After not being selected in last month’s NBA draft despite a slew of accomplishments at Villanova — including being only one of nine players in school history to finish with at least 1,500 points and get at least 300 assists — Mount Saint Joseph graduate Phil Booth Jr. will get chance at an NBA career.
Booth said in a telephone interview that he signed with the Washington Wizards on Friday, confirming an earlier report by The Baltimore Sun.
Booth’s Exhibit 10 contract includes an invitation to training camp and a signing bonus that could get used toward a two-way contract with the Wizards and their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
"I just want to come in, play hard and compete as hard as I can and see what happens from there,” the 6-foot-3 Booth said.
“You just look at his body of work. He won six or seven championships in high school, he won three Big East regular-season championships, he won three Big East tournament championships and he won two national championships,” longtime Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said Friday.
“When a guy has that kind of track record — not only of winning but winning championships — that’s who he is. That’s in his DNA. That’s something any team looks for. He knows how to win. He knows what it takes to win. He’s had various roles and he thrived in whatever role was was expected of him.”
Or, as his father, Phil Sr., put it, “He always finds a way to figure it out."
Booth becomes the third recent Mount Saint Joseph player to sign an NBA deal — following Jaylen Adams, who was a two-way player for the Atlanta Hawks last season, and Henry Sims, who spent parts of four NBA seasons with four teams, most recently the Brooklyn Nets in 2016.
Clatchey said the competition Booth received practicing against and playing with players such as Adams and former Towson guard Jordan McNeil in high school helped him prepare for Villanova.
Booth said the competition for playing time at Villanova — several former teammates, including guards Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, are now in the NBA — helped get him ready to take the next step.
“I was always around good players growing up,” Booth said. “Just my strong, competitive nature that I just try to keep with them.”
Booth’s college achievements included a team-high 20-point performance in an NCAA championship game victory over North Carolina as a sophomore in 2016 and a team-high 18.6 points per game last season, leading a rebuilding team to a respectable 26-10 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Aside from those accomplishments, his career with the Wildcats was interrupted twice by injury.
Booth played in only three games in his third year because of a knee injury, and missed nearly a month of his redshirt junior year in 2017-18 after breaking his hand, but returned to help Villanova win its third national championship. Mostly known for his scoring, Booth was more of a facilitator in Villanova’s second title run, including six assists in a semifinal win over Kansas.
Phil Sr. said his son “really raised some eyebrows” with the versatility he showed in summer league with the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer. The last four games in Las Vegas, when Booth averaged 11.3 points in 15.3 minutes and shot 14-for-25 from the field. Booth said his agent heard from the Wizards last week.
“We knew it was tough for him to get drafted, but we knew he’d get a shot to go to summer league,” Phil Sr. said. "That’s all we wanted was a shot. What he did was pick a team that he knew he could get minutes, show that he could play multiple positions and shoot the ball with what he does at a high level.”
Said Booth: I think summer league helped a lot, too, the last few games, playing well. I was shooting the ball and running the team. I think it really benefited me."
That he will be playing for his hometown team makes both father and son happy.
“I’ve been lucky,” Phil Sr. said. "He went to my hometown of Philly, two hours away, [at Villanova] and now he’s a half-hour. He’s been going to Wizards games since he was 12. It’s kind of surreal for me.”