“We’ve had all great leaders: (Jalen) Brunson, (Ryan) Arcidiacono… He’s the one that is most like a coach. He literally stops them [in practice] and teaches them. He’ll say, ‘Stop. Look, you’ve got to lock and trail on this. I’m helping high, you’re trailing.’ … He’s a teacher.”
Jay Wright, Villanova Coach
Soon, the last page will turn and the book will close on Collin Gillespie’s magnificent college basketball career. I still recall the first time I heard his name… It was the summer of 2016 and the late great youth basketball coach Paul Gripper was telling everyone that would listen that John Mosco had an under appreciated and under recognized Philly point guard on his roster. “Del… This is a bad white boy… I’m tellin’ you he’s a D1 point guard.” This was before Gillespie scorched any and all comers in the Philadelphia Catholic League while leading Archbishop Wood to their first championship. Before Collin settled any and all debates about the best HS guard in Philly that year. Before anyone else, Gripp told the world Collin Gillespie got that “John Blaze shit.”
Well… everyone in America can now see what Gripp saw six years ago…
Last season, Collin Gillespie shared the Big East Player of the Year honor, but this season, in his return as a fifth-year senior, the 2017 Philadelphia Catholic League POY stands alone as the Big East’s best. The lone unanimous All-Big East first team selection, he was also named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Gillespie is the first player in Villanova history to earned Big East Player of the Year honors more than once in his career. Earlier today, he was named the MVP of the 2022 Big East Tournament after leading Nova to another title in Madison Square Garden.
As he prepares to exit the college stage, it seems appropriate to try place Gillespie in the pantheon of great Philly guards? Which Philly guard is he like? Who does Gillespie remind you of? After giving this considerable thought, I think Temple’s Howie Evans may be the most appropriate comparison for Gillespie.
I would go so far as to argue, Gillespie is Evans with a National Championship!
Now… I saw them both… in high school and college… However, I realize younger readers may not have a frame of reference… After all, Evans began his college career 38 years ago. Young hoopheaps have no idea how good Evans and those Temple teams were… Let me walk you through this comparison…
First and foremost, I had to find a point guard that was a winner. We think of Gillespie as the ultimate winner and rightfully so. Gillespie has been a winner every year at Villanova. However, Evans won even more than Gillespie. Temple played 132 games over Evans’ four years… They won 114 of them. The Temple record from 1984 to 1988 (114-18) resulted in a gaudy .863 winning percentage. Villanova during the Gillespie era has gone 127-35. That’s a great record and it includes a National Championship in 2018. But the winning percentage of Evans Temple teams (.863) is better than Villanova since Gillespie arrived (.783).
While both are pass first Philly point guards, both can get a bucket when needed. For his career, Evans averaged 11.1 ppg over 132 games for a total of 1,459 points. Gillespie averaged 11.9 over 150 games for a total of 1,784 points. Keep in mind Gillespie, most likely, has a few NCAA tournament games to play.
Both were solid, not spectacular, shooters. Evans shot 41.6% from the field and 39.8% from behind the 3-point line. Gillespie has shot 42.4% from the field and 38.8% from behind the 3-point line. For his career, Evans attempted 9.0 and made 3.9 field goals per game… Gillespie has taken 8.9 and made 3.8.
Evans averaged 2.9 rebounds per game, Gillespie has averaged 2.8.
Evans was a better play maker. This is evidenced by the fact that he averaged 5.7 assists per game for an incredible 748 career assists. Gillespie has averaged 3.1 assists for a career total of 456. On the other hand, Gillespie has fewer turnovers, 213 compared to Evans’ 253. Neither guy was doing much rim protecting… Evans 17 career blocks, Gillespie 6.
Evans was more proficient at playing the passing lanes… He finished 268 career steals compared to Gillespie’s 148.
Both in my mind and statistically speaking, this thing is really close…
But, I have to give the edge to Gillespie… He got that chip!
But I want readers to know two things: 1) Collin Gillespie is a BAD muthafucka, and; 2) You kids just don’t understand how good Howie Evans was at basketball!