Villanova seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels announced Monday they planned to return to college for another season, likely cementing the Wildcats as a preseason top-10 team.

Gillespie tore the MCL in his left knee in early March and missed the rest of the season. One of the best point guards in the country, Gillespie has been a starter for Villanova for the past three years after playing a key role off the bench on Jay Wright’s national title-winning team in 2018.

“Since my injury and over the last few months supporting my teammates from the sidelines, I have had much time to think about my future,” Gillespie said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I have received valuable feedback and have had many conversations with my family and the coaching staff allowing me to make a confident decision regarding this upcoming season.

“With that being said, I am going to take advantage of this extra year and come back to Villanova! It is going to be a blessing to put the Villanova uniform on for one last year and play for such an amazing university! I am very excited to get fully healthy again and continue to grow as a player, student and person. And lastly to my brothers. Run it back!”

Gillespie averaged 14.4 points and 4.7 assists during the 2020-21 season.

Samuels, a 6-foot-7 forward, has started 76 games over the past three seasons for the Wildcats. He averaged 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists this past season, shooting a career-high 37.1% from 3-point range. Samuels stepped up following Gillespie’s injury, scoring at least 15 points in four of the last five games to end the campaign.

“After much consideration and many valuable conversations with my family and coaching staff, I have decided to COME BACK for another season,” Samuels said in a statement posted to Twitter. “There’s nothing like playing Villanova Basketball, wearing that V on my chest and playing for my teammates and coaches. I’m excited to return to Villanova to focus on becoming an even better student-athlete and man. See you soon Nova Nation. GO CATS!!”

The NCAA announced in the fall that all winter student-athletes would automatically receive another year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of seniors around college basketball have decided to take advantage of the rule, but Gillespie and Samuels are among the most notable. Neither was projected to be picked in this summer’s NBA draft.

“Collin has made the decision to return to VU after receiving valuable feedback. He remains focused on his rehab process in preparation for next season. We’re excited to have one of our great leaders return to battle with us,” Wright wrote on Twitter. “We are blessed to have Jermaine’s character, leadership, and talent in our community for another season. He will work hard to take his game to new heights and continue to lead our team.”

Villanova finished 18-7 this past season, advancing to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual champion Baylor.

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