Tony Chennault will bolster Villanova’s depleted backcourt immediately

Jeff Eisenberg

For a program known for producing elite guards, Villanova appeared to be surprisingly threadbare in the backcourt entering the new season.

Leading scorers Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek both declared for the draft this spring, leaving James Bell as the only returning guard who scored more than five points per game for a team that went 13-19 last year.

Those dire circumstances make the immediate addition of point guard Tony Chennault critical to Villanova. Chennault, a Wake Forest transfer, learned Monday the NCAA will grant his hardship waiver request, enabling him to play right away at Villanova rather than sitting for the customary one year.

"The Chennault family has been dealing with so much this year," Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a release. "Tony's mom has faced health issues and his brother, Mike Jay, died tragically earlier this month. We are grateful that the NCAA has taken these unique circumstances into account and I know Tony is excited about the opportunity to be on the court with us next season."

In an offseason in which the NCAA has been unusually lenient granting hardship waivers, this one was clearly the proper decision. Chennault, a Philadelphia native, now can attend school and play major conference basketball all within a short drive of his family.

Chennault started at point guard for Wake Forest as a sophomore and averaged 9.2 points and 2.8 assists per game before transferring at the conclusion of the spring semester. He'll have two seasons of college eligibility remaining at Villanova, where he'll likely have a good chance to start right away.

Sophomore-to-be Ty Johnson played an increasingly large role last season as it went along and he'd likely play alongside Chennault in the lineup. Bell, highly touted freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and sophomore Darrun Hilliard also figure to crack the rotation.

Will that fivesome and frontcourt standouts Mouphtao Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston be enough to lead Villanova back into NCAA tournament contention after last season's rare off season? It will probably be an uphill battle in the rugged Big East, but immediate production from Chennault can only help the cause.