CHICAGO — Perhaps Villanova sophomore Donte DiVincenzo could have left NBA executives with the ultimate pre-draft parting shot: 31 points in the national championship game, a Final Four Most Outstanding Player performance that could’ve spared him the risk of participating in the NBA pre-draft combine.
Nevertheless, DiVincenzo, a 6-foot-5 guard, plans to participate in the NBA draft combine’s 5-on-5 games on Thursday and Friday. He hasn’t made a final decision on staying in the June NBA draft but tells ESPN that he expects to leave Villanova should he emerge before the May 30 deadline with the belief that he has secured a spot in the late first round.
“I think I have a really good chance to being a late first-round pick,” DiVincenzo told ESPN. “Obviously, things can change, other people can fall in the draft. I’m aware of that. But my confidence level is that I can be a first-round pick.”
For DiVincenzo — now No. 33 in Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft on ESPN — his willingness to fully participate in the NBA draft combine is born out of two factors: He isn’t afraid to compete, and he believes he has a game beyond jump-shooting to showcase to the NBA.
“I can show a lot more than I showed in that [NCAA title] game,” DiVincenzo told ESPN. “Just because my shot was falling in the game, maybe I didn’t get to show that I can still create for my teammates. I can still rebound the ball. I can still defend. I can still compete at a higher level than I did in the game.”
Since the end of Villanova’s national championship season, DiVincenzo has traveled to South Dakota to work out with retired NBA guard Kirk Hinrich. Together, they did the traditional shooting and offensive skill work, but DiVincenzo found something else to be indispensable: a higher level of defensive discourse.
“I picked his brain the whole week,” DiVincenzo said. “He took the time to not only work with me on drill work, but a lot of defensive things, so when I got into a workout with individual teams, I know the terminology. That’s something that I can show teams to stand out. We got a lot of shots up, worked on different finishes. He took the time to show me very detailed explanations of what I’ll be doing in the [pre-draft] process.”
Said Hinrich: “I see him as a very unique guy and almost hard to compare to anyone else in the NBA, which I think is a positive. He’s so versatile offensively, and can play and defend multiple positions. And he can do it right away in the NBA. I didn’t realize how athletic and strong he was. He surpassed my expectations.”
Villanova has one lottery pick – forward Mikal Bridges — and a likely first-round pick with national player of the year Jalen Brunson in the June Draft. Like DiVencenzo, freshman forward Omari Spellman has entered the draft without an agent, and will participate in the combine too. Villanova is churning out NBA prospects under coach Jay Wright, which happens in a run of two national titles in three years.
“I wouldn’t be in position I am right now if I wasn’t playing at Villanova, if I wasn’t playing for Coach Wright,” DiVincenzo told ESPN. “He doesn’t just prepare you physically, but challenges you mentally too. We have mentally tough players coming out of Villanova.”