By Harry Allison
Caleb Daniels had 22 points and top freshman Cam Whitmore debuted following a thumb injury to lead Villanova to a 70-66 win over Oklahoma..
Former coach Jay Wright wore a headset on the CBS broadcast for both his broadcast debut and the first collegiate game for Whitmore, arguably his most prized recruit over his Hall of Fame coaching career.
Wright never coached Whitmore following his stunning resignation in April after he won two national championships and took the Wildcats to the Final Four last season.
Wright yielded the program to one-time assistant Kyle Neptune, whose Wildcats lost four straight and had their worst seven-game start since 1991.
Whitmore was a 2022 McDonald’s All-American and the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year and could become the program’s first one-and-done player since Tim Thomas in 1997.
Whitmore needed surgery on a broken right thumb suffered in an early October practice.
ESPN had him listed as the sixth-best available draft prospect and various draft boards still projected him as an easy top-10 pick.
The 6-7, 232-pound forward had the crowd stirring from the moment he sat at the scorers table to check in early in the first half.
His thumb taped, Whitmore received a rousing ovation when he checked in at 14:18 and a step-back 3 for his first career bucket had the crowd of 17,079 going wild. Whitmore flashed his power and speed late in the half. He dribbled beyond the arc, skipped past two defenders, and bump-and-blew past Jacob Groves for a twisting left-handed layup.
Whitmore at one point burst through Oklahoma’s routine dribble-handoff and the ball got knocked out of bounds.
Whitmore did it all at the home of the Philadelphia 76ers.
He played like someone who could get used to NBA arenas in a hurry. Whitmore scored seven points and had three rebounds in 20 minutes.
Grant Sherfield led the Sooners (6-2) with 21 points, and Jacob Groves and Tanner Groves each had 14.
Wright astutely noted after he was introduced at halftime, “Nova’s got two freshmen out there to start the half which is rare for them.”