By Mark Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright has made the trip two hours south to the DMV and has recruited enough talent to win the NCAA Men’s National Championship twice since 2016. Both Wildcats teams featured players that would play in the NBA and a Largo, MD native has now joined the DMV’s NBA fraternity.
The Detroit Pistons acquired Saddiq Bey, who started his high school career at the storied DeMatha Catholic program in Hyattsville before concluding at Sidwell Friends. Bey was drafted as the 19th pick by the Detroit Pistons. Many NBA analysts had him projected as a Top 10 selection, but without benefit of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, NBA Combine and individual team workouts, he didn’t have the chance to improve his draft status.
“I’m hoping he’s a steal for them,” Wright said following the draft. “He’s really good now and he’s ready, but he can really get a lot better. That’s a unique kind of guy.”
When Bey entered DeMatha he was a 5-foot-8 point guard as a high school freshman. By the time he graduated from Sidwell, he experienced a 10 inch growth spurt that saw him shoot to 6-foot-6 as a senior, while becoming a solid three-star prospect. As he enters the NBA, Bey has grown another two inches, standing at 6-foot-8 since arriving at Villanova as a three-star recruit in the fall of 2018 and immediately becoming a key contributor for the defending national champs.
As Bey grew into a player with the size to play near the basket, he kept his guard skills and became one of college basketball’s most versatile players last season. He led Villanova in scoring as a sophomore at 16.1 points a game and made just over 45 percent of his 3-point shots. His advocates contend he is one of the most fundamentally sound rookies coming to the NBA because he can contribute offensively and defensively. Bey is being projected as an above-average 3-point shooter with size and defensive versatility. However, there were questions about his “average athleticism” by several pre-draft evaluations, but nobody questions his work ethic, basketball IQ, or commitment to the team.
“I think Saddiq is a really unique combination of extremely high character, extremely high intelligence off the court – a 3.8 in our business school – and great basketball IQ,” Wright added. “Very mature – on the court and off the court.”
Bey’s route to Villanova was not a straight path. He initially committed to the University of Miami because he wanted to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That plan changed after he became apprehensive when the Hurricanes were implicated in an FBI and Department of Justice investigation into the illegal influence of bribes on NCAA coaches and player- allegations which were ultimately cleared. He also thought the better of playing at N.C. State because of a relationship with coach Kevin Keats, but settled in at the Big East school in Philadelphia.