You could say that Philadelphia is the heart of college basketball. After all, the Palestra, which has been dubbed the Cathedral of College Basketball, is located there.
Just on the outskirts of Philadelphia proper, sits a school that is 19th overall in men’s college basketball wins. Recently, this team has found some success under their coach Jay Wright, making it to the Final Four and winning a National Championship in both 2016 and 2018. Many call the end of the 2016 championship, “The Perfect Ending,” as Kris Jenkins nailed a buzzer-beater as time expired to beat the North Carolina Tar Heels. Of course, this team I’m talking about is the Villanova Wildcats.
Villanova recently just celebrated their 100th season, and over the last eight years have been very successful. In addition to winning those two National Championships, they have the Big East Championship in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Since 2005, they have made an appearance in every NCAA tournament.
So, what does their all-time starting lineup look like? Is it just players from this millennium? Or do others make the cut? Well, I’m happy to tell you that I have those answers.
Villanova Basketball’s All-Time Starting 5
Jalen Brunson, Point Guard
The New Jersey native was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school. The 2015 McDonald’s All-American went into his freshman year at Villanova with high expectations. He was selected as the 2015-16 Big East Conference Preseason Freshman of the Year. And boy did Jalen Brunson meet expectations. He was selected unanimously to the Big East All-Freshman team and was a key starter to ‘Nova’s National Championship run.
In his junior year, Brunson bloomed. He was awarded the Naismith College Player of the Year, the Big East Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year and the Bob Cousey Award, an award given to the top point guard in the nation. He was also given All-American and All-Big East honors. He helped lead the Wildcats to their second National Title in three years, beating Michigan in the 2018 Championship game.
In December 2019, Sporting News named Brunson the greatest college basketball player of the decade. That’s a sentiment that Villanova head coach Jay Wright also echoed, stating “In terms of Jalen, I just think he’s the most complete player in college basketball… he has the biggest impact on making his team win.”
Kerry Kittles, Shooting Guard
Most casual basketball fans may know Kerry Kittles as the player the New Jersey Nets drafted instead of Kobe Bryant, but you could argue this New Orleans native is one of the best Wildcats to don the jersey and should be known as such. After all, his No. 30 is in the rafters and he was inducted in the school’s Hall of Fame.
Those that watched him played noted he was a precise shooter with quick release. His 6-foot-5 structure also allowed him to drive to the basket and finish strong at the rim. In 1994, he led the Wildcats to an NIT Championship. The next year, he averaged 21.4 points per game, helping the Wildcats win the 1995 Big East Tournament Championship and earning Big East Player of the Year honors.
Kittles was named a two-time All-American during his time at Villanova. To this day, Kittles is the Wildcats’ all-time scorer with 2,243 points.
Paul Arizin, Small Forward
Directly from Philadelphia, Paul Arizin didn’t even make his high school team when he was a senior. Instead of playing for the freshmen team at Villanova, Arizin played CYO, Catholic Youth Organization Basketball, in Philadelphia. It was there he was noticed by Al Severance, the coach of the Wildcats that time, who attended one of Arizin’s games.
The next year, Arizin made the team and proceeded to be a key asset for the Wildcats for three years. As a junior, he averaged 22 points per game and as a senior 25.3 points per game. As his career at Villanova came to an end, he was a First Team All-American, a Helms Foundation Player of the Year recipient and a Sporting News player of the year recipient. To this day, his No. 11 jersey hangs in the rafters of the William B. Finneran Pavilion.
When Arizin was hot, he was liquid hot magma. In a game against Naval Air Materials Center, Arizin scored 85 points. However, this wasn’t the most he ever scored in a game. Arizin is part of the 100-point club. He did so against a junior college, although it is not officially recognized by the NCAA.
Ed Pinckney, Power Forward
Standing at 6-foot-9, The Bronx native is small for a power forward, but his talent gives him a spot on the team. You also deserve a spot if you help your team win a National Championship, which is what Ed Pinckney did.
Throughout his time with the Wildcats, Pinckney averaged 14.5 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. He was a crucial part of their 1985 National Championship run, where the 8-seeded Wildcats upset a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoya team in an All-Big East NCAA Championship matchup. In that game, Ed Pinckney scored 16 points along with six rebounds and five assists. His performance that March earned him Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament honors. To this day, no team with a lower seed has won the National Championship.
You can see Pinckney’s jersey in the rafters, as No. 54 was retired by Villanova.
Howard Porter, Center
Keeping with the small lineup, this Stuart, Florida native rounds out the starting 5. But what Porter lacked in stature, he made up in heart. Throughout his career at Villanova, Porter averaged more than 20 points per game and more than 14 rebounds per game. He also was a three-time All-American.
Porter’s biggest contribution to the Wildcats was helping them make the 1971 National Championship. In that game, he scored 25 points. Despite his best effort, Villanova ultimately lost to a stacked UCLA team. Porter was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
However, if you look in the record books for Howard Porter’s name next to the Most Valuable Player award that year, you won’t see it. The NCAA deemed him ineligible once it was discovered that Howard had signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Condors of the American Basketball Association during his senior year. Controversy or not, Howard is still a key figure in the history of Villanova basketball.
On The Bench
Some Villanova players you’d find on the bench include:
- Randy Foye
- Kyle Lowry
- Mikal Bridges
- Ryan Arcidiacono
- Scottie Reynolds
- Jermaine Samuels
- Collin Gillespie
Being 19th on the All-Time wins list, you’d figured there would be a lot of good NBA talent players to go through Villanova, and there has been. Now would this team dominate against other schools’ all-time starting five? Probably not. But much like the 1971 team, I think they would hold their own.