sixers choose at No. 26. That, of course, would be painful, to see him wearing the uniform of the Sixers’ biggest rival.
Wherever he ends up, it will be fun to see how DiVincenzo fares in the NBA, playing against the best players in the world every night. And wherever it is, it will be a long way from 18thand Broom.