NBA Rookie DiVincenzo – NCAA Finals Hero – is Athlete of the Year

Donte DiVincenzo - VillanovaDonte DiVincenzo was a good player and a valuable player when the Villanova University basketball team took the floor against Michigan last April in the 2018 NCAA championship game. By the time that game was over, DiVincenzo was a household name and on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, a true overnight sensation.

DiVincenzo – who won two state championships at Salesianum School before winning two national championships at Villanova – scored a game-high 31 points in Nova’s dominating 79-62 victory over Michigan, and he did so in dramatic fashion. That made him an easy choice for the Most Outstanding Player award for the tournament, although he didn’t even start for the Wildcats. (And if you want to relive that special night, here is a Donte DiVincenzo highlight reel for your enjoyment.)

That’s why the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association voted DiVincenzo as its Athlete of the Year for 2018.

Donte DiVincenzo joined the Milwaukee Bucks in June, 2018. His father John is a lifelong Bucks fan.

DiVincenzo drafted in first round of NBA to Milwaukee Bucks

DiVincenzo was unable to attend the 70th DSBA awards ceremony on Monday because of his new job, which was also largely a result of that magical night last year – he was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and is currently rehabbing a foot injury that has sidelined him since Jan. 1.

Depending on your perspective, DiVincenzo was either lucky or unlucky to be drafted by the Bucks. The have one of the best teams in the NBA, which is good. But that also means there isn’t a lot of playing time for a rookie drafted 17th overall, which is bad. DiVincenzo has played in 23 games and averaged 4.8 points in 15.6 minutes per game, and that playing time dwindled after the Bucks acquired veteran guard George Hill in a trade with Cleveland in December.

Conversely, the three other members of Villanova’s championship team who were drafted in 2018 were selected by losing teams, which means they could get more of an opportunity to play – Mikal Bridges by Phoenix (11-48), Omari Spellman by Atlanta (19-39) and Jalen Brunson by Dallas (26-31).

Because DiVincenzo wasn’t getting a lot of playing time with the Bucks, he was briefly sent down to their G League team in December and showed what he could do with significant playing time. In three games with the Wisconsin Herd, DiVincenzo played 32.9 minutes per game and averaged 17.3 points and five rebounds shortly before he was called back up by the Bucks and his heel bursitis put him out of action. He is expected to return to Milwaukee’s lineup soon, but how much playing time he gets remains to be seen.

Locals wish DiVincenzo had stayed another year at Villanova

We’ve always selfishly wished DiVincenzo had stayed at Villanova for another year because he would have been one of the featured players on his college team instead of a deep reserve on his NBA team. And, of course, we can get almost all of Villanova’s games here on local television, whereas Bucks games don’t make it onto the TV schedule that often and DiVincenzo doesn’t play much when they do.

Plus, it’s difficult for a rookie with limited playing time to improve in the NBA since there is little practice time because of the hectic schedule and constant travel. Coaches don’t have time to really work with young players since they have to constantly prepare for that night’s game. So, DiVincenzo might have been better served playing another year of college basketball and refining his game under Nova coach Jay Wright.

DiVincenzo won two State championships at Salesianum School

But the former Sallies star had another reason to go to the NBA – actually, he had 5.3 million reasons. He’ll make $5.3 million in his first two seasons with the Bucks, and since he was a first-round pick, that contract is guaranteed.

We don’t know for certain, but there’s a pretty good chance nobody else in DiVincenzo’s graduating class at Salesianum is earning that much money or living such a glamorous lifestyle. And it was all triggered by that special night in San Antonio last April, when Donte DiVincenzo had one of the best games in NCAA Tournament history and won a championship, as well as fame and fortune.

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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.