By Harvey Hoffman
Villanova fans the world over are happy today.
But no one is more thankful than coach Jay Wright.
Guard Collin Gillespie has been cleared for all basketball-related activities less than six months after suffering a season-ending knee injury, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.
That gives the Wildcats their top returning scorer in a season where they will begin as the clear favorite to win the Big East.
Gillespie suffered a torn MCL in March during the team’s penultimate regular-season game against Creighton. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter, ending his season — and stunting Villanova’s postseason promise — just before March Madness. Villanova earned a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling 62-51 to eventual national champion Baylor in the Sweet 16.
Last season was a career year for Gillespie. As a senior he averaged a career-best 4.6 assists per game as the team’s primary creator and ranked second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game. He announced earlier this year that, even as a fourth-year star with pro promise, he is returning as a super senior in the 2021-22 campaign for Villanova.
Next season on paper figures to be Villanova’s best shot at a title since its last in 2018. Despite losing leading scorer Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to the NBA, Gillespie leads a star-studded returning roster that includes Jermaine Samuels and Justin Moore. They rank No. 5 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one) from Gary Parrish and are the only Big East team ranked inside the top 20, with UConn coming in at No. 23.