Rhode Island native Cole Swider announced his verbal commitment to Villanova University on Thursday afternoon during a ceremony from the St. Andrew’s School gymnasium.
Villanova came out on top of a final four that also included Duke, Syracuse and Xavier while numerous others, including Providence, had already been eliminated from his list.
His commitment culminated what has been a very exciting few years for Swider as he’s developed into one of the premier shooting forwards in the entire country.
While Swider has always been known as a shooter, he was at least five inches shorter when he first arrived on the high school scene. Nevertheless, there were whispers of a pending growth spurt from day one.
Betting on a late growth spurt is oftentimes fools gold, but in Swider’s case it was a better bet given the height of both of his parents. And so the New England basketball world watched as he simultaneously rained in jumpers and stretched out his frame.
If projecting a player’s future height is almost impossible, projecting how a player’s body might evolve is even more difficult and so when Swider added both size and athleticism over the years it took his game to a new level entirely.
He continued to be a lights out three-point shooter, as well as a good ball-handler for his size, but now there were other weapons in his arsenal. He was more dangerous in the open floor, a much improved offensive rebounder, and very underrated in terms of his ability to score inside the lane.
Now, Jay Wright is the lucky coach that gets to take advantage of all Swider has to offer. There won’t be many freshmen in the Big East next year who will be more ready to make immediate contributions on the offensive end. Swider’s shooting ability gives him the niche and immediate weapon so that many underclassmen lack, while his increasingly prevalent versatility will allow him to be utilized in different ways, and ultimately within different types of line-ups.
Versatility is especially relevant in a program like Villanova’s, which prides itself on having interchangeable parts on both ends of the floor. Defensively, the Wildcats have made switching 1-4 a huge part of their DNA (essentially what that means is that they will switch all screens, both on and off the ball, whenever the screening action does not involve their big man).
Offensively, their “four-guard” line-ups have gotten plenty of media attention in recent years but essentially what that means is that they’re going to put the best players on the floor regardless of position. If they end up being undersized then they’re confident that whatever mismatches they face on the defensive end due to a lack of size they’ll be able to more than compensate for offensively with increased quickness and skill.
The key though is being able to rebound the ball and that’s exactly where Swider comes in. He has the offensive skill set of a guard and while he doesn’t yet rebound the defensive glass with nearly the same effectiveness that he does the offensive end, he has the potential to do so. In other words, he’s a perfect fit for what Villanova does offensively and could simultaneously lessen their mismatches on the defensive end of the floor.