There are still a number of games left to be played, but tomorrow marks the end of the season for the Pavilion. As always, with the final game of the season at the Pavilion comes Senior Night. Three seniors will be commended and honored for what they have done for Villanova Basketball. Win or lose – it’s their night. For James Bell, Tony Chennault, and Nick McMahon, it must feel like not so long ago since they stepped onto the Pavilion court for the first time. Now they will be doing it for one last time. I’ve been here at Villanova now for two years and it has been a pleasure to watch them play. As every athlete at the high school, college, or professional level knows, that last home game is something special. At times their hard work and achievements get taken for granted, but now there is no more “next year.” For a number of fans, tomorrow night might just be the last time they get to see these three play live, in person.
It has been a treat to see James Bell play this season. He exploded onto the scene, and while he may not get the national spotlight and credit he deserves, he’s got the love of Nova Nation. Often at times he’s been regarded as underrated and was named to ESPN’s Seth Farnham’s #NoLoveTeam earlier this season. Regardless, he continues to ball out and take care of business on the court, producing highlight plays. One of my favorite moments of James Bell playing was last year, when he sunk the dagger against St. Joe’s. It was the same night Halil Kanacevic had his moment of infamy, and it was the night that told me, “Welcome to Villanova Basketball.” As a freshman last year who had never seen them play live before coming here, only on TV, it was a great fan atmosphere. The crowd erupted, the bleachers shook as if an earthquake was happening, and it was at that moment I knew, basketball season is truly something special here. The highlights didn’t stop there, from the number of alley-oops he’s put down this season, to the clutch threes and performances, there has been a lot great moments. His dunk at the 2013 Hoops Mania dunk contest brought down the house, he should have had the crown this year. That alley-oop windmill was fantastic. He’s 17 points away from reaching 1,000 career points, hopefully he can reach that milestone tomorrow.
You may have heard it many times before, “Defense wins championships.” It’s a little underappreciated in basketball. Chennault is someone who gets the little things done, and when he does his job, it comes up big for his team. He emerged as a quality defender last year and continued doing so this year. He’s only been here for two years and is one of the key parts of the basketball family. His journey to the Main Line hasn’t been easy. Chennault transferred from Wake Forest after his sophomore season to Villanova in order to be closer to his family. His mother was ailing and wanted to be there with her. Before he played his first game as a Wildcat, his brother was killed and his mother passed away shortly after. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like, but through it all he never faltered. It was a difficult time, but it didn’t stop him from continuing to work hard on and off the court. He fulfilled his responsibility as an athlete to strive to be better and provided an example of what it is to be a man, persevering through adversity. He is unselfish and always looking to drive and dish dimes to his teammates, usually resulting in a big dunk or a big play. Chennault almost left during the offseason, thankfully he didn’t. He should have had the game winning, buzzer beating layup against Marquette when he put on his best Scottie Reynolds impression; going coast to coast in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, his play was cancelled out by a ridiculous foul, but he was the hero in the hearts of the Villanova faithful.
Last but definitely not least, Nick McMahon. One of the founding fathers of the Bench Mob, it will be sad to see one of the trio go. McMahon was actually not a part of the team until his sophomore year. Before he joined he was a member of Villanova’s club team. He quit the club team in order to focus his attention onto being a part of the practice squad. Being on the practice squad did not mean that you were on the team, rather you just practiced with the team. His hustle, hard work, and dedication was noticed and would result in his promotion to the team. His play time may be limited, but his importance is not. His hard work in practice allows the other guys to also work hard and better themselves at practice before every game. Just like in football how there is a scout team, basketball has something similar. It is important for them to give a good look and their best effort. It was great to witness him make his first career basket as a Wildcat during the game against Rider. In an interview, he said his favorite basketball moment was the first day he got his jersey. He is a team player, and reminds us the importance working hard and doing what needs to be done in order to achieve a certain goal. At the end of the day, that dedication will be rewarded. I wouldn’t say he’s an underdog or that it’s an underdog story, after all, he could most likely beat me in a game of one on one.
Tomorrow night’s game is at 8 p.m., with a ceremony beforehand for the seniors. In case you missed the preview for the game: click here.
Thanks for the memories.