The Salesianum basketball team braved the weather Friday to make a one-hour trip to watch Villanova practice, and Sals guard Donte DiVincenzo delivered some news to Wildcats coach Jay Wright while he was there.
DiVincenzo, a 6-foot-4 junior who is Delaware’s most highly recruited player, committed to continue his basketball career at Villanova.
“It was a tough decision, but I knew a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to go to Villanova,” DiVincenzo said Friday night. “It’s like a family there, and I wanted to join the family.”
Salesianum coach Brendan Haley knew DiVincenzo was close to a decision, but he didn’t know it was going to happen Friday.
“It was not planned this way,” Haley said from a McDonald’s near the Villanova campus, just minutes after DiVincenzo broke the news. “We were going to come up and watch the practice anyway. But he just decided to let them know.
“We were up in the stands, and they invited us down on the floor,” Haley added. “The team came by and shook everybody’s hands. They know Donte, because he’s been up here to visit a few times. Donte let coach Wright know right there, right after practice. They were obviously very excited.”
NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting on recruits until they have signed a letter of intent, which will come next November for DiVincenzo. He knows he is making a big leap.
“It’s a big transition to the intensity at the college level,” DiVincenzo said. “I’ve watched their practice, I’ve played pickup with them before. The intensity is crazy going up to that next level. Getting bigger, faster and stronger and being smarter with the ball at a quicker pace are the things I want to work at.”
DiVincenzo is averaging 18.3 points per game for the Sals, who are 5-1 and currently ranked second in the state. Salesianum will host Smyrna tonight at 7:30.
“I feel like it’s a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “Now that I know where I’m going to go, I can focus on getting better myself and getting my high school team better for our goal of a state championship.”
The Wilmington resident’s size, quickness, explosive leaping ability and knack for scoring in a variety of ways made him an obvious target for college recruiters. Haley could see all of the attention taking its toll.
“We’re just real fortunate to be able to coach him, and to watch him through this whole process,” the coach said. “He’s been really grounded, and all of the coaches that were involved with him spoke about how impressed they’ve been with how good he is about returning everybody’s calls and texts. I know I was getting a lot on my end, so I can’t imagine how busy it is has been for him.
“As a staff, we’ve been really impressed with how he has handled the whole thing,” Haley added. “And we’re really excited about the choice, obviously, because we get to see a little more of him. He’ll be right up the road.”
DiVincenzo said he has followed Villanova for years and has watched the team play and visited the campus “countless times.” He narrowed his choices to Villanova and Syracuse and visited the Syracuse campus on Dec. 28 to watch the Orange beat Villanova 78-62, the only loss of the season so far for the 11th-ranked Wildcats (12-1).
“Location wasn’t the main decision-maker, but it was a big part because now everybody who has supported me in high school and still supports me can come and watch me,” DiVincenzo said. “I can be close to my family, as well.”
His high school coach believes Villanova’s style of play will suit DiVincenzo.
“I think it’s a good fit,” Haley said. “I think coach Wright really does a good job of empowering his players, especially his guards. I think Donte will really take to that and keep getting better and better.”