For three years, Bryan Antoine has waited for this second. There have been accidents. There have been struggles. There have been extra skilled gamers in entrance of him.
Saturday night time in New Orleans, that may all change. The Final Four may very well be the Tinton Falls, N.J., native’s long-awaited chance to show himself on the most important stage of all following the season-ending torn proper Achilles damage to star guard Justin Moore in Saturday’s South Regional last.
“I’d say I’m pretty confident,” Antoine instructed The Post. “I’ve had the same mindset from Day 1. It hasn’t really changed for me. … Obviously with the injuries I have been set back, but I’m still the same player from high school.”
The 6-foot-5 junior wing arrived at Villanova with sky-high expectations. He was a five-star, top-20 recruit at The Ranney School, a participant some thought had one-and-done, lottery-pick potential. He was a McDonald’s All-American who, alongside with teammate Scottie Lewis, led Ranney to the New Jersey Tournament of Champions in 2019. Antoine had his decide of colleges, and selected Villanova over Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Florida, amongst different elite packages.
But he has appeared in solely 45 video games for Villanova over three years. He underwent proper shoulder surgical procedure to restore a torn labrum the May earlier than his freshman season, a significant setback. That similar shoulder sidelined him for November and December of his sophomore 12 months, and a knee damage price him the beginning of this season; Antoine didn’t make his debut till Dec. 17.
“They’ve all been incredibly debilitating,” Villanova coach Jay Wright mentioned.
He has logged solely 19 minutes in 4 NCAA Tournament video games, and didn’t get off the bench within the Elite Eight in opposition to Houston. Antoine is averaging simply 1.4 factors and 1.2 rebounds in 9.5 minutes this season. But Moore’s damage signifies that will probably change. The Wildcats weren’t deep to start with, and Wright thinks a chance can be there for Antoine.
Nobody expects Antoine to carry out like Moore, an All-Big East first-team choice who averaged 14.8 factors and 4.8 rebounds per recreation. The 6-4 Moore is a terrific defender and high-level shotmaker in his third season as a big contributor. The Wildcats may have to tweak their offensive recreation plan with out him, in accordance to Wright. They may have had every week to make changes by the point they face Kansas on Saturday, and there’s a gifted alternative in Antoine who has been patiently ready for his time.
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“He has learned a great deal and I think he’s ready to step in,” Wright mentioned.
Antoine used that verb — realized — a number of instances when discussing his time at Villanova. He realized about persistence and dealing with adversity, he realized what it takes to win by watching his teammates do the little issues so typically during the last three years. He matured, on the courtroom and off of it. He credited his teammates, coaches and fogeys with preserving his spirits up. He talked with Wright often by means of the robust instances, the legendary coach raving about his angle and psychological toughness.
“He’s been huge in the past three years for me,” Antoine mentioned.
Now he’s keen to apply all the teachings he’s realized and carry out on the large stage. Antoine received’t deal with this recreation any in another way. He doesn’t really feel like he has something to show.
“It’s not a thing that needs to be talked about,” he mentioned. “We all know what occurred. Now we want to step up.
“I love playing basketball. So no matter if it’s for a minute, two minutes, I’m just happy to do it.”
Odds are, Antoine will get a reliable shot Saturday night time to assist Villanova attain the nationwide championship recreation. To play significant minutes and contribute. After all of the accidents, the frustration of watching as a substitute of taking part in, this may very well be his alternative to shine.