Long Island Panthers head coach Gary Charles said that Charlie Villanueva, the 6-10 forward from Blair Academy in New Jersey, will have no pressure on him when he plays in 2003-2004 for Jim Calhoun's Connecticut program. "Connecticut would have had a chance to win the National Championship even if Charlie didn't go there," Charles said. "So there isn't any preconceived notion that Charlie is the main guy on the team this season. He can just go in, fit in, and play."
Villanueva, who withdrew his name from the 2003 NBA draft today, had given a commitment to Connecticut only a couple of weeks ago. He first committed to Illinois last Fall but did not sign a letter of intent. After Illinois head coach Bill Self left to take the same position at Kansas, Villanueva opened up his recruiting process. He chose Connecticut over Kansas.
"Charlie is going to play for one heck of a coach at a heck of program," Charles said. "Charlie is such a great offensive player. He is a big man who can play guard."
Villanueva, ranked in many 2003 recruitings lists in the top five, has NBA range on his jumper and also is terrific in transition. He has the ability to dominate the game offensively due to his size and skills. "The top players I have had include Charlie," said Charles, who has coached many great players over the past two decades. "Lamar (Odom), Jason (Fraser), and Charlie have been among the best."
Charles said Villanueva decided to pull his name out because there were no guarantees. "There were several teams that said if he was still around in the first round they might take him," Charles said. "But there wasn't anything sure. So he took his name out."