Could Jay Wright's retirement help DMV schools take back recruiting pipeline?

·3 min read

Could Jay Wright's retirement help DMV schools' recruiting? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

One of the key ingredients to Villanova's success under now-retired head coach Jay Wright has been the program's proficiency at landing high-level recruits from the Washington, D.C. region.

Much to the chagrin of the local college programs, Wright and the Wildcats routinely targeted players in the DMV to help build a perennial contender in college basketball.

"The high school leagues are very organized," Wright said during the 2022 NCAA tournament. "The culture in the DMV area is a basketball culture. The best athletes in that area play basketball as opposed to other areas where the best athletes play football. There are so many great, high-level educational institutions in that area.

"You just get the perfect mix of great student, great families and high-level coaching. I think it's one of the most fertile areas in the country because of those three factors."

Now that Wright has retired from coaching and his replacement is already on board in long-time assistant Kyle Neptune, do local programs like Maryland, Georgetown and George Mason have a better chance at securing the top high school players in the area?

Since Wright took over as Villanova's head coach in 2001, the list of great DMV players to take their talents up I-95 north include(* = Top 100 recruit):

Dante Cunningham (Silver Spring, MD)
Scottie Reynolds* (Herndon, VA)
Daniel Ochefu* (Baltimore, MD)
Josh Hart* (Silver Spring, MD)
Kris Jenkins* (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Phil Booth* (Baltimore, MD)
Saddiq Bey (Largo, MD)
Brandon Slater* (Centerville, VA)
Justin Moore (Fort Washington, MD)

This list doesn't include Archbishop Spalding's Cam Whitmore, a five-star wing who just recently committed to Villanova. Maryland did not make it on his final list of schools.

Will Villanova stop targeting the DMV now that Wright's gone? Probably not, especially considering the success (two championships, four Final Four appearances since 2009) they've had while recruiting the region.

However, Wright's absence on the recruiting trail could mean good things for coaches like Maryland's Kevin Willard, who's trying to bring the Terps back to prominence, or Georgetown's Patrick Ewing, who is trying to replicate the formula of former coach John Thompson III (and his father John Thompson Jr. before him) in keeping more local stars home.

Neither Willard nor Ewing can convince everyone local to stay home. NBA star and Prince George's County, Md. native Kevin Durant made it clear during his recruiting process that going away was best for him and he landed at Texas.

And Villanova is far from the only elite program to target area players. Duke and North Carolina have made a living off recruiting local stars for decades. Even a school like Iowa plucked national player of the year Luke Garza (Maret) from his small D.C. private school.

But Wright in particular has thrived on finding the underrated area players more likely to land at Georgetown or Maryland. The Terps had some success under former coach Mark Turgeon with Melo Trimble (O'Connell), Anthony Cowan (St. John's), Jalen Smith (Baltimore) and Darryl Morsell (Baltimore). Georgetown did well early last decade with Chris Wright (St. John's) and Austin Freeman (DeMatha), among others.

Nothing against new Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune, who will certainly keep recruiting D.C. hard, but he simply isn't Jay Wright. Not yet. And having Wright on the golf course and off the recruiting trail is one less major competitor with proven success recruiting local players.