Photo: Mark Brown
Bryan Antoine, the top shooting guard in the class of 2019, tells Prep Circuit he has committed to the Villanova Wildcats.
After going on an unofficial visit to the reigning NCAA Champions last week, Antoine decided he found his college home. He based this decision off how comfortable he felt with the Wildcats on and off the court.
“The reason why I chose Villanova was because it was family,” Antoine said. “Family goes a long way with me and their school. I also looked at how they played and how they play for each other. I’ve done the same thing with my coaches in AAU and school ball. I feel like I’ve already lived in that for so long and Villanova fits that system perfectly.”
The opportunity of playing in front of his parents, younger brother, and all those who have supported him at the Ranney School (N.J.) was a huge selling point he gravitated toward as well. This, and the love he received from the school played big roles in his decision.
“It’s also close to home, which is great because I feel like the same people who saw me in high school are going to see me in college," Antoine stated. "They are a great coaching staff, everyone just shows love no matter what including the students whenever I post anything. It’s just general love coming from the school."
Once Antoine arrived onto Villanova’s campus for his unofficial visit last week, he felt like he belonged.
“The only difference about that visit from the ones before I think was how well they prepared themselves,” said Antoine. “I’ll never forget the moment I got on campus when Coach Kyle Neptune, Coach George Halcovage and Coach Mike Nardi were there. I came out of the car, they shook my hand and gave me a big hug. I just felt welcomed from the start.”
Like any player making a college decision, Antoine looked deep into what the Wildcats do with players at his position. He feels their defensive approach fits in with his seamlessly.
“Whenever I’m playing I feed off the defense by trying to get deflections, trying to grab a rebound and block someone,” he said. “I start the offense from my defense. After knowing about their school and all of that, I would see highlights about Villanova basketball throughout the season. It’s also just about how they play with 6’4” and 6’5” guards crashing the boards, hustling after every play and diving on the ground. For me I put that together, I play hard and they play hard. We both play the same way so it goes hand and hand.”
In this past NBA Draft, Villanova had four players selected in Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman and Jalen Brunson. Antoine is intrigued with how they went by their own timeline to getting drafted.
“I would say the main goal is for me to get to the NBA and Villanova gets players to the NBA no matter if it’s one, two, three or four years, “ said Antoine. “This year’s past draft really caught me and made me understand that. Certain players like Donte DiVincenzo blew up in certain games and he got drafted. Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson all played hard together. Playing under Jay Wright’s system works and they showed that.”
Going one and done to the NBA would be ideal for Antoine, but he is more focused on going there to experience what it’s like to play for Jay Wright and Villanova instead of it just being a stepping stone to the NBA.
“To me being a one and done player is obviously the goal, but going into Villanova I’m not really worried about all that stuff,” he said. “I’m just worried about going there, soaking in all of the knowledge from the coaches and playing my heart out every single day. I’m going to develop in becoming a better player and person. If the opportunity comes where I have to go after a year than I’ll go, but if I have to stay than I’ll stay.”
The next question that arises from this is if his longtime five-star teammate Scottie Lewis will join him at Villanova. While Antoine wants to play with Lewis in college, he recognizes that Lewis has to make his own decision.
“For the longest time, people have asked if me and Scottie are going to the same school,” he said. “I chose a school first, but I don’t want that to raise questions whether he is going to follow me there or not. Even though we want to play together, we know we need to do what’s best for each of us. I’m not going to push Scottie to Villanova, it’s about where he feels comfortable and where he thinks he can thrive at. Whatever he chooses as the best option for him is the best option for him and that’s whether we go to the same school or not. I just want the best for him.”
The five-star prospect’s message to Villanova fans is one that goes along well with the past and present players who have built up their program to what it is today.
“They should expect a guy to come in and play hard and a guy that won’t go down without a fight,” Antoine said. “They are getting a nice guy, but a killer on the court.”
As I got older my confidence grew and I started doing things that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I just have been soaking up as much information from every coach that I’ve had. I’m smarter on the court now and have more of a desire to play the game for everyone and not just myself.
First off I have to thank God of course. The past couple of months have been tough with it coming closer to commitment time. Sometimes I would come home and not be able to eat or sleep because the process had been getting to me a little bit, but my Mom and Dad just told me to pray on it. I would ask which school would fit me right and when I make the decision I’d hope that everything goes well.
God works in mysterious ways. To be able to receive a full basketball scholarship is a blessing. I want to thank all of the coaches for taking the time to recruit me these past three, four and for some even five years. That’s something I really appreciate because those coaches took their time out to text and call me. That’s something I can’t thank them enough for.
I want to thank my mom, dad and brother for sticking by me through the process. They really didn’t show favoritism toward any school and they said to go to whatever program I felt most comfortable with. They said to go to somewhere that I could go to even if I have to stay two, three or four years. I also want to thank Coach Tahj Holden who has been through this process himself and without his advice I don’t know where I would be. I want to thank Coach Mike Rice for bring the dog out of me every practice because he saw potential in me. Thank you to some of the coaches who have been with me from early on such as Coach Pat Dunne from the Matawan Huskies and of course Coach A.D. Gaffney. I can’t thank Micah Lancaster, Bryce Stanhope and D.J. Sackmann enough for all of the time and effort they have put into shaping me to player I am today. Lastly, I have to thank Scottie Lewis, Alex Klatsky, Chris Autino and Jalen Gaffney who have been great friends and teammates since this journey all started.
As I’m here today, I’m looking back to who I was before. I wasn’t as strong and aggressive and I really wasn’t playing to play when I was younger. As I got older my confidence grew and I started doing things that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I just have been soaking up as much information from every coach that I’ve had. I’m smarter on the court now and have more of a desire to play the game for everyone and not just myself. All of these people I mentioned along with many others have played a huge role into the person and player I am today. I’m forever grateful of all of the help I’ve received and couldn’t be more excited to take this next step.