Big East stars to watch
Collin Gillespie, Villanova
Gillespie proved last season that he is more than capable of being the go-to scorer on a very good team. He averaged 15.1 points and 4.5 assists per game while shooting a respectable 35.7 percent from 3-point range. His efficiency dipped a little bit compared to his prior to campaigns, but he dramatically improved as playmaker. For the third straight year in a Villanova uniform, he took a sizable step forward and was named to the All-Big East Second Team as a result.
Now in his senior year, Gillespie will look to take another step forward and add “All-American” to his list of accolades. More importantly, though, the 6-2 guard is focused on cutting down the final nets at the NCAA Tournament for the second time in his career. The Wildcats have that kind of potential as a preseason Top 5 team and he will be at the forefront of that charge.
James Bouknight, UConn
A Top 100 recruit out of high school, James Bouknight lived up to that hype as a freshman for the Huskies last season. He asserted himself as the team’s No. 2 scorer behind Christian Vital throughout the year and was particularly excellent down the stretch. He upped his averages to 17.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while UConn won eight of its last 10 games. If Bouknight can maintain that level of play over his entire sophomore year, it might be his last at the collegiate level.
Bouknight can essentially do it all as a scorer. He can stretch the floor to 3-point range, has a killer mid-range game, and is uber-athletic in attacking the basket. His potential is off the charts and even taking a moderate step towards reaching that ceiling will make him an All-Big East player this season. If UConn is to finish in the upper half of the conference this year, it would be behind Bouknight’s ability.