A Philadelphia native, Phil Booth Sr., remembers celebrating in the city’s streets after Villanova won the 1985 men’s basketball national championship.
Three decades later, the Wildcats have given Booth Sr. another cause for celebration: his son, Mount St. Joseph senior guard Phil Booth Jr., has committed to play for the Wildcats after his upcoming season.
“Where I came from, you couldn’t afford to go to Villanova,” Booth Sr. said. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that my son would go play at Villanova.
“It’s kind of a full circle. Philly has always been home.”
Added Booth Jr.: “I think it’s a great city. The people from that area have a lot of pride, so it’s great to see."
Booth was an All-Baltimore Catholic League first-team selection as a junior and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as a junior. He is the No. 63 prospect nationally in the 2014 class according to Scout.com.
Booth – a four-star recruit – chose Villanova over finalists Georgetown, Indiana and Temple. Villanova was one of the first schools to extend a scholarship offer to Booth, doing so during his sophomore season.
Booth said he made up his mind “a few weeks ago” and informed Villanova of his commitment Monday.
“That was the coaching staff I liked the most and I think it’s the best place for me,” Booth said.
Booth knows two of the Wildcats’ incoming freshmen players. Booth said Villanova coach Jay Wright has told him he will likely see playing time at point guard and at shooting guard for the Wildcats. He anticipates playing immediately.
Villanova has become synonymous with good guard play during Wright’s 12 seasons as coach, producing the likes of Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns.
“With Jay Wright, that’s Guard U. He lets the guards play,” Booth said.
Booth Sr. said his son informed him of his decision while en route to Las Vegas for Chris Paul’s “The 8” -- a sanctioned AAU tournament. Booth Sr. had wanted his son to finish his AAU season with the Washington-based Team Takeover before making a decision.
Other schools were strongly considered, but Booth Sr. said Villanova always seemed the most probable choice because of his son's relationship with Wright, its strong standing academically and the success of recent Wildcats guards.
“You know a program wants you when, not only do the assistants work their tails off, but the head coach heads up the recruitment,” Booth Sr. said. “That always stood out.”
According to Booth Sr., Wright not only connected more with his son than any other coach, he also reached out to the Booth family as a whole and took a real interest in getting to know and fostering a relationship with them.
Wright’s family man sales pitch, combined with Villanova’s academic reputation, essentially sealed the deal.
“I don’t know the player rankings, I don’t follow that, but I know what the school rankings are,” Booth Sr. said. “Villanova is one of the best schools in the country and Phil’s going to get a great education.”
So what’s Villanova getting?
A total package, according to Mount St. Joseph’s coach Pat Clatchey.
“They’re getting a quality young man with a good personality who is very capable as a student and as a player who can help them win in a variety of ways,” Clatchey said.
“He can play a number of positions both offensively and defensively, he’s a high-caliber shooter and decision maker, and a good athlete. He’s solid fundamentally with a high basketball IQ.”
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