Villanova Men’s Basketball Media Day Recap 2023-24
Written by David Szczepanski on October 23, 2023
On Thursday afternoon, Villanova Men’s Basketball held their annual Media Day for the 2023-24 season. The media was able to speak to many players after practice and talk with Coach Kyle Neptune.
Coach Neptune’s Quotes
Neptune provided a lot of insight on last year’s disappointing season, including the lack of players available for practice due to injuries. When asked about the biggest difference between last year and this year’s team, Coach Neptune said the Wildcats “just have more guys.” He talked about how some practices were 3v3 last year. Neptune said that the Wildcats could not practice the way that wanted to all the time, but he does not think that hurt the Wildcats in the end. Neptune says the practices this season have been more competitive with more players. He thinks the competitiveness of the practices will be an asset to the team.
In terms of the health of the Wildcats heading into the season, Neptune said, “We don’t have any guys that are out for any prolonged amount of time right now. Anybody who is out is day-to-day. So, we expect to head into the season at this point 100% healthy.” Justin Moore, Lance Ware, Jordann Dumont, and Trey Patterson did not play in the Blue and White Scrimmage on October 5th.
With the addition of transfers and only one freshman, the Wildcats head into the season with a ton of college basketball experience. “I think it’s an advantage as a coach. There’s something to be said for experience in any walk of life,” Neptune said. He added that he thinks the new players have done a good job adjusting to the new scenery at Villanova. “They have been doing a great job. It’s not easy [to adjust], you have to come in and learn new terminology, new strategy, and just a new way of doing things, and to those guys credit, I think they have done a phenomenal job,” Neptune said.
Neptune also talked about the importance of turning the page from last season. Regardless of the result, he stressed that each season is completely different, even if you bring back the same group of players. “I think each year is different. It’s a completely different team coming back this year,” said Neptune. He added, “Even if you bring back exactly the same team with exactly the same players, those players now have a completely different vantage point. Those guys have different goals and expectations.” He realizes that Villanova needs to play a full 40 minutes of basketball every game.
The Wildcats added a group of transfers to their roster for the upcoming season. When asked about the new transfers, Neptune said, “Each guy is different, but each guy is similar because they are versatile. All of the guys can play multiple positions. They are great decision-makers. They have college basketball experience at the highest level. They’re all competitors.” He added, “I’m very excited for the guys that decided to come play for Villanova.” Neptune believes Villanova “struck gold” with the new transfers both on and off the court: TJ Bamba, Hakim Hart, Lance Ware, and Tyler Burton.
After a great freshman season, Mark Armstrong says he was “working at everything” this summer. He’s worked on his strength and versatility. When asked, Armstrong also said he models his game after Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson. On Armstrong’s tremendous progress and growth, Neptune said, “Last year he did a great job just kind of being thrown out there in the fire. He had to just react in those moments. And he did a good job. This year, I think he has gotten that under his belt now.” Neptune says Armstrong “brings the highest level of speed, athleticism, vertical, and lateral.” He says Armstrong has also improved his decision making.
Eric Dixon also took massive steps forward last season. Dixon was named to Second Team ALL Big East. He averaged 15.4 points per game. “He had a phenomenal year last year. Now coming back, I think you just try to continue to get better at everything on the floor. As a defender, I think he continues to get better with his perimeter defense,” said Neptune about Dixon. “He’s always been one of our most intelligent guys. I think he’s shooting the ball better this offseason,” Neptune added, “I’m really excited about where he is.”
After his Achilles injury last season, Justin Moore said he has worked to get back to where he wants to be and getting his explosiveness back. He also stressed how he wants to continue to be a leader, especially for the new players and transfers.
After a solid freshman season, Brendan Hausen said he has worked hard this summer, especially in the weight room. Hausen also mentioned that he is looking forward to improving his perimeter defense.
When asked about coming back from injury last season, Jordan Longino said, “Whatever I had, I wanted to give to the team.” He mentioned that Coach Neptune asked him to also play more of a defensive role.
Freshman Jordann Dumont grew up in Montreal and played high school basketball in Tennessee. He played for Team Canada in the 2022 U18 FIBA Americas Championship. Team Canada took home a bronze metal. When asked about playing for Team Canada, Dumont said, “We had a great coaching staff. They were helping prepare me for college at a big school like Villanova. Just playing with great guys. The coaches just helped me with everything.”
Philly Native and new Villanova guard Hakim Hart talked about coming back to the Philadelphia area to play basketball, “It means a lot because I was at Roman [Catholic High School]. It was a great atmosphere and playing at The Palestra. For my last year, I just wanted to do that one more time.” Hart previously played for Maryland. The Wildcats will play the Penn Quakers at The Palestra on November 13th.
Lance Ware takes a lot of pride in his defense. When asked who he models his game after, Ware’s response was “any elite defender.” Ware also talked about his experience in big games at Kentucky. He said he “plays hard and is super energetic.”
Junior forward Nnanna Njoku is coming back after dealing with injuries last season. When asked about coming back from the difficult injuries both mentally and physically, Coach Neptune said, “I think he’s doing a great job. He’s a physically imposing person. He plays really hard.” Neptune is also impressed with Njoku’s defense and thinks he can guard most players. “He’s a great defender. And he’s just a physical presence.”
In terms of the season and predictions, Coach Neptune said, “We’re just trying to be the best team we can be. Each day we will go back and try to get better. And we’ll see what the future holds. I’m just excited to take it day-by-day.” Neptune was asked about his reaction to Villanova being ranked 22nd in the first AP Poll and getting national attention, “I think for the Villanova community, our university, our fans, that’s great stuff. Our fans love to see that and love to see Villanova as a school that is recognized that way. Just the reality is for our actual team, it really doesn’t do anything for us. We can’t go into our first game and say, ‘hey guys we’re number 22, we are supposed to be better than them.’ The other team doesn’t care so we can’t care.” Neptune says this idea goes back to a few years ago. Neptune was positive, but also focused and determined in his tone during Media Day.